I wish it were otherwise, but there’s a crisis just beginning to sweep over newspapers – with, a bit beneath the surface, a quandary for print property advertisers.
Now it’s become a truism that print is in trouble, overtaken and overwhelmed by the internet; you probably don’t need convincing but if you want a couple of figures to prove the point, try these from the Audit Bureau of Circulations:
- in 2010 the Sun’s average daily print circulation was 3,006,565 and in 2016 so far it’s 1,787,096 (so a loss of over 40 per cent in six years);
- in 2010 the Daily Telegraph had a print circulation of 691,128 and this year it’s down to 472,033 – so about a third down;
- over the same six year period, The Guardian’s print run has dropped from 302,285 to 164,163 – the best part of 50 per cent down;
- New Day, the (frankly half-baked) national launched earlier this year sold ad space on the basis of a 200,000 daily readership, never reached that and closed with under 30,000.
So far, so obvious to observers of digital progress.
Hand in hand with this is the fact that advertisers are reassessing whether print is worth using. I was struck by recent figures showing that the UK ad market grew at a staggering 7.5 per cent in 2015 yet advertising in newspapers suffered an 11 per cent fall, despite cut-price rates being offered by some titles.
The latest change is that until now there was a belief (or perhaps hope) that advertisers who shunned print newspapers would stay loyal to those same newspapers’ online output.
But that’s no longer the case. Some figures now show that digital advertising for the online versions of the old-school newspapers, too, appears to be on the slide. It’s early days, but it’s falling.
So where is this 7.5 per cent advertising spend increase actually going?
A lot, it seems, is going into Facebook; its profits tripled in 2015 and much of that is down to its shrewd emphasis on making its output suitable for mobile phones and tablets.
Like our own industry’s property portals, the advertisers know the future is hand-held.
So in the light of all this, whither property advertising?
Reaching 770,000 sophisticated well-targeted readers remains a key objective of those who choose to advertise in the print version of the Sunday Times (that’s its latest 2016 circulation figure – down only a third from 2010, so less than other rivals). My guess is that this title, and The Times and Financial Times, will keep a solid if declining print readership.
But is it time for estate agents to finally give up the ghost on local print and start putting marketing money into digital advertising? Facebook perhaps, with local ads determined by the location of the Facebook user?
And should some national agents and developers try advertising on truly digital national news services without any newspaper history – Huffington Post or Buzzfeed perhaps?
As has been the case with online technology for the best part of 20 years now, no one knows the definite way forward.
It’s just that it’s now looking like we know for sure what ISN’T the way forward – and that’s the newspaper.
*Editor of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today, Graham can be found tweeting all things property @PropertyJourn