APN regional media editorial boss says ‘foot soldiers’ in regions are important



APN News & Media’s Australian Regional Media (ARM) editorial boss has taken a swipe at Fairfax following the rival publisher’s recent cuts to its regional papers, noting it is important to retain “the foot soldiers in the regions”.

At the end of last month, Newcastle Herald editorial staff staged a walkout in response to Fairfax Media’s proposal to cut 69-full-time equivalent positions across the Newcastle and Hunter region. The proposal followed on from cuts to Sydney papers, The Land, the Illawarra and South Coast and in regional Victoria.

In response to a question by Mumbrella on the pressures on regional publishers, such as Fairfax, Bryce Johns said: “There is a lot of pressure on all media and we’re not immune to that. We haven’t had to be anywhere near as savage in the cuts we’ve made.

“Our focus has been on retaining the foot soldiers in the regions. The types of things you would look at are production, things that are central, the syndication you have. But you have to keep reporters in Toowoomba, Mackay, Rockhampton – the towns in which we’re dominate, if we’re not telling more stories then anyone else then we’re in trouble.”

His comments came after the company launched its Brand Extra personalised print solution which offers advertisers the ability to create a data led, custom newspaper experiences across its suite of regional brands to target customers and subscribers.Brand Extra gives advertisers the ability to personalise editorial and advertiser content including putting the customer name on the front cover and throughout the publication, using images targeted to customer demographics, editorial targeted to customer demographics, price and product advertising targeted to customer purchase intentions, special offers targeted to customer purchase intentions and unique competition codes to track customer engagement.

On the ability to target editorial content to customer demographics APN ARM’s editorial director Bryce Johns said he doesn’t see it “coming to fruition on a daily basis” in the daily newspaper “for some time”.

“What we’re talking about here is our ability to be able to come up with a specialist paper as well as your daily paper. We would do a travel product, like we did with Flight Centre, and personalise it for people,” he told Mumbrella.

“We might do it for an event that comes to town. We’re probably a little bit away yet from being able to deliver 15,000 morning bulletins with rugby pages for these people and league pages for these people and cooking pages for the women, or men if you like.”

To date ARM has physically done two print products, including the Daily Mercury Travel Extra which saw ARM partner with Flight Centre, which featured personalised content for individual readers.

“Now the content hasn’t changed markedly, but there are examples through it, you’ve got different names on the cover, different advertising and the odd different story,” Johns said.

“It’s really difficult to do, because in a big market imagine trying to get the right paper in the right letterbox, you can’t just chuck it over the fence now. In the regional markets we can do that because we’re selling 5,000, 10,000 12,000 – if it was the Sydney Morning Herald and they had to do it to 100,000 it would slow your delivery down but we can do it in our size markets.”

Brand ExtraThe launch of Brand Extra follows on from ARM trialling the personalised digital printing for Warwick Daily News subscribers earlier this year. The trial saw 21 per cent of recipients, who were tracked via a unique subscriber code, took direct action and engaged with an advertiser promotion in their personalised paper.

Johns said the company is personalising the ads and content based on its own data however it will look to use data available from commercial partners in the future.

“When we work with a partner there data is key, for example if we partnered with Coles, could they deliver to us the names and addresses of people who buy mandarins and people who buy wine? And could they get ads targeted to them, yes they could,” Johns said.

At the end of last month, APN’s ARM rolled out details of its new digital subscriptions which include access to a number of News Corp properties including its rewards program, Fox Sports and Presto.

Commenting on the need to offer paying subscribers more then just access to the digital content, Johns said: “Regional Australia is not different to anywhere in the world, they’ve been receiving free news for a long time and now we’re asking them to pay for some of that news and that will be a challenge to people.

“What we’ve been very, very smart at is making sure there’s lots of added value, if you’re going to have to start paying you’re going to get much more then what you were getting for free.”

Johns said the new bundled subscriptions are getting “good numbers” of people signing up.

“It’s fantastic value for a great range of media products and we think this is a new stream that will help the [print circulation] decline,” he said.

During the evening APN’s ARM lashed out at the regional TV media campaign ‘Save Our Voices’ aimed at pushing the Federal Government to act on media reforms, suggesting all forms of media should have its regulation reviewed, not just one segment.

“It’s a play by TV to try and get the reach rule disbanded,” Johns said.

“We’re not against media reform but if one segment of the media was getting special treatment in terms of having their rules reviewed it could impact on us and put other media at an advantage. If there’s to be regulation reviewed everyone should have those rules reviewed not just TV.”

Miranda Ward


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