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Joe Sweeney
Joe Sweeney

Challenging times abound but the newspaper industry has more than shown its resilience in recent years, writes Gillian Hamill


Brand Central

12 October 2010

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newspaper1The newspaper industry is currently facing challenging times, with the latest Joint National Readership Survey (JNRS), showing that the number of people regularly reading a newspaper in the Republic fell in the 12 months to the end of June 2010 by 10,000 readers to 3,522,000. However despite facing numerous challenges such as the rise of competing new media, the press has repeatedly demonstrated that their industry is a resilient one. In fact, the JNRS statistics revealed several titles increased their readership; namely the Sunday Times, the Sunday Business Post and the Irish Independent.

Star still bright

The Star newspaper was founded in 1988 and quickly became Ireland’s favourite newspaper.  The Star is a joint venture company between Independent News & Media Plc and Express Newspapers Plc. The Star employs over 100 people in its Dublin office and all around Ireland. After 23 years based in Terenure, The Star Newspaper Group will move to a purpose built office in Dundrum Town Centre before Christmas of this year. The Star is the highest read newspaper among Irish 15-44 year olds and it works hard at keeping the newspaper fresh and relevant. The Star recruits the best Irish celebrity columnists like Eamon Dunphy, Eddie Hobbs, Ray Houghton and Pat Dolan, all of whom are proven experts in their fields.  The paper’s team of passionate journalists keep their fingers on the pulse of all that’s new in Irish news, entertainment and sports, breaking exclusive stories that go straight to the heart of the nation.

StarCirculation sales executives Sharon Clarke and Sandra Nolan, The Star Group, explain more about the challenges and opportunities currently facing their portfolio which includes the Irish Daily Star and Irish Daily Star Sunday.

Most pressing industry issue

Increased unemployment levels have resulted in reduced spending which has obviously had an impact for both retailers and those in the publishing industry.

The Irish Daily Star continues to combat these issues by:
• Producing the best editorial product on the marketplace.
• Including as many reader value initiatives as possible such as voucher coupons, competitions and promotional offerings.
• Printing the highest quality product in the most modern print plants in Europe.
• Striving to supply copies to all retailers before opening times in every area of the country.
• Supporting trade by offering the highest cash margin in the daily national tabloid sector.
• Driving footfall through TV and radio advertising, plus point of sale advertising in-store.
Ultimately, it is our aim to continue to adapt to these ever changing market forces to maintain and grow our reader loyalty in the hope that we will emerge even stronger when economic conditions improve.

Star1Combating freesheet and online competition

The newspaper industry has competed with free news sources in the form of television and radio for years, so we are well positioned to take on the challenge of freesheets and online. The Star overcomes these challenges by offering the most compelling holistic editorial package which cannot be replicated by poorly resourced freesheets or impersonal breaking news websites. We also continually include promotional offerings to readers, driving people into shops to pick up hard copy news.  
This year alone, The Star has incentivised readers with free football and GAA posters, free children’s DVD collections, free recipe cards, free music CDs, free book and magazine offerings such as the most recent Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh magazine, Larry Murphy crime book and Gerry Ryan tribute magazine.  In a world of syndicated news sources, we also continuously remind people about our Irishness with the promotion of Seachtain na Gaeilge, Punchestown and Galway festivals as well as offering free GAA airfresheners and car stickers during the GAA championship.

We have engaged in a small amount of road-side sales in Dublin to offset freesheet distribution, but only on large commuter roads, and never in an area where we are tempting people away from retailers.  

Armed with our unbeatable added value in-store promotions, The Star aims to drive sales with increased footfall for the retailer.
Customer profile

The Irish Daily Star is the second most read daily title in the country with 410,000 readers every day and is Ireland’s number one daily newspaper for younger audiences of 15-24s, 15-34s and 15-44s; led by group editor Ger Colleran.   
Star Sunday has a predominately young, urban readership profile delivering 213,000 readers every week, seven in 10 of whom are under 45 years of age.  The readership is evenly split 50% male, 50% female and is led by Sunday editor, Des Gibson.

Star 2The value of promotions

At The Star we believe that it’s important not only to let people know the immense amount of value The Star brand delivers in terms of columnists and Irish writers within the paper, but we also believe it’s important to shout about it when we have a story or offer of particular interest.

We invest heavily in offers such as crime books and children’s DVDs that enhance the readers’ experience of the product and we promote these with heavy newspaper, radio and TV campaigns making sure that we attract new customers and increase newsagent footfall.

