by: Adreana Young
After Sydney, Australia’s Morning Herald published stories on alcohol-related injuries and deaths, there was a 40 percent decrease in alcohol-related violence resulting in injury. Neurosurgeon Dr. Timothy Steel, head of neurosurgery at Sydney’s St. Vincent’s Hospital, was reported saying he credited the newspaper’s influence for sparking a wide-spread community dialogue that helped educate people on the dangers of alcohol.
When a drunk driver crashed into the home of an unsuspecting family and tragically killed their eight-month-old son, the West Australian newspaper teamed up with the family and ran a campaign on the dangers of drunk driving and high speed roads. The results were a decrease in toll signs to the lowest they had been since 1962.
These are just two powerful examples of how newspapers can make changes in their communities—and it’s the message four of Australia’s major newspaper publishers (News Corp Australia, Fairfax Media, APN News and Media, and Seven West Media, along with Australian newspaper association, The Newspaper Works) are trying to send in a national campaign called Influential by Nature.
Igniting a Movement
Founded in 2006, The Newspaper Works’ role is to “continually convey the commercial power of news brand audiences to advertisers, and media and creative agencies…achieved through research-generated insights into media trends and audience behaviors,” according to its website (thenewspaperworks.com.au).
Launched in April, Influential by Nature is a print and digital brand campaign which originated when concerns over the decline of newspapers were continuing to grow, when commercial partners were losing a sense of value of quality journalism and because of increased audience engagement with other media such as social media and blogs, said Mark Hollands, chief executive for The Newspaper Works.
The Newspaper Works reached out to an independent advertising agency, Hallway, to help frame their campaign message and strategy through member consultation. Creating the campaign’s strategy took several months because of the number of stakeholders, Hollands said.
Funds for Influential by Nature were allocated through membership fees paid by the publishers. Hollands said The Newspaper Works group then reached out to each publishing company for space in their print and digital publications.
“We feel it’s important to remind advertisers and agencies that newspaper media still sets the agenda, and that advertisers get results by placing their brands within this trusted and credible environment,” said Charlie Murdoch, marketing director for The Newspaper Works. “The initial phase of the campaign showcases powerful examples of editorial and commercial influence. These range from newspaper media having positively influenced government policy, major infrastructure projects, changed the community’s behavior and attitudes to certain issues, and even improved advertising outcomes for property sellers.”
Hollands said that while the Australian newspaper market wasn’t hit as hard as the United States and the United Kingdom, they did experience job loss and some revenue loss.
In 2014, many of Australia’s readership numbers were on the decline. The Sunday Herald, the Sunday edition of the Herald Sun in Melbourne, saw a decrease of nearly 100,000 readers from their paper from March 2014 to March 2015. While the Australian, another major newspaper in the country, experienced a 6.5 percent decline to its Monday through Friday sales, according to The Newspaper Works.
Yet, many of these newspapers’ digital subscription rates are on the rise. The Herald Sun saw an 11 percent increase in online subscriptions year-on-year.
This is why Influential by Nature isn’t focusing on the medium, but rather on the brand of newspapers, said Michael Miller, chairman of The Newspaper Works and CEO of APN News and Media, in an Australian article. He told E&P that even in the digital age, with fragmented media, people turn to brands they know and trust, and “newspaper brands deliver trusted news, views and information better than anyone else.”
“Newspapers have worked hard to transform their businesses…difficult decisions were taken to move from a predominantly print to a multi-platform environment. Print readership and circulation declines took their toll on the industry, as did job losses,” Miller said. “But…newspapers have demonstrated just how resilient they are, attracting large and engaged audiences. Armed with this knowledge, newspapers can confidently regain any ground lost with advertisers.”
Since its launch, Influential by Nature has been promoted through video interviews on The Newspaper Works’ YouTube account (youtube.com/user/TheNewspaperWorks) and its social media accounts. Many of the videos showcase the positive changes happening in Australian communities because of newspapers, such as the APN’s Terror At Home series.
Starting in March, the month-long series brought awareness to domestic violence in Australia and was published on all platforms across APN’s 12 daily newspapers.
“It was something we felt strongly about,” said Christina Ongley, group content and special projects editor of APN Australian Regional Media. “Domestic violence is a complex issue that many people see as being private, so it’s been ignored by legislators and policy makers for a long time. We wanted to change the view that the community was powerless to stop it, and we believed we could make a difference through our mastheads.”
Terror At Home garnered roughly 3,200 signatures for a petition that was presented to the premier of Queensland, the head of the Australian government, in April. The campaign also earned support from people in the communities served by the newspapers, said Ongley.
