– Newspapers to club ad sales together?

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An interesting idea in adverse conditions, though as today’s press comment reminds us, it’s not the first time it’s been mooted by an explosively competitive group of peers.

Perhaps extreme circumstances (market pressures) demand a more extreme response, but let’s just take a cool, objective look at why the media owners might think this is good idea.

First up and on the prettier side, it could lead to better, more coherent marketing to lure more brands to spend more in ‘newsprint’.  But isn’t that what the well-funded Newsworks already does?

Second, it could offer media agencies greater trading convenience.  There are only three TV sales houses of scale, whereas agencies have to deal with eight or nine national newspaper sales points and there have always been many more staff to rep complex products.  Multiple titles, supplements and inserts have been joined by online editions and all they bring.

However, advertisers, who pay their media agencies significant if perhaps diminished fees, aren’t concerned about their convenience.  Their own lives are seldom ‘convenient’.

And so finally to the dark side – trading leverage clubbing togther to harden rates.  In competition circles, this is called collusion and price fixing and it’s illegal.

Would the newspapers be powerful enough in concert to leverage the big media buyers, many of which  have already tied themselves to pricing guarantees?  And crucially, would they be powerful enough to scare them and their clients away from compiling a dossier for the Competition and Markets Authority’s consideration.  Very doubtful.

The CMA is the very same regulator which today accused the top five UK model agencies of collusion and price fixing.  Stephen Blake, the senior director of the watchdog’s Cartels and Criminal Group, is reported to have said: “This is the first competition enforcement case we have taken in the creative industries, which are an important part of the economy.  Veiled code for ‘media buying, we may come after you soon…” perhaps?

But back to the present.  Do any of the reasons above have any positive impact on newspapers’ intrinsic appeal to advertisers and agencies?  Since none would have much if any bearing on their content and their audiences, I’d have to say no – though it might admittedly help ensure their survival.

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