It was reported in 2007 that a large earthquake near the Solomon Isles had caused 20 miles of coral reef to rise by over 10 feet, lifting them out of the water and destroying the eco-system around them. Last year in Chile an earthquake measuring 8.8 actually resulted in parts of the Chilean coastline changing their layout and appearance, today we read that scientists have discovered proof that a giant meteor that struck Mexico 65 million years ago directly led to the eradication of the dinosaurs. Sometimes a sudden, shocking and unexpected event makes such an indelible mark on the landscape that life changes completely after it and only those who can adapt will survive.
Last week’s seismic shift was the destruction of the News of the World. Not only Britain’s the best selling Sunday newspaper but apparently the most widely read English language newspaper in the world. The media landscape in this country has changed, probably forever. From an advertising perspective we need to take stock. In Scotland the News of the World had a Scottish edition which carried both Scottish only and UK-wide advertising. It wasn’t as dominant here as in the rest of the UK, indeed it wasn’t the best selling or best read in Scotland, the Sunday Mail maintaining a reasonable lead over it in both sales and readers and the Sunday Post also giving it stiff competition for readers. But that doesn’t diminish its loss to the market. It was widely believed that the NOTW was stronger on the east coast of Scotland and was popular with advertisers targeting that area.
One question we’re being asked is what will happen to News of the World readers, will they switch titles or be lost to the market altogether? The latter seems unlikely, buying a Sunday paper is as much a ritual as anything else, we’d say it’s a fair bet those that bought the NOTW will look to replace it with something although inevitably some will be lost for good. The most obvious beneficiary of that is probably going to be the Sunday Mail, another ‘red top’ it was in direct competition with the NOTW in Scotland. The other ‘red tops’ such as The People and the Sunday Mirror have little traction in Scotland currently, they may well pick up some new readers on the back of this but they’ll need to improve their Scottish content if they want to keep them.
The Sunday Mail clearly feels it is best positioned to pick up the slack, it has announced it intends to increase its print run by 50% this weekend so there will be plenty of copies available for new readers. The Sunday Post might be a winner too. It led with a very strong front page last weekend putting distance between it and the type of journalism that led to the end of the NOTW, it certainly ticks the ‘Scottish stories’ box but it is a very different beast from the old NOTW, just how much the general public’s tastes have changed in the past week will decide how well the Sunday Post does in the long term. Reminding the Scottish public of its existence will do it no harm either though.
However so much of the Scottish tabloid market is driven by sport and whilst the British open will be in full swing this weekend Scottish football is on holiday so the source of so much content is not available currently. Had this event coincided with a large controversial football match it would have been the perfect storm, as it is transfer gossip looks like the best they can provide.
The big story is of course the NOTW itself and so far most of the tabloids have shown a reluctance to get too involved in it. This might help the broadsheets who are covering it in greater detail although we doubt many old NOTW readers will switch to a broadsheet.
The other big winners in this media wise have been broadcast and internet. The fast moving nature of last week’s events were, ironically, far more suited to radio, TV and internet than to print. Had the BBC carried advertising they’d have cleaned up this week, they don’t obviously so ITV and, again even more ironically, Sky, should benefit also.
The other great unknown currently is will News International bring out a new Sunday tabloid to replace the NOTW. There has been a lot of speculation regarding this and certainly I think we can all assume it has been seriously discussed. But even with News International’s resources and experience it is unlikely to happen in the next couple of weeks, by which time the media landscape could again have shifted considerably.
Whether you are a South Sea Islands Clown Fish, a Chilean beachcomber or a Tyrannosaurus Rex events completely out with your control can have a big impact on your life. We’ll be watching with interest, as advertisers we are constantly seeking the most effective route, one of those has now disappeared, how we adapt and how the media adapts to this will be telling.