However, we don’t just stop there – if we have an important story or an exclusive scoop, we make sure to advertise it on the morning of publication, so that it’s top of mind with less regular readers, so that they’ll stop their car on the way to work, or leave home to come out in the rain or pop in after the school run – disrupting daily habits that don’t necessarily always include the newsagent, and driving people in-store.

The Star has a higher cover price than other tabloid titles – delivering more margin to the retailer – but we are aware that we have to work harder and give more than our competitors to retain our high level of readership. That is why we continuously re-invest in the product to make sure we have higher paginations, the best book and DVD promotions, the best Irish columnists, and we support editorial scoops and promotions with heavy media advertising campaigns.

Importance of merchandising

We have conducted research that shows that even among our most loyal readers, a small number still have difficulty finding their favourite newspaper in some shops, particularly on a Sunday.  It makes sense that newspapers should work with retailers to keep freesheets out of shops and to continue to give prevalent shelf space to the most popular and profitable newspapers for the agent.  It is very important for The Star circulation team to have a close relationship with our retailers.  Communicating with the retailer allows us to find out what is going right for them and what isn’t working.  This way we can resolve any problems which in turn will benefit all parties involved.  It is important to stress here that retailers must continue to be aware of their copy levels and the positioning of that copy within their store.  By doing this, it makes it easier on the customer to make their buying decisions.

We aim to deliver the editorial and promotional offerings that are most in tune with what our readers want.  This is particularly important for Star Sunday; a growing title which we continue to invest highly in, evident with the launch of the incredibly popular Amen magazine in May 2008. 

Mail 1Investing in the reader

At the Irish Daily Mail and The Irish Mail on Sunday, the reader is at the heart of all of the group’s activities. The newspapers’ mission is to connect with them at a grass roots level. In 2010 the titles have kept this focus, have not pulled back and have continued to invest in content, sponsorships and promotions that are relevant and meaningful to their readers. It is this investment that has resulted in Associated Newspapers Ireland’s titles being among the best performing in the marketplace.

On 1 June the GAA announced the Irish Daily Mail as title sponsor of this year’s International Rules Series.

The Irish Daily Mail is Ireland’s youngest newspaper having launched in 2006 and the Irish Daily Mail International Rules Series is the paper’s largest sponsorship investment to date. It is passionate about sport and understands its readers share this passion – especially for the GAA.

Retailers can also take part in what is bound to be an interesting series. By displaying the point of sale (POS) promoting the Irish Daily Mail International Rules series they can enter into the prize draw to win tickets for one of the matches. Look out for your special packs which will consist of POS promoting the Irish Daily Mail International Rules series.

Alternatively call 016375917, and leave your name and account number to receive more details.

David Vaz, circulation manager, Associated Newspapers Ireland, explains more about the performance of his group’s titles; Irish Daily Mail and The Irish Mail on Sunday.

Mail 2Most pressing industry issue

The most important issue at the moment is value and by being priced at €1 Monday to Friday, €1.20 on a Saturday which includes a free glossy You magazine and only €2 on a Sunday with our unrivalled TV Week magazine we are uniquely positioned in the market.  

Customer profile

When measuring the latest JNRS figures, Associated Newspapers is the only group to show an increase on all of its products on the Irish market against the last reporting period. The Irish Daily Mail is up 1%, The Irish Mail on Sunday has risen 10%, You magazine is up 12% and TV Week is up 23% year on year. Over 57% of our readers are main shoppers. (Source: JNRS 0910)

news5The value of promotions

In the current economic climate consumers are expecting better value and Associated Newspapers has continued to invest in its products. Our promotional activity, which included free county flags, animal and dinosaur stickers has been fully justified, with positive results reported in both readership and sales. The latest six monthly ABC results showed that Associated Newspapers was the only group to record an increase in sales for all titles. The Irish Daily Mail sale was 51,338 copies up 2.7% and the Irish Mail on Sunday sale was 121,641 copies up 0.9%.  Overall the market fell by 3.4% on the dailies and fell by 2.3% on the Sundays. (Source ABC Jan to June 2010 v July to Dec 2009).

Importance of merchandising

Product awareness is important and merchandising of our titles has helped maintain the levels we currently have, as shown by the results in both readership and sales. Readers should never be taken for granted and as such, not only have we continued to promote our products, we also ensure that we are meeting our readers needs in this ever changing market place.

News6The world is watching

Gerry Lennon, managing director, The Sunday World, outlines how the newspaper is currently performing.

