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WAN-IFRA 2009: Be proactive, get lean – the new efficiency mantras of today

04-December-2009
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WAN-IFRA 2009: Be proactive, get lean – the new efficiency mantras of today

After three days of unending inflow of ideas surrounding print and its future post the digital invasion, Day 4 of WAN-IFRA 2009 began with an outright discussion on ‘The resourceful newspaper company: achieving business efficiency and creating a sustainable future’ that chose to examine how costs and efficiency were vital for newspaper companies, especially during turbulent economic times.

The panelists for the session included Marieke van der Donk, Senior Manager, E&M, PwC, Netherlands and Alexander P Strakhov, CEO, Media3, Russia.

Donk began her session by warning the audience that the print outlook was not completely positive as there is a print decline of 2.5 per cent y-o-y that is projected from 2009-14. “While print advertising has grown from the period 2004-2008, it is on a decline now. We project it to grow by only 6.4 per cent in the coming year.”

She presented a research study that was carried out across 11 markets across Europe, America, Canada, France and the rest where they interviewed local publishing executives. The respondents numbered around 4,900 and they were asked questions pertaining to preferences.

“We found out from the study that the TV and the Internet were the most preferred mediums for consuming news. Newspapers were the third most preferred medium where the readers were spending close to 33 minutes per day reading,” she pointed out. Another interesting trend that was observed was that the older generation preferred the newspaper while the young preferred the online for news. Mobile, though wasn’t as popular yet.

“An interesting fact that emerged from the study”, continued Donk, “was that the readers look at sports and entertainment as the most preferred section for news. Interestingly, when we further quizzed them whether in the absence of traditional newspaper would they pay for online news, a majority of them said that they were willing to pay only 62 per cent of the cost of traditional newspaper.”

Presenting the advertisers’ perspective, Donk said that advertisers today used a media strategy based on multiple platforms – making it difficult for newspapers. “It was observed that in turbulent times, advertisers and marketers shift to more accountable mediums and are always on the hunt for innovative concepts,” she added.

Alexander Strakhov began by painting a rosy picture of the press market in Russia by citing encouraging numbers. “Newspapers form the core of the business in Russia. The paid circulation figures in Russia stand at 5.2 billion copies with the time spent reading newspapers numbering 9 minutes/day,” he said.

Elaborating on the effects of slowdown on the Russian print economy, Strakhov said, “The impact of the crisis has been very strong on the Russian market as the overall advertising fell by 33 per cent, while the press ad spends fell by 41 per cent.” But there was also a plus side to the whole affair as 2008 was the best year for media market, which recorded a growth of 18.1 per cent and where media companies were on a spending spree. There were also a lot of mergers and acquisitions that were noted, said Strakhov.

But the research was not as positive for the future with weak and early stage publications facing the threat of exiting the domain and with small and targeted magazines being in danger of being phased out. Elaborating on the challenges, Strakhov pointed out that proactive changes would play an important role during crisis, media companies would have to improve their efficiency, leaner structures would have to be developed and more cost-saving measures be brought to the fore.

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