Snoddy: Pendulum Finally Shifting Towards News Media  

Advertisers are finally starting to wake up to the mountain of evidence that newsbrands are a more effective proposition than social media and are directing their ad spend accordingly, media commentator Ray Snoddy has written in a piece for Mediatel.  

On the back of Advertising Association/Warc data which showed the first year-on-year uplift in display advertising for national newspapers in seven years, Ray said the numbers suggested a “change to the casual laziness that saw ever-increasing amounts of advertising pumped into social media” and that the trend could extend to the local sector.

“One of the abiding mysteries of the British media has been the behaviour of the advertising community and its seemingly never-ending love affair with social media. In the face of bots, lack of transparency on numbers, viewing for nanoseconds, hate speech, hostile brand environment and serious questions raised by the chief marketing officers of Procter & Gamble and Unilever, what has happened?

“One is tempted to say nothing but that would not be accurate. More money has continued to flow into the coffers of social media giants almost in defiance of gravity and even as warnings intensified that democracy, and even society itself were being undermined. The appeal of short-term programmatic has remained undimmed, despite, as one sardonic senior adman noted recently, ‘whatever programmatic means this week.’”

“On the other side of the equation independent research report after independent research report have piled up demonstrating the superior engagement, dwell time, financial value and the importance of trust generated by newsbrands, or as they should be known, providers of real news. What has happened as a result? Precious little apart perhaps from shifty ad folk conceding that perhaps such matters deserved further scrutiny.

“And still the advertising flowed in an apparently unstoppable flood towards the social media and away from newsbrands despite the evidence that a modest swing of the pendulum towards newspapers would be both rational and also in the interests of everyone involved, not least brand owners.

“Nothing has happened – at least until now. For the first time there is some real evidence that the pendulum is on the move. Maybe some messages just take time to percolate. The numbers suggest a change to the casual laziness that saw ever-increasing amounts of advertising pumped into social media and the return of a more sophisticated, broadly based approach with individual media being judged on their merits and used in tailored campaigns.

“As a result out-of-home, radio and TV have done well and – cue a trumpet or two – national newspapers have had their best performance for more than seven years. We can even, say it quietly, mention the “G” word – growth.

“Print display advertising in the national newspaper market rose one per cent to £153 million in the first quarter, the first increase since the last quarter of 2010. It may not sound like much but it’s a lot better than the double digit declines of recent memory. The popular dailies adspend rose by 2.8 per cent to £77.8 million with Tesco returning to the newspaper fold. While print display in the quality market dropped by 0.3 per cent to £48 million, that too was the best quarterly performance for seven years.

“The hope now is that the modest shift will become a permanent trend, further boosted by self-help innovations such as Ozone and the more reliable and comprehensive data coming from PamCo. It has taken an almighty shift to move the dial by a perceptible amount and the hope now is that the better results for the national press will also help to pull up local and regional press advertising by the boot-straps.

“Facebook is hardly going to go away and will remain a valuable tool for advertisers, even more so when it has cleaned up its act. The social media giant has even gone a long way to conceding that it’s a form of publisher rather than a by-standing, neutral platform operator.

“The very process and cost of becoming a respectable citizen will have the effect of creating a more even playing field and provide breathing space for existing media, which were being slowly squeezed to death. As long as the advertising industry recognises that the pendulum should yet gain some more momentum.”