Most pressing industry issue

Like every other industry, unemployment. Lack of disposable income, shortage of confidence, and also the fact that we are losing a number of outlets every week due to the recession is affecting publishers, retailers and advertisisers alike. Multiple purchase of titles is also down so we have to tailor our business accordingly.

Combating online and freesheet competition

The newspaper is here to stay; news is something you dont hear or read somewhere else. Good stories will continue to sell papers.

Customer profile

Our main customer demographic is C1 C2 D – under 35 – couples with children with a pretty even split between male and female and rural and urban.

The value of promotions

Promotions are important but these must reflect the values of the newspaper. Added value editorial products such as mini books and magazines are perceived by the reader as good value for money.

Importance of merchandising

Merchandising is extremely important and we notice the success rates on sales by retailers who pay attention to this. Badly presented products will not sell as well as those which face the right way and are easily accessible to the buyer.
Consumers are very loyal to their preferred brand but the objective is to turn the occasional buyer into a regular buyer. To do this they must at least be able to read the front page.

Looking to the future

We will continue to hear more about Apps, iPads and whatever else is coming down the track electronically. Publishers will have to become smarter and be able to react quicker to the breaking news agenda. We will continue to deliver a relevant product every Sunday – that is what will sustain us in the future.

News7Independent minds

Geoff Lyons, marketing manager, Independent Newspapers (Ireland) describes how the Evening Herald, Sunday Independent and Irish Independent are faring in the current climate.

A successful portfolio

The latest ABC figures for the period January to June 2010 show the Irish Independent to be the number one performer in the daily newspaper market with a daily sale of 144,896 copies meaning that the newspaper increased its market share by taking 48.7% of the quality morning market. It now amounts for nearly one in two newpapers sold in the market every day. We outsell our closest competitor by almost 40,000 copies and the Irish Examiner by just under 100,000 newspaper daily.  The latest JNRS numbers also show that the Irish Independent bucked the trend in the daily market by recording an increase in its readership cementing its position as market leader with 560,000 readers.

news8Likewise in the Sunday market, the Sunday Independent continues to lead the newsstand selling an average of 265,455 copies every Sunday, by far the largest selling Sunday newspaper. Coupled with that, with a readership of 992,000, it is truly Ireland’s best read newspaper and its national footprint is second to none.

The Evening Herald remains number one in the evening market selling 67,675 copies every day, its year on year sales prove that the Evening Herald is one of Ireland’s most resilient newspapers in the economic downturn. The newspaper recorded a readerhip of 260,000 proving it to be the number one choice in the capital with 207,000 readers.

Combating online and freesheet competition

At Independent Newspapers we are involved in the publication of Metro Herald and is the second most hit website in the country – so we are heavily involved in both of these arenas. Combined with these properties we have a plethora of online businesses that cater for varying markets including, Ireland’s fastest growing property website, one of Ireland’s best used recruitment sites and of course and We are actively engaged in the online space and have developed some very exciting cross promotional activities, an example being our free online tutorials that accompanied our Leaving Cert magazines, Exambrief. We are also activley involved in social media engaging with thousands of friends on a daily basis.

News9The challenge for any newspaper is to differentiate its offer from any medium, not only websites and freesheets, encouraging purchase frequency from its readership base and enticing new readers with ground breaking news stories, compelling supplements and top quality magazines. At Independent Newspapers we pride ourselves on setting the news agenda on a daily basis with our expert news teams. Each of our newspapers, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and the Evening Herald have continued to set the pace in this regard throughout 2010.

Our leading position is testament to the journalism at Independent House. In all key areas including sport, business and features we consistently provide cutting edge content. Our daily line up includes; Brendan Keenan, Charlie Weston, Ian O’Doherty, Fionnan Sheehan, Kevin Myers, Vincent Hogan and Martin Breheny. Every evening our readers enjoy personalites like Dan White, Paul Hyland, Cormac Byrne, Collette Fitzpatrick and Claire Byrne. Each Sunday our team includes Brendan O’Connor, Gene Kerrigan, Colm O’Rourke, Constance Harris, John Drennan and Jody Corcoran. Every other medium, be it television, radio or the internet, base elements of their programing around ‘what it says in the papers’ and this is of course testament to the fact that newspapers still continue to be the main source of what is what in the country.

Our compelling supplements and magazines continue to lead the way, every Monday we publish Health and Living which is Ireland’s best read health magazine with 486,000 readers, Day and Night entertains younger Ireland with a leading 381,000 readers and Weekend Magazine has a staggering 589,000 readers proving to be the nation’s number one. Every Sunday the Sunday Independent publishes Life magazine which enjoys 693,000 readers, cementing its position as Ireland’s best read magazine. We were delighted to welcome Dubliner magazine, turning what was a great monthly magazine into even better weekly magazine. Our readers now find The Dubliner magazine free inside every Thursdays’ Herald, we have noted a marked increase in Thursday’s circulation sales as a direct result of this fantastic new publication.

