Tuesday, 5 August 2008

We have no money and we're going to tell you.

Normally Media Bistro is pretty on the money for its commentary about the newspaper trade, but this one made me laugh.

WSJ Spends 20x LAT to Promote Editorial Content

Given the Los Angeles Times' recent financial trouble, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the paper barely has the money to promote its editorial content. According to a recent RFP (that's Request for Proposal in layman's terms. Thanks Wikipedia.) sent out by LAT media buyers, the paper will spend $5,000 to highlight its "Super Sunday" section in September.
Now compare this number with the $100,000 that
Wall Street Journal — flush with Mr. Rupert Murdoch cash — plans to spend to achieve its goal of "communicating to the media community about the upcoming changes to the newspaper and driving 're-appraisal' for the paper as a media vehicle." How can Sam Zell hope to compete if he's getting outspent 20 to 1?
Granted, these likely aren't the only campaigns being held by each paper, but at the very least the discrepancy in scale is worth noting


Firstly, if the LAT's own media buyers are seriously sending out RFP to agencies to pitch for a piece of business worth $5000 to tell media buyers about their new supplement, frankly why bother? What serious agency is going to write up a proposal and whack it off back to them? All it will tell /has told the media community, via the grapevine to their own media buying arms, is that the LAT is spending a bag of beans on their new supplement. So why bother advertising in it?

As to Rupes spending $100,000 "communicating to the media community about the upcoming changes to the newspaper and driving 're-appraisal' for the paper as a media vehicle", this is small change in the world of consolidated marketing budgets for big newspapers - or at least used to be.

What this phrase means is that Rupes is trying to tell the trade (in typical media BS) that he's made some changes and they really ought to advertise.

Now I freely and happily admit I haven't budgeted a trade advertising or promotional campaign in the U.S.A/world recently but I can tell you 100k is more or less a couple of crappy ads in a couple of crappy trade mags, a cocktail party and a new brochure. So Rupes is hardly flush with cash either when it comes to "communicating to the media community about the upcoming changes to the newspaper and driving 're-appraisal' for the paper as a media vehicle." And he's talking about an entire re-launch, not one supplement in September.

I don't think this will have the advertising and marketing directors of the IHT/NYT quaking in their boots.

What both figures reveal is that neither is spending on promotion, anymore they are on edit hires.

The wider issue is this: this is Reagan vs USSR.

I think Murdoch/someone is going to try - eventually - to outspend their rivals. Who is going to back their belief in their 'value system' to put the other one out of business? Because at the end of this, and when that is I don't know, only one of the WSJ and the NYT will still be standing.

Let's hope it's the latter.

But smart spending/investment is going to save one of them, and it's going to be a period of severe losses before getting on a war footing for the very long and hopefully profitable recalibrated future, starting with Newspaper 2.0.

He who wins out will be the one is not limited by the modesty of their own ambition, and can persuade their shareholders that they have a world conquering plan.

As yet, neither have. But the smart money, sadly, has to be on the most globally diversified, and the most diversified not in just the Internet but TV aswell.

I've always felt it would take the NYT about 5 years they had to spend 25s of millions of dollars on the IHT to make it fly. At which point they either would or they would sell it, or they'd just run it as before: a showcase for NYT journalism worldwide to help their foreign bureaus gain access to people for whom the NYT is not available to be dropped on their desk on Day A. Just break even and spend any profit on a good Christmas party.

But global conquest don't come cheap. Especially when like the NYT buying out the WP and Murdoch buying out the Bancrofts - who must be delighted - you massively overpaid and failed comprehensively to read the tea leaves.

(BTW: Pretty pathetic figures, and hard to keep good marketing talent when that's all the pesos you give them to play with.)


International Herald Tribune
New York Times

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