Friday, July 13, 2007

Free newspapers less appreciated

I knew it from my gut feeling: for-free newspapers loose from the paid-for newspapers. Market research from Newcom Research & Consultancy BV confirmed that paid-for newspapers get on average 7.9 points out of 10; for-free newspapers get an average of 6.6 out of 10. The survey is interesting as two more free newspapers started this year in the Netherlands. And my second gut feeling was also right: the most recently launched for-free newspaper DAG by the newspaper holding PCM and the incumbent telco KPN scores the lowest in appreciation.

In the Netherlands we have four national free newspapers: Metro, Spits, De Pers and DAG. Metro was the first one, set up by the international Metro chain in cooperation with the Dutch railway company NS since 1999. This publication was immediately followed by Spits, a publication from De Telegraaf, which was out to protect its advertisement share. On January 23 of this year a new free broadsheet was published, De Pers, to be followed by DAG on May 8. The survey publishes the first competitive figures in appreciation.

Metro and Spits score highly in the survey, respectively 6.9 and 6.8. But De Pers is the winner with 7.0. DAG is the absolute looser with 5.9. A discussion can be started about the fact that Metro and Spits are established for-free newspapers. But De Pers proves that it is appreciated even better than the long existing for-free newspapers. De Pers is seen as a newspaper with depth, while Metro and Spits are bullet news newspapers, aiming at young people as a target group. DAG is still trying to find its target group and format. So far it has proven to be publication with an aggressive lay-out, a lot of pictures and not much depth.

The appreciation is also partly related to recognition of the title and the penetration. Metro and Spits are well-known and well established. Their distribution is an oiled machine and the audience is mainly reached around the train and bus stations. De Pers and DAG still have difficulties with the distribution. De Pers is difficult to come by, while DAG made a smart distribution deal with a grocery retail chain. But both newspapers still have to do more before people recognise the title.

The conclusion is that Metro and Spits are well established in the market, but have gotten competition from De Pers as to its format and content. With a better distribution plan, De Pers could succeed Metro and Spits, but also challenge paid-for newspapers. DAG will have to make up a lot if it ever wants to be an established for-free newspaper; it will have to change its format radically to attract a target group (and advertisements) and survive. It is unbelievable that a newspaper holding as PCM with so much knowledge about newspapers, an experienced advertisement acquisition machine and a distribution network is putting out such a rag and all this with bragging adjectives as cross-media. PCM would have done better to make a joint venture with De Pers, which had no editorial experience, no ad acquisition machine and no experience in distribution.

But the survey shows another fact. For-free newspapers are less appreciated than paid-for newspapers. This looks like a contradiction. While the paid-for newspapers are going down in circulation figures, there is a great distance between the appreciation for the paid-for newspapers and the for-free newspapers. Paid-for newspapers get on average 7.9 points out of 10; for-free newspapers get an average of 6.6 out of 10.

And the opinion about paid-for newspapers is strong. Almost 70 percent of the respondents are of the opinion that for-free newspapers do not change anything for the appreciation of paid-for newspapers. Confronted with the statement: For-free newspapers are a full replacement for the paid-for newspapers, no less than 48 percent of the respondents disagree; 28 percent disagree, while 20 percent are neutral. Almost 45 percent of the Dutch indicate that they would not miss for-free newspapers as they would cease publication. I personally think that this statement is a nonsense statement as hordes accept for-free newspapers every day.

Blog Posting Number: 811

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