Coupled with this our daily supplements including Farming, Business, Property, Review, our evening supplements, Striker, Dublin GAA, Leinster Rugby and Living and Sport each Sunday continue to lead the way in their respective fields.

News10Customer profile

We pride ourselves on the national footprint of our morning and Sunday newspapers. Our main competitiors are geographically tied when compared to our nationwide sales. Ireland’s national quality daily, the Irish Independent is number one in the quality daily market in all key audience sectors with 346,000 ABC1 F1 readers, 275,000 male readers, 285,000 female readers and it’s also the number one daily newspaper for main shoppers in Ireland with 334,000 readers.

The Sunday Independent is read by 462,000 men and 531,000 women, with 591,000 main shoppers reading the newspaper it is the title that retailers rely on week in week out to drive footfall to their stores all over the country.

The Evening Herald as stated above is definitively the number one paper in the city, not only this, the Herald is the number one daily newspaper for Dublin women with 117,000 readers and for Dublin under 35s with 85,000 readers.

The value of promotions

Promotions are a very important part of our mix, we seek to excite the public with compelling promotions and great prizes and also reward our readers with great added value offers. A recent example of this was the hugely successful prize bond promotions that we ran across all three of our newspapers offering our readers free prize bonds. Tens of thousands of readers of our respective titles availed of the offer and we hope some of them will scoop major cash prizes as a result.

On 19 September, we launched Disney Movies, The Graphic Novels. All of our readers were given book one of the collection ‘Finding Nemo’ free of charge with Saturday’s paper, they can now complete their collection of 25 books for only €4.99 per book by simply purchasing a copy of the Irish Independent. This promotion is available in over 4,000 newsagents nationwide offering retailers a generous margin on all books sold meaning that we are enhancing retailers’ turnover not only by increasing the sale of the Irish Independent but also by creating an additional revenue stream while still offering our readers great value in these stunning books. Our book collections have sold up to 35,000 copies per week which tops any best seller list.

Importance of merchandising

Merchandising of newspapers is very important; readers will of course have their preferred title and will seek it out. However our team of expert journalists prepare what we believe are the best front pages in the country and this is our daily shop window. A compelling front page story, a stunning lead picture or an exciting promotion will entice the purchase. This decision to buy, our research would suggest, is made by the consumer in some eight seconds and we would encourage prominent display in-store to drive that sale.

Ideally retailers have a part to play here as well, ensuring that the publication is as visible as possible to consumers in store. Particularly relevant here is the Evening Herald where a large part of our sale is headline driven. When the Evening Herald is positioned at the till or the top of the news fixture, invariably it leads to enhanced sales for the retailer.

Mirror1Reflecting on success

Alan Kelly, circulation manager for the Irish Daily Mirror and Irish Sunday Mirror, explains why the paper has an optimistic mindset going forward.  

Most pressing industry issue

Ireland’s total population has decreased over the last number of years, job security is still fragile across many sectors, confidence in the economy is recovering at a slow rate and people have to be more frugal with their disposable income.
For the newspaper industry, this means the likes of dual purchasing are virtually a thing of the past, and delivering tangible value for readers is more paramount now than ever.

Price sensitivity will continue to play a crucial role in the overall market, and goes some way to explaining the Mirror’s recent impressive performance against more expensive competitor titles.

Readers are also more choosey about the particular days they purchase newspapers and a seven-day purchase pattern is also largely a thing of the past. It’s imperative that we continue to develop core daily platforms that we know will attract new readers.  

Combating online and freesheet competition

The multi-media revolution will continue to present print media with a circulation challenge. I have no doubt the two can co-exist and indeed flourish side by side, but in the short term publishers need to accept that we now operate within a different business model.

In the absence of a developed digital economy in Ireland, and the underdeveloped penetration of broadband throughout the country, a measured approach to a multi-media business needs to be embraced. In the meantime, gaining new younger readers has got to be one of the industry’s greatest challenges, along with establishing strong unique selling points within the market and, again, delivering the tangible value that merits a purchase.

Mirror2Customer profile

Whilst there is no such thing as a typical Mirror reader, we have long been seen as a good family read.  Many readers buy the Mirror for our revered sports coverage, many others for the celeb and showbiz news, and our local news and exclusive stories are also a big hit.

