Throughout the current crisis – the lock down, the social distancing, the home working and schooling – one of the main things people are craving is news. No matter what your age or profession, knowing the latest information about the virus, government guidance, the healthcare system, and when life is likely to get back to some version of normality has become an all-consuming need. And fulfilling that need are thousands of news organisations, all working round the clock to inform, analyse, interpret and challenge in a global effort to seek the truth and hold governments and experts to account.
It’s in this atmosphere of high demand for information that newspapers excel. For hundreds of years, newspapers have been the key source of knowledge that people have turned to in times of crisis. And as we go through another global crisis, that situation is exactly the same.
It’s no secret that newspaper circulations have been on a steady decline over the past decade. But readership figures are now on the rise, with the latest figures from PAMCo showing that the UK national and regional news brand sector (print and digital) now reaches 49 million people a month and 34 million people a day. That represents an increase of 3.2 million daily readers compared to 12 months ago.1
These staggering figures show just how important newspapers are, not only in providing reliable facts, but delivering insight and analysis by trusted journalists and editorial teams that have years of experience behind them.
“Against a backdrop of Brexit, climate change and the current coronavirus pandemic, we are living in unprecedented and anxious times, and the news industry is playing a vital role in people’s lives by providing information and advice they can rely on,” said Tracy De Groose, Executive Chair of Newsworks. “Amid a growing awareness of the pervasiveness of fake news and misinformation, the nation’s appetite for trusted news is at an all-time high.”
A trusted environment
One sector that recognises the credibility and authenticity of newspapers is marketing, and many food retail and finance brands have been quick to use the trusted environment of news brands to not only advertise, but to communicate vital messages. Whether it’s supermarkets announcing special opening hours for key workers, banks giving support to vulnerable customers, or companies simply saying thank you to their own teams, brands know that their messages will be seen by millions of people with their full attention on the newspaper, without the risk of being placed next to dangerous or misleading online content.
This increase in advertising activity is expected to translate into an increase in ad revenue. A recent Advertising Association/WARC expenditure report showed that advertising revenue across national news brands rose by 0.4% year-on-year to £234 million in the third quarter of 2019. 2 Since that was the second consecutive quarter of growth for the national news industry, this figure is likely to rise again when the next report is released.
Another, more important, source of advertising for the newspaper industry is the Government. Over the past few months there’s been a steady stream of full-page adverts placed in the majority of national and regional newspapers communicating vital government and NHS messages, from ‘Stay at home. Save lives’ to ‘Stay alert. Control the virus’.
In April, the government ran a coordinated campaign across the leading national and local newspapers, running full-page cover-wraps with the message: ‘Stay at home for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation the world and life itself’. These cover wraps are part of a three-month advertising partnership between the government and the newspaper industry.
“Newspapers are the lifeblood of our communities and we need them now more than ever,” said Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove. “Their role as a trusted voice and their ability to reach isolated communities is especially vital at this time.”
A new respect
Despite the many pressures newspapers are under regarding revenue and circulation, it’s clear that they have a vital role to play in not only keeping the population informed and safe, but also in defeating this virus. Like the other key services keeping Britain going, their place in society has risen far beyond that of a profits-driven industry and into an essential service.
When this situation is finally over and the appraisal begins, British newspapers of all political persuasion should be given the respect and admiration they deserve.
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