From the Barcelona conference

Wrapping it up at the last day of the Barcelona conference on free press: problems because of the economy but chances for free papers and online at the same time. Spanish newspapers are hurt by the crisis and expect to be hurt even more in the next year. More than 1000 journalists could lose their jobs within the next three months according to an article in Mallorcadiario.

Spanish advertising guru Lluís Bassat predicted that newspapers still have a rather bright future, mainly because it offers opportunities for advertisers that other media lack. Television is becoming saturated with advertising that many people actually don’t watch. Internet is becoming more popular but is very fragmented at the same time. Newspapers, including free newspapers, offer attention and a large audience at the same time.

Designer Mauricio Gutiérrez showed how he developed ideas for design. His company had readers make their own newspapers, experimenting with their own design, indicating what they would like to read or not. He had them comment on existing and new design. The company also watched readers: how they picked and read newspapers. His conclusion was that people indeed want shorter articles that have also a visual impact in terms of design.

Ben Rogman, publisher of Dutch quality free daily De Pers talked about the launch of their newspaper in 2007 and the first year and a half. Rogmans admitted that the ambitions of the newspaper (being the best and the biggest newspaper in the Netherlands after a year) were rather ‘over the top’. “We were also too arrogant towards the market” he said.

Lessons learned, De Pers cut costs, sacked staff, ended the Saturday edition and home delivery and now has a more ‘realistic’ strategy. The paper expects to reach break-even in Q4 2009. In 2010 the paper must be profitable. For this De Pers needs seven advertising pages a day.

Mikael Nestius from City (Stockholm) covered the change from a free to a ‘morazine’ published three days a week. The main results are that the paper cut costs with 70%. Main cost saving areas were staff and distribution. In terms of advertising the paper lost 10%. A ‘morazine’ means giving more than a daily and offering a magazine-like paper at the same time. Focus is on local affairs and entertainment. Design and paper quality were improved to look like a magazine. City thinks it will be break-even in the last 4 months of 2008.

Morten Nielsen went over the history of free newspapers in Denmark (covered extensively on this website) and concluded that in the case of quality free daily Nyhedsavisen, problems with distribution (and lacking cost control) were critical in the closure of the paper. Although readership was very good, the number of readers per copy was much lower than that of the other free dailies.

The last ‘nordic’ example came from Nörrkoping, a small town in Southern Sweden. Editorial developer Bengt Engwall explained how Norrköpings Tidningar, a mid sized local newspaper company developed into the NTM media group, publishing paid and free papers, being online and starting a TV station at the same time. Engwall showed how a local media group reinvented its ‘ownership’ of the local market.

Their TV model is a one-hour program that runs every hour. Local news is the backbone of the program. Their free daily Extra Ostergotland by paid papers Östgöta Correspondenten and Norrköpings Tidningars launched in October 2004. The paper won the contract over distribution through public transport. Its success is a very tight financial structure: employing only 8 journalists, using facilities and advertising staff from the paid newspaper and having a very minimal website).

3 Responses to “From the Barcelona conference”

  1. gonzo Says:

    Quote: In 2010 the paper must be profitable. For this De Pers needs seven advertising pages a year’. Seven advertising pages a year? How many million euro per page?

  2. Bart Brouwers Says:

    “In 2010 the paper must be profitable. For this De Pers needs seven advertising pages a year.” Wow, if only that were true…, we all would be millionaires. ;-)

  3. Piet Bakker Says:

    that was a test of course, checking whether people really read this stuff. (It is corrected: 7 ad-pages A DAY)