Jo Allan, managing director of Newsworks, reflects on what we‘ve learned from newsbrands during a less than a conventional year. She pulls out pointers media buyers should consider.
Throughout the pandemic the need for trusted information has never been higher. The growth in reader numbers show it. Our research validates it. And even The Queen recognises it.
Last month The Queen hailed the importance of the established news media. In a letter to the News Media Association she wrote: “As our world has changed dramatically, having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital.
“The efforts of the news media to support communities throughout the United Kingdom during the pandemic have been invaluable – whether through fundraising, encouraging volunteering, or providing a lifeline for the elderly and vulnerable to the outside world.“
In a world saturated in fake news and misinformation, news brands are playing an increasingly important role in all our lives. Journalists, the length, and breadth of the country, have been plying their professional craft throughout the pandemic to serve their communities and the nation at large. And they will continue to do so throughout this current crisis and long after.
Earlier this year, culture secretary Oliver Dowden described news brands as the “fourth emergency service” for their ability to deliver reliable sources of information.
For advertisers, I believe there is an even closer and more active role they can play too alongside our news brands. A role that will not only benefit society but also, on a more pragmatic business level, the effectiveness of their advertising.
Here’s six reasons why.
Strength in numbers
In March, as we went into the unchartered waters of that first nationwide lockdown, news brand readership soared. Fast forward to September, and our national news brand readership was up again by nearly four million daily digital readers compared to the same period in 2019 (PAMCo 3). And we are spending longer in these environments too. TouchPoints 2020 data released in September revealed an increase of 15% in time spent reading news brands across print or digital. While this national crisis has certainly precipitated an acceleration in readership, this is on top of the strong growth we have experienced over the last decade. With 38 million daily readers across the total news brand sector we certainly pack a mighty punch in terms of audience size and engagement.
A world with news matters
Levels of trust in media and advertising have declined sharply over the last decade. However, trust in traditional news has increased – IPA TouchPoints data shows a 9% increase in trust of national news brands between January and April 2020, but perhaps surprisingly among 15-24-year-olds this increase was 15%. This tallies with our latest research, which revealed that 66% of people appreciate and value journalism more since the pandemic began, rising to 77% for the under 35s.
Beyond those headlines, our in-depth study also identified several goals that consuming news helps individuals to achieve including connecting with others, calibrating the world around us and helping us, as individuals, to thrive. In a nutshell, news brands offer advertisers a valuable opportunity to be present at the sweet spot where opinions are being formed and where information is trusted.
Put your money where your free press is
One of the industry’s most respected editors recently talked about the importance of a free press and how news brands still set the agenda, continue to drive societal change and hold the powerful to account. By way of example, she reeled off several changes to the law her news brand had been behind over the last year alone.
“Advertisers need to think about where they are spending money, because if you believe that it’s important that we have a society which is held to account by a free press you’ve got to believe in it sufficiently enough that you are going to put your money behind it,” the editor explained. A sentiment that readers agree with – our World Without News study showed that 70% of people believe a world devoid of journalism would be disastrous for democracy.
Agility, versatility and innovation
For nearly every business this pandemic has been hugely challenging. Our industry has not been immune. But the advent of the pandemic has accelerated the ongoing transition of news brands into diverse revenue streams such as audio, affiliates, ecommerce, subscriptions as well as creating agile new methods of distribution. For instance, delivermynewspaper.co.uk has also been a big success and initiatives like this have seen the total number of daily home deliveries increase across the nation. As our insight director, Denise Turner, puts it: “There are many myths that need to be busted in relation to printed newspapers – there are still 10 million people a day reading them.”
Hard news works harder for brands
Lumen eye-tracking research found attention to both digital and print advertising has increased during the pandemic. Print advertising is generating 21% more attention than before the pandemic. In March – when Lumen carried out their testing – 88% of press ads and 66% of digital ads were viewed, both up by over 10 percentage points on previous testing. In 2019 our Hard News Project showed us all this. The results of our neuroscience experiment indicated that a hard news environment delivers an incremental benefit to advertisers with average dwell times 1.4 times higher. While the levels of response to ads in hard and soft news environments are similar, the pattern of response shows more and stronger peaks for ads in a hard news environment. This indicates that the brain is more actively engaged and there is more likelihood of key messages being encoded into memory.
All out collaboration
In April, our industry came together under the banner of Team Nation to launch the biggest news brand campaign the UK has ever seen. Over 600 national and local newspapers cover wrapped their papers, some for the first time, and took over their websites with the same unified front page message: “Stay at home for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation, the world and life itself.”
Throughout the duration of this partnership with the UK government the quality of the content, the scale and agility in ways of working, and the seamless collaboration has seen the campaign surpass 40 briefs so far. Levels of trust, behaviour change and engagement with the campaign among our audiences are impressively high – perhaps one of the reasons why the success of our industry collaboration was recognised at a leading awards ceremony last month.
Jo Allan, managing director of Newsworks.