Ifra Italia 2005: Those who advance will conquer
On 23 and 24 June, Catania (Sicily) was the meeting point for some 180 representatives of Italy’s most important publishing companies, industry suppliers, etc. at the Ifra Italia 2005 conference. Relations between advertisers and dailies and the way in which the newspaper industry has evolved in recent years in Italy and the rest of Europe were the narrative thread running through the different presentations.
After the welcoming address from Mario Ciancio Sanfilippo, editor of La Sicilia, a Catania regional daily, who praised the dynamism of the Italian publishing industry and stressed the difficulties faced by newspaper editors in Sicily, an island with more than 800 towns to access, Ifra CEO Reiner Mittelbach took the floor. In his speech, Mittelbach related the changes newspapers have dealt with since they first appeared at least 400 years ago (see the July issue of newspaper techniques). But they have never seen times like the ones we are living in now. “Today’s consumer wants to receive information suited to his or her profile at all times and through any medium,” Mittelbach said as he presented Ifra’s new project, e-News, with which he aims to lead newspapers through the jungle of business models and services that the new technologies have brought with them. “e-News is about mobilising the newspaper business in an effort to make papers as fast as possible and to ensure that they hit the target with their service offerings,” Mittelbach explained.
In his remarks, he further analysed the different trends that can be observed in our society (individualisation, globalisation, deregulation and media concentration) and how newspapers do not seem to know much about how readers have changed. He challenged the audience with a series of rhetorical questions intended to make perfectly clear how ignorant too many newspapers unfortunately are of their readers, markets, possible services, and information management. Therefore, to be able to prepare for the challenges approaching us, Mittelbach suggested using scenario techniques, which project possible future situations and help to take the greatest advantage of them.
ASIG president Carlo Lombardi, who is also an Ifra Board member, assured his listeners that, despite the uncertainty pervading dailies, the Internet has in no way meant the final sword thrust for the newspapers. “Newspapers have got into the new media business. And they have not suffered from the competition that the Internet has helped generate, since they’ve doubled their presence both in print and on the web. More and more studies show that internauts also visit newspaper websites. So dailies have not improved their sales in recent years, but they have won more readers,” he said.
Ifra research manager Manfred Werfel reviewed the reasons why many newspapers, especially in Europe, have switched to a smaller format than the broadsheet, moving either to the tabloid or Berlin format. Werfel pointed out that readers want a small, compact, cheap newspaper with fewer pages and personalised content.
These speeches were followed by a round table discussion whose panel members analysed the best editorial strategies to attract readers, improve products and obtain a good market share. The participants in the round table were: Boris Biancheri, president of FIEG; Alessandro Bompieri, general manager of Il Sole 24 Ore; Luca Traverso, director of the Corriere division of RCS Quotidiani; Domenico Ioppolo, strategic marketing director of Editrice La Stampa; and Giulio Dalla Chiesa, general manager of Corriere dello Sport. The credibility of newspapers, the use of colour on each page to attract advertisers, and the personalisation and accessibility (in terms of simplicity, size, etc.) of contents were some of the subjects examined during this discussion.
Advertising and mobile services
Michele Muzii, FCP president and managing director, gave a vibrant presentation in which he exhorted his publishing industry colleagues to innovate in advertising and to react with speed and fighting spirit to the challenges they face. He further asked newspapers to present themselves to advertisers as a single medium—the printed daily—to convince them of the advantages of placing their advertising in that medium. He argued against warring between mastheads and for fighting other media, such as television, which take a juicy slice of the advertising pie.
Using the extended metaphor of a journey through hell, purgatory and heaven as described by Dante in The Divine Comedy, Morris Packer, of Sweden’s Bonnier group, made an intriguing exposition of the various stages a newspaper goes through when it launches mobile services. Although the Bonnier group has not yet arrived in the paradise of mobile newspaper services, it has conducted some interesting experiments with the cell phone as the starring element. In one of these, journalists from Bonnier newspapers used their mobile phones to do real-time reporting on a concert given by gothic star Marilyn Manson for the many young fans who, unable to buy tickets, subscribed instead to the service allowing them to receive messages on this musical event. In another mobile application, the readers of many of the Bonnier dailies use their cell phones to send in their solutions to the daily crossword puzzle or to subscribe to a new print publication that the group started. But to make it to heaven, Bonnier still needs to achieve what all publishers fervently desire: to get telecommunications operators to relinquish part of the tremendous profit percentages that the newspapers’ transmitted contents generate for them.
Finally, Tim Greve, of asdirekt, an advertising sales company owned by German publisher Axel Springer Verlag, explained to his audience how to sell more advertisements for their newspapers, motivate sales people and make an ad sales call centre more effective. He was full of hints to get sales people to go out and get ads instead of sitting and waiting for advertising that never comes, as it did in the old days, as if it had fallen from heaven.
To wind up the conference, another round table discussion was held with the participation of Orlando Langs, president of O.P.Q; Graziella Merlo, marketing manager for Sole 24 Ore Systems; Angelo Sajeva, managing director of Publikompass; Maximo Martellini, managing director of Sport Network; and Leonardo Barbieri, general manager of A. Manzoni & C. The panel members discussed such matters as local newspapers and their advertising stability, the use of colour in advertisements and the decline in circulation rates.
Page first published: 02.08.2005