2010 fifa world cup opinion


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Opinion: The word on Grubstreet

UK tabloid to print in SA during world cup

The Poms don't really like to leave home, which is why you'll find them seeking out home comforts such as bacon and eggs in exotic climes the world over. And where the Brits go, their newspapers are sure to follow. And so it is with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which starts in just over two weeks' time.
Britain is, after all, a nation that loves to read newspapers. It has no less than 10 national newspapers, which is disproportionally high for a population of 61-million people.

With the legions of British footy fans will come at least one of their newspapers, the Daily Mirror tabloid, which boasts 1.2 million average daily sales in the UK. It will be printed daily in South Africa throughout the tournament and local media house Avusa had been contracted by the Mirror Group to print and distribute the paper.

Bizcommunity.com spoke to the London-based Allan Rogerson, the pre-press director of Mirror Group Newspapers, and Mark White, the overseas circulation manager (now that gives you an indication of the scale of the paper's operation!) about the logistics of the operation:

Bizcommunity: Are you guys the only British paper printing in SA during the world cup??

Mark White: As far as we're aware there's no other title that's doing it on the scale that we are and for the duration that we are. Obviously, others are looking at digital print, which is (a case of) pressing a button and five copies get printed out that go to the TV stations or the journalists and that's it. Nobody is going to the streets, to the hotels or the fan villages, etc, which is what we're planning to do through (distributors) Allied and Avusa.

Biz: Where will it be printed?

Allan Rogerson: Avusa Media will be subcontracting some of the printing (to Caxton) as they do themselves (for some of their own publications). We're trying to be as flexible as possible. We're still not sure even at this late stage where all our fans are going to be and just how popular the paper's going be - whether it's the fans or (British) people that are already over there... We made an arrangement with Avusa that we can print at virtually any print site around South Africa... And we will be printing an amount at those print sites depending on where our fans are and where we can sell.

Biz: What kind of print run are we looking at here?

White: We're still working on the numbers. Some days the print runs will be higher than others. The big print runs will be the day before the [English] game, the day of the game and the day after the game. On days where there are rest days or that don't involve England's group or some of the sexier teams, the print figure could be smaller.

We have printed in Northern Europe before for the European Championships. We print in Spain, Greece, Malta. We know that the big hits, as far as football is concerned, is the day before the game, the day of the game and the day after the game. What's going to be interesting this time is that there will be a number of visitors from the UK who will be staying in SA for more than four or five days - maybe for a fortnight - so they'll be picking up the Mirror from back home, not just to keep them in touch with the soccer but all the political shenanigans that are going on at the moment and all the other news from home.

We are aware that there's a big expatriot community in SA and that there's a weekly Daily Express newspaper printed there. One of the attractive reasons for us to print in SA for this world cup is to see is there a market beyond the visitors. Is there an expatriot market that still has enough interest in the UK that would make it worth our while to distribute in SA on a daily basis after the WC?

Biz: So this will be the same Mirror that will be printed in the UK during the world cup - not a special South African edition?

Rogerson: Yes.

Biz: Have you done this at previous world cups?

Rogerson: Yes, we have. I'm already looking at print sites in Poland and the Ukraine for the [UEFA] European Championships in 2012.

Biz: The logistics must be complicated because this isn't a short hop across the English Channel. Even the digital files of pages will have to be pretty big and SA hasn't really entered the broadband age yet.

Rogerson: We've been sending pages now for almost a month and we had some initial problems but the speeds now are more than acceptable. These days we have a standard way of transmitting pages to anywhere in the world - you create a PDF and an FTP site and put them on that site and they pick them up. It seems to be working very well indeed.

Biz: So how do you monitor the quality on this side? Will you have people here in SA during the tournament?

Rogerson: There's no big team from production but we're sending an entire team over from editorial and they will be monitoring for us and obviously there will copies coming straight back to us.

White: If things aren't up to scratch in terms of reproduction and distribution and things like that, phones will be ringing - make no mistake. Even though there will only be a couple 100 guys out there from the Mirror, we will know very quickly.

Rogerson: Meantime, we've already had test prints from both Johannesburg and Cape Town and they've been more than acceptable.

Biz: So can't you give me a range for the print run?

White: Yes, we have a range... All circulation managers the world over will tell you that you have a plan but you've got to react on the night. So if we beat America 20 goals to nil, I'll be picking up the phone and saying: "By the way I want to treble the print run tonight."

Rogerson: The nearest I can say is we have been given print quotes for runs of 10 000 to 60 000.

Biz: Isn't your cost per copy quite high for such an operation?

Rogerson: Yes, compared to England. No compared to the other places we print, for example, Spain, Malta, Greece. It's comparable.

White: Some things you have to weigh up the cost and value, don't you? For the Daily Mirror not to be available in a world cup is unthinkable. It would be like the Financial Times saying they couldn't afford to distribute in Frankfurt, for instance.

We've done our maths... we want to make a profit but at the same time, sometimes you do things as a service to your readership. We've got high hopes for this England football team but then we have had for every world cup since 1966. But we've got to be out there to support our boys... We've been printing at overseas sites now probably knocking on for 20 years and it's certainly got a lot easier as time's gone on.

Biz: I'm curious - did the other British papers print in Germany during the last world cup?

White: Yes, most British newspaper print in Brussels in order to access Northern Europe. There are some big print sites there. From Brussels, you can get to Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, France; fly to Italy; road to Switzerland and Austria; and fly out to Scandinavia. Basically, Brussels was almost like another English print site for everybody (during the last world cup) and English newspapers have been printing there for the last seven or eight years. Logistically (at the world cup in Germany), it wasn't anything as stretching as this. Everything was a lot closer together and if anything went wrong, it was fine - you could hop on a plane and be in Brussels from London pretty much in 45 minutes.

Biz: The British fans will be dispersed over quite a large area - some will be in hotels, some in B&Bs - but there is also an security zone around stadiums where newspaper can't be sold so how are you getting your newspapers to them?

White: We've been dealing with Avusa and Allied for probably the best part of eight months now and I think we've probably covered every base. Where it's possible for us to sell, we're selling. We've spoken to travel companies, to air lines, to hotel groups.

The challenge, of course, is that SA is not what we'd call in the UK a 'traditional retail universe'. The UK's a tiny little place compared to SA but we have 55 000 outlets selling newspapers. I think in the whole of SA there's probably not more than about 3 000 so it's a challenge. It tests our best brains.

Biz: You must have a pretty good idea of how many Brits are coming out to SA and what they will be up to?

White: Well, it depends which industry you follow. The travel people are humming and ha-ing and saying there are only 15 000 - or 20 000 - going but then you get the FA and all the supporters clubs saying it could be up to 40 000 or 50 000 people. The fact is until they turn up, we can't really put our finger on it. The problem is it's a long way away and some of the prices are pretty steep.

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About Gill Moodie: @grubstreetZA

Gill Moodie (@grubstreetSA) is a freelance journalist, media commentator and the publisher of Grubstreet (www.grubstreet.co.za). She worked in the print industry in South Africa for titles such as the Sunday Times and Business Day, and in the UK for Guinness Publishing, before striking out on her own. Email Gill at and follow her on Twitter at @grubstreetSA.
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