Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Never mind the width, feel the quality (ooh .. er .. madam!)

Apologies for the Kenneth Williams inspired headline, but I have been asked to put down my thoughts on the alleged demise of the Birmingham Post.

Rumours continue to circulate (much denied I hasten to add) that the Post is going to go to a weekly format. For those like myself who are only now dipping a cautious toe onto the communications superhighway, this would be a tragedy, if not of biblical proportions, then certainly enough to make me a bit grumpy!

Walk into any professional services firm within a ½ mile radius of Colmore Row and you will find the Post. Partners, associates and mere minions like myself pick it up and give it a flick through every day. It’s readership may be relatively small, but it is of the very highest quality.

I am reminded of a story from across the pond which occurred during the first season of the great American TV series Hill Street Blues (they don’t make ’em like that anymore!). Anyway, ratings for the first few episodes were disappointingly low and NBC considered cancelling the whole thing until a bright spark in the advertising department pointed out that those who were tuning in were exactly the sort of viewer, young urban professionals with high disposable incomes, that key advertisers like BMW and Mercedes Benz were struggling to connect with.

Hey presto, a new strategy was born, premium television with, crucially, premium advertising rates. I’m not saying the same strategy would work for the Post. I fear the global downturn for the newspaper industry will demand a far more subtle strategy than just putting up prices. But, there has to be some way to keep this institution, which offers such a valuable means of engagement with such a high quality readership, as a daily going concern.


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