Commentary

UK Newspapers Consider Sales Tie-up

When it comes to publisher rivalries, British newspapers make their American counterparts seem positively demur.

When the British tabloids fight with each other, it’s more “Peaky Blinders” than “Downton Abbey” (although Mary and Edith’s more vicious moments come close). So it’s a testimony to the industry’s dire outlook that publishers are putting aside their enmity – or at least their pride – and considering a multi-publisher advertising sales alliance.

According to the Financial Times, which first reported the news, top execs from the Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror, and Rupert Murdoch’s News UK are meeting to discuss possibly forming a consortium for advertising sales. The idea would be to encourage more ad spending by streamlining the process, offering cross-publisher discounts for volume, and cutting costs in sales.

The FT quotes Trinity Mirror CEO Simon Fox, who explains: “We will always fight each other at the newsstands and for the best stories. But in the background, there are many ways we can come together to present a more powerful voice to the advertising industry.”

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Meanwhile Steve Goodman, the managing director of print trading for WPP agencies in Britain, gave a tentative thumbs up, telling FT: “Potentially this could be a valuable way forward for both sides. If the newspapers are able to come together and offer attractive packages across all titles that would give us an advantage over buying it piecemeal then we would be very interested.”

FT noted that the publishers could face obstacles in the form of opposition from regulators and legislators, who have opposed industry trusts on anti-monopoly grounds. However, they may be moved to accept the unusual arrangement by the industry’s desperate circumstances.

Last year display ad revenues tumbled 15%, and the trend continued into the first half of this year.

The industry is showing signs of pressure. Earlier this year, a new newspaper launch, theIs “New Day,” was scuppered after just a few weeks in print, and the Independent ceased publishing a print edition in March.

Ironically, the rumors of a national newspaper alliance in Britain comes just a week after the Newspaper National Network, an industry-wide ad sales consortium in the U.S., announced that it would close up shop at the end of this month.

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