“People living in areas served by our papers congratulated us for taking on the issue or came forward to share their own stories. Some politicians got in touch to have their say and offered to support change in whatever way they could,” she said. “Alarmingly, although I suppose not surprisingly, we had a number of our female colleagues get in touch to say they were survivors of violence at home, and how grateful they were that finally a media organization was speaking up.”
Ongley said the Influential by Nature campaign reminds people that newspapers—more than TV, radio, or other forms of media—do more than just report the news.
She continued, “They stand up for their communities, whether they are big or small, and they fight for change. It’s very unusual to see big media campaigns fighting for any meaningful social change in a medium other than newspapers and their associated websites. Much has changed in newspapers over the years, but one thing that hasn’t is that we still pride ourselves on being the voice of our communities.”
In addition to the social awareness newspapers can provide their communities, Influential by Nature has also revealed the power of newspaper advertising.
According to Core Logic Australian—Media Maximiser, homes sold faster and at a higher price when advertised in both online and the printed newspaper. In Perth, selling prices increased by 8.7 percent and in Sydney, homes sold for 5.1 percent more when advertised in the newspaper.
General manager of real estate sales for News Corp Australia Tom Panos said in a YouTube video for The Newspaper Works, sellers who advertise in the newspaper sell homes faster and at a higher price because they get noticed more.
“There’s thousands and thousands of properties online only and what the data shows is that unless you’re on page one or two (of the online site)…no one’s going to notice you,” he said in the video. “So what we know is that when a property is in print it’s actually saying to the prospective buyer…I’m a real serious seller here, that’s why I’ve taken out a campaign in print. So what we know is a serious seller attracts a serious buyer.”
While Hollands said it’s too early to count commercial benefits, the campaign has brought newspaper publishers together.
“(The campaign) has defined for all of us what we stand for. I know that might sound a bit crazy…but what does an industry stand for? It is a good question,” he said. “Well, we stand for the influence we bring to society, for the benefit of society. Newspapers are vital to a working democracy and the maintenance of freedom of expression. Newspapers are essential because, like no other media, we hold to account those in whom society—the people—invest authority and trust. Without newspapers demanding transparency in government, our world would be very different. That is why we are ‘influential by nature.’”
According to Hollands, to measure the campaign’s future success, The Newspaper Works utilizes website metrics, media surveys to gauge the impact, advertising focus groups, as well as presentations across media buying houses. He also said they are using infographics on their website to showcase newspaper data.
While the initial Influential by Nature campaign is scheduled to run for four months, Hollands said they are currently working on its next phase, one that will likely last for several years, and focus on those future campaigns will depend on market conditions.
Influence in the U.S.
While the U.S. market is home to many major publishers and smaller, independent newspapers, they have the power to make change and influence their communities as well.
“Influence is influence, and it is powerful and effective. Ask the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal,” Hollands said. “It would be hard to argue that the LA Times has not only influenced events and the history of this city for 100 years and more, but it does so today…A number of U.S. colleagues have told me that they love the campaign—and I’ve even had some country associations ask if they can use it, too. It does serve to educate young media buyers of the value of newspaper media, and remind our own industry that we possess influence and we must always respect and not take for granted our position in society.”
New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet recently was quoted saying his biggest frustration at the Times was “… not enough people know how good we are, how well we’re doing financially, and how bright the future looks for us. Somehow, other people are better at telling their story than we are at telling ours.”
However, influential journalism from U.S. newspapers is telling enough. Unvarnished, a series exposing the exploitation of nail salon workers was published in the New York Times in May and prompted government agencies to order emergency measures to protect workers and combat wage theft. The Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning series, Till’ Death Do Us Part, exposed shocking domestic violence statistics and stories taking place in the state.
Additionally, the Wall Street Journal’s recent Make Time brand campaign is another example of how campaigns promoting newspaper influence are effective in today’s media. The Journal’s print and online campaign included celebrities and business executives discussing their reasons for making time to read the Journal every day.
Newspaper publishers around the U.S. could easily come together to create their own national Influential by Nature campaign; the journalism is already there, but leadership has to be put into place.
One way The Newspaper Works has brought newspaper leadership together is through their annual Future Forum conference. Each year, newspaper industry executives come together from around the Asia Pacific region to discuss issues, innovations, best practices, case studies and the future of newspapers. Rather than compete with one another, U.S. newspapers should take the lead of Australia’s publishers and work together toward building the newspaper brand for a successful future.
Influential by Nature is a reminder that newspapers around the world are making a lasting impact through their stories, videos and relentless reporting. Despite the transforming industry, the newspaper brand is still an important and effective marketing tool.