Press Gazette closes: no marketing

There is a lot of affection in publishing for what has always been known as the UK Press Gazette.

More than one publisher thought he could buy-it-up-and-turn-it-around.

Media magazines, like the local press, have terminal problems

The Press Gazette couldn’t attract enough advertising. It was too focused on journalists and there just are not a lot of advertisements for them anymore.

That is one of the reasons, by the way, the other media magazine Media Week was launched all those years ago around 1984/5: ‘media’ had separated to become a huge budget area for companies – and advertising agencies were dividing to specialise. Tim Brooks, Media Week’s editor, and the publishers were ahead of their time, but unlike their close rivals Marketing Week, had overlooked and misunderstood an important revenue source: classified advertising. Publishers and editors often do.

The original idea for Media Week was being touted around to prospective investors three years earlier. The idea was to achieve a broad advertising base to take on The Guardian. The Guardian in the 80s was taking the Mickey by carrying ten or more pages of media vacancies supported by just one page of editorial. (These days, most newspapers write about the media but don’t carry much advertising. Talking to yourself isn’t going anywhere is it?).

Media Week also struggles. Like the Press Gazette, Media Week has become just a body, passed from one company to another, motivation to motivation, make-over to make-over. It has never been able to exist alone, never earned its own pay packet, always relying on others for support. Why? It’s a great idea, looks good too. But if we hark back to its parents we find neither Media Week nor Press Gazette were ever able to take their rightful place in the world.

Media Week failed because the young turks who originated the concept and touted the idea to prospective investors back in 1980 had inserted a ‘poison pill’ in their launch plans in case the idea was ‘borrowed’ and launched without them by a prospective investor. Which it was.

Ripped from its natural parents, Media Week became a foster child. And like Press Gazette, isolated from proper medical (marketing) attention.

Press Gazette moved parents regularly: Timothy Benn; Maclean Hunter; Emap; Quantum; Piers Morgan/ Matthew Freud; Wilmington.

Press Gazette grew up damaged.

Wilmington Publishing and Press Gazette
Wilmington Publishing is an advertisement sales company. Subscriptions marketing is mostly outside its remit. That kind of marketing is a specialist task. To show what I mean, I have put a link below to the Press Gazette subscription marketing page. Whoever decided this page of copy would appear on the Press Gazette’s website was instrumental in the death of the magazine.

Press Gazette, Quantum and Piers Morgan
Before Wilmington, Press Gazette was owned by Quantum. Quantum’s marketing people were highly regarded and we carried a piece on their subscriptions marketing team and their promotions in issue 50 of the Subscriptions Strategy newsletter.

Quantum sold Press Gazette in 2004/05 to a Piers Morgan consortium. The marketing supremo at Quantum tried to meet with those responsible for taking on the marketing and circulation functions but was ignored. So the Piers Morgan people were never given the database built up over many years to market the title.

The new owners didn’t even have the renewal series the previous team had written and knew nothing of the subs marketing planned. Apart from the list of existing subscribers, they didn’t bother to take anything.

This is why the medical analogy serves us well: Press Gazette came with its vital organs removed, so how was it supposed to survive?

For a product that was 90% dependent on circulation revenue, the new owners ignored the most important element. Pretty much the same can be said for the newstrade distribution, albeit this was very low.

Anecdotal evidence is that over a year after the sale a piece of subscription marketing went out offering to convert free copies into a discounted subscription. It appeared the new team didn’t know who they were sending free copies out to.

Investigating the murder of the Press Gazette
I would recommend sending for Lieutenant Columbo, Homicide, to investigate this death, but he has Alzheimer’s according to Hollywood gossip.

Press Gazette RIP

Why is Wilmington’s Press Gazette subscription page a killer? Because it offers a monthly magazine for £115 (around £10 a copy) and fails to explain why it is worth it. The only real attempt to sell the content is to claim the magazine contains editorial ‘not found on the free website’. That’s not a bad line at all – other magazines should use it – but it’s not enough to defeat the Alzheimer’s our patient the Press Gazette has now developed.

A magic cure was needed. More ‘selling the benefits’: the lifeblood – and restorative – of any marketing strategy.

The title needed a marketing doctor, but all it got was quack after quack.

So – a slow death brought on by ignorance. Watch this website for more of these announcements over 2009 as we wend our way through the headstones of recently dead publications and dig them up for a grisly autopsy.

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