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Local newspapers growth indicates a return to personalisation

Local newspapers have a unique opportunity in the market, since they are a personalised medium for personalised connections.
Local newspapers, being free newspapers circulated within specific communities, reflect content that is individualised and relevant to each respective community they serve. The content is not generic, seldom national, but focuses on what is happening within a specific community, creating a sense of belonging.

"Advertisers would benefit from understanding relevance of local newspaper titles, which has led to a growing, loyal readership. Local titles lend themselves to a different discourse and unique connection with the consumer base. Local newspapers connect differently through the sense of community, reflecting what is happening in the communities of the readers. This can be validated by the readers and builds trust," says Sarina de Beer MD at Ask Afrika.

Ask Afrika has found in both global and local trends that local news is increasingly important for a society returning to its sense of community and care.

Newspapers are still one of the most effective mediums in South Africa, specifically in relation to cost and reach. Local newspapers are the perfect platform for community centric brand communication and commercial expectations remain intact. The challenge for the media owners is to find a way to engage with the consumer driven market, and to capitalise on the readership growth, whilst competing fiercely for advertising budget.

Research benefits salespeople

Advertisers want to know about reach and readership and how consumers engage with the category, how they behave and respond to advertising, how to achieve the maximum gain. For this reason, the Compass24 local newspaper study, commissioned by Ads24 and conducted by Ask Afrika, focuses on enabling a deep consumer understanding that will enable advertising salespeople to have the right conversations with advertisers, increasing advertising revenue for the group.

In contrast to typical research studies, it was designed with salespeople in mind, understanding what they need to be more successful, as opposed to starting with the market/consumer and then interpreting the gems, hoping to enable sales. The next wave of research will be released in September 2014.

"A significant qualitative phase was executed to understand the social trends in South Africa, tapping into consumers mind space, their needs and general expectations, making it more specific to what they expect from brands in this context," says de Beer.

Beyond readership figures

This was then taken forward in the design of a readership survey with a difference. A study that does not focus solely on the readership figures per title, but one that can argue the practical and emotional relevance of the medium, how it builds a connection between consumer and brand.

This enabled a commercial discourse between the brand owner, media agency and advertising sales person about the unique benefits of the medium, linked to the social and emotional space in which the reader finds himself and how that contributed to his/her response to brands and advertising, relative to society.

As much as local newspapers lend themselves to a very real and relevant consumer discourse, it is only the start to the advertising investment argument. Brand owners can no longer, if ever, make emotional decisions on advertising spend. They need to ensure that they touch the hearts and minds of as many of the right consumers, who will react positively to the call to action, advertised in the particular medium.

Power shifts

As with the global trend, Ask Afrika has witnessed a new found 'consumer revolution' where the power has shifted to the consumer rendering traditional strategies inadequate to cope with trends emerging from the consumer mindset.

As trend analyst Dion Chang illustrates, the post-recession has led to a shift in power balance, where we see the rise of a consumer dominated economy and business templates that we used in the past are fast becoming obsolete.

Local newspapers react to trends

Ask Afrika conducted a significant qualitative exploration on this market and found that local newspapers respond effectively to consumer trends. This can facilitate an increase in readership and advertising spend. These trends opened up new arguments for consideration in the South African consumer context, we are returning to values, the social landscape is changing, there is a new sense of solidarity - the self vs. the community, meaningfulness and purpose, and civic engagement.

These outcomes are driving brand expectations from a consumer perspective. Consumers expect an authentic real life commitment from the brands they support. Government are increasingly unable to fulfil the basic needs of South African citizens and consumers' expectations are migrating to the public sector. This means the brands we support, as consumers, need to be practically involved on a community level, they need to invest in the community's basic needs, enhance meaningfulness, contribute to a sense of belonging and enhance civic engagement.
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