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Panpa Bulletin : July 2006
14 | PANPA BULLETIN July 2006 AUSTRALIANS who buy their newspapers at retail outlets do not like their papers to be plas- tic-wrapped. And a switch to flat-wrapping of home-delivered copies, although generally preferred by subscribers over rolled copies, is fraught with cost and other problems. On Mondays and Tuesdays, when papers are generally light in paging, they are much harder to deliver and, overall, delivery times are significantly longer -- by as much as 25 per cent. These are some of the key find- ings of carefully-monitored tests run by News Limited, working closely with newsagents. Con- ducted mainly in South Australia and Queensland, the tests as- sessed alternative methods of flat wrapping that might improve the appeal of newspapers for over- the-counter buyers and home- delivery subscribers. Three wrapping styles were put under the microscope - flat, flat- banded and folded. Louise Benjamin, Strategic De- velopment Director -- Operations at News Limited, revealed the findings at the recent annual con- ference of the Australian Newsa- gents' Federation. Two wrapping machines were used in the tests -- an Airwrap machine with an RRP of $24,560 (plus GST) and a Japanese prod- uct costing $14,950 (plus GST). Benjamin said News was not satisfied that the Airwrap ma- chine met its minimum perform- ance criteria -- "the Japanese ma- chine may be easier to use", she said. The cost of plastic for the Japa- nese machine had been reduced from $44 (plus GST) in the trial to $22 (plus GST). Wrapping time in depots de- pended on the work flow process, but could be optimised for the new machines to be "no slower or even faster" than current Ronnai machines. It was at the delivery stage that problems arose with the folded or flat formats - time delays due to van stacking, speed of the van, approach to driveways, throwing the paper and papers splitting Both flat wrap versions were more cumbersome in vehicles than the rolled version. Benjamin said that while flat wrapped home delivered papers were a "hit" with subscribers, they would not on their own reduce subscriber churn. The biggest reasons why con- sumers cancelled subscriptions were late delivery and unreliable service. Missed reconnections due to subscribers moving house or going on holiday were the oth- er main factors. In a "key message" he pre- sented, News circulation direc- tor Mark Webster assured the newsagents that newspapers had a bright future. This was providing the indus- try recognised that consumers came first, we gave them what they wanted when they wanted it, it was accepted that we needed to change and adapt and that all sides worked together with a "true spirit of trust, respect and co-op- eration" to maximise sales. What consumers wanted was timely and relevant content in their newspapers, increased retail accessibility, easy payment op- tions, flexible subscriptions terms and reliable home delivery. At retail level the need was to ensure that newspapers were al- ways readily accessible, with sell- outs avoided. Sub-agents should be increased and merchandising improved. There was also a need for better forecasting of require- ments. Webster said that in a recent trial conducted by The Advertiser in Adelaide, daily sell-outs in 102 BP stores had been reduced by 27 per cent and sales (without promotions) increased by 10 per cent after supply allocations were improved. Improved management of home deliveries, with better use of technology and better commu- nication was also needed. He urged the introduction of convenient payment options such as monthly direct debit and said he was keen to see newsa- gents who pro-actively acquired and retained subscribers reward- ed.Webster said that while a record 10.6 million Australians read a News Limited newspaper last year, the company had also achieved a record online readership. News Limited was currently sell- ing more than 8.4 million newspa- pers a week, up on the 2005 and 2004 figures. "New media has always chal- lenged old media, but neither radio nor television has been successful in killing off newspapers," he said. "Fifty years after thelaunch oftel- evision in Australia, 800,000 more people read newspapers in the five main capital cities than watch free to air television. "The internet is the latest chal- lenge, but it also an opportunity to develop loyalty with our readers. Sixty per cent of people visiting our websites also read our newspapers. "Since 2000 the number of newsagents selling News Limited metro papers has reduced by 4.3 per cent whilst sub-agents have reduced by 9 per cent." Flat wrap not the whole answer Jack Beverley fnds news limited’s latest tests show that although subscribers like fat wrap – it is not really the answer Meeting the unprecedented in- terest in the gutsy performances of Australia's new sporting heroes, the Socceroos, in the World Cup, presented a major challenge to newspaper organisations. While the challenge was well met, with extensive daily cover- age from staff teams in Germany, and late replates and colourful pre-match and four-page souve- nir-wrap editions being produced in Melbourne, Sydney and other main centres, the newspaper web sites were again the clear winners in the fight to pull and hold bigger audiences for longer periods. Match timings, of course, ad- vantaged the web sites. But the way online editors are adopting multi-media such as video, blogs and user-generated content to supplement up-to-the-minute re- ports is paying off handsomely. Sponsors jumped on the chance to become part of the action. Ad- vertisers from the home entertain- ment, telecommunications, bank- ing and sports gambling sectors moved in too. The websites are also being used much more effectively to promote the content of the parent newspa- pers and to publicise special edi- tions that are published. High sales are being claimed for the numerous late and special editions printed by News Limited and Fairfax in Melbourne and Syd- ney -- numbers which should help bolster the end of June six-month ABC audit figures. News Limited serviced 185 main Melbourne newsagents with the special editions it sent out; Fair- fax say they delivered their special editions to 155 newsagents who on-delivered to about 500 outlets throughout the Metropolitan area. Only limited details are available on web traffic, but Fairfax is claim- ing that towards the end of June, 10.3 million page impressions had been registered for its World Cup section since the site was launched on May 23. Capitalising on Socceroo success Three wrapping styles were put under the microscope - fat, fat-banded and folded.