At the moment, we have a slight male bias to our readership (56%) but this fluctuates frequently and generally there is balanced male/female readership.

Around a quarter of our readers are ABC1s.  Our readers are made up of all ages as well – interestingly, during this so called “internet boom”, we saw a 12.5% increase in 15-24 year old readers over the past 12 months.

The value of promotions

Promotions have always been important to newspapers, but never more so than in the current climate. Newspaper readers are a demanding lot – they want it all – good news content, sports coverage, features, and good, added-value, relevant promotions.

The Irish Mirror consistently questions what our readers want, and the demand for good promotions continues to be high. Consequently we invest heavily in promotions – and the quality of the promotions delivered by the Irish Mirror this year has been second to none. We have implemented a wide range of excellent added-value promotions, giving readers what they want.

So far this year we have given away calendars, free magazines, recipe cards, League of Ireland fixture guides, Disney Fairies collection, Puffin books, and Lego Racers and Lego Toystory collections. All big added-value offerings. And the uptake on these types of promotions tells us that they continue to be a very important part of the mix.

We have lots of different types of readers to cater for which means we’re always kept on our toes and on the look out for a wide range of promotional offerings to reflect our diverse readership. And whilst readers still want them, we’ll continue to deliver them.

Importance of merchandising

Brand loyalty is very prevalent within the newspaper industry. People find a newspaper that they enjoy, one that delivers what they need and they can be very loyal to that title. For that reason it’s hugely important that we understand and satisfy our readers’ needs continuously because readers can and will replace a title if it is no longer delivering what they need in their daily or weekend read.

There is also a need to keep our brand front of mind in newsagents’ shops and in-store merchandising will always play a role here. It’s difficult to measure the tangible return on this type of activity versus the direct benefit from an instant grab promotion and often this budget is the first one to suffer in times of restraint.


Joe Sweeney, is vice president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) Ireland, which represents over 500 shops, and also runs the News Centre store, in Donaghmede Shopping Centre, Co. Dublin

Do you believe customers accessing newspaper content online poses a significant threat to the traditional paid-for newspaper?

There is some evidence that free online availability of newspaper content is a threat to traditional newspaper sales. Indeed, some of our retailers who serve offices around the Financial Services Centre in Dublin have reported a fall in their newspaper sales, particularly in sales of the Irish Times, although this could also be due to the recession rather than a sudden decision to switch staff to reading the paper online.

In general, the newspaper market is one that is in decline. According to latest statistics it has fallen by around 8% in the past year and our members have noted that people who bought a couple of papers daily and a few more on Sunday are cutting back.

That said, it is still a hugely important market for independent retailers as it brings footfall and ancillary sales.

Whilst it is difficult to describe the web as a significant threat at the moment, we fear that could be the case in time to come if publishers continue to offer this service free.

What specific advantages can joining NFRN Ireland bring for newsagents and retailers?

The NFRN takes great pride in being able to represent independent newsagents in Ireland and we do so in many different ways.

Keeping our members’ interests at the forefront of the minds of TDs is essential, so we are constantly lobbying the government to ensure that the concerns of our members are addressed.

We hold regular meetings with wholesalers and publishers to raise concerns and seek positive outcomes.

Our trade association is unique in that we have a dedicated ‘field force’ who call on members to address any queries or concerns that they have on almost any problem to do with their shop.  They can also help members develop their businesses by making them aware of the latest commercial deals available.

We have a dedicated member call centre to assist with business queries and to advise of new business opportunities.  In addition, NFRN Legal is a free legal insurance helpline which is available 24 hours a day.

NFRN Ireland is a democratic organisation which is run by members for members. It has a structure of district and local branches providing members with the chance to meet with colleagues, exchange ideas and socialise, as well as providing a genuine opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the policy and direction of the federation.

Finally as keeping up with all the changes to employment legislation is vital for all self-employed businessmen, we communicate with our members to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.

What are the main issues within the industry NFRN Ireland is currently tackling, and how are you working to resolve those issues?

High on our agenda is campaigning against the increase in tobacco smuggling as one in four cigarettes now smoked in Ireland are non duty paid.

NFRN Ireland continues to play a leading role within Code of Practice for the Press Industry (COPPI) meetings by contributing to the ongoing review of the code.

As the trading environment becomes ever more difficult, especially given the forthcoming rise in the JLC rates, NFRN Ireland is lobbying the government against the number of costly licenses required by retailers and the amount of red tape facing them.
For more information on NFRN Ireland please contact 01 453 5822. 



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