Ian Burrell: What's next for Fleet Street? The brave new world of 'newsbrands'

Media Studies

Today is a momentous day for the British national press. It is the official end of the "newspaper" industry and the beginning of a whole new economic sector: the "newsbrands" business.

This transition will be recognised by all but one of the national press companies today as their trade organisation, the Newspaper Marketing Agency (NMA), changes its title to Newsworks. The bold repositioning is an attempt to remind the public (and particularly the advertising industry) that the national press provides news on a variety of platforms and not just in print. An accompanying advertising campaign will show a dog with a digital tablet in its mouth, instead of the morning paper.

Newsworks' key message is that the UK newsbrands (the businesses once known as Fleet Street) are not in decline but are growing their collective audience – from 22.6 million in 2007 to 24.4 million by the start of this year. The rising number of readers on digital devices, from smartphones to tablets, is comfortably outstripping the decline in print readership, which has fallen by 5 per cent in the past five years, somewhat less than many people predicted.

Since at least 1702, when Edward Mallet set up the Daily Courant "against the ditch at Fleet Bridge" and started London's first daily, the Fourth Estate has seen itself as a print product. Even now Newsworks, in a historic pamphlet published today called From newspapers to newsbrands, stresses that the paper format remains, for now, the most important one.

The Newsworks strategy has been put together by Rufus Olins, who arrived as chief executive of the NMA earlier this year. "We as an industry have gone through more changes in the past eight years since the NMA was founded than we had in the past 200. We have essentially moved from a business that was about ink and paper into a multi-platform industry," he says.

The new title of the organisation is a "symbolic change" and an attempt to emphasise the continued value and relevance of the national press. "I want to remind people that it's an industry that really works," says Olins. "It works for readers, for advertisers and also for society. This is an industry that calls people to account – big business and senior politicians – and to some degree you can judge a society by the state of its newspaper industry."

Olins' task is far from simple. In trumpeting the values of the press, he not only has to contend with the ongoing negative noise around the Leveson Inquiry (much of it covered by the Fleet Street brands themselves) but a prevailing cynicism in many of the media agencies that decide where to spend the advertising budgets of the big clients. In such circles there is a fear of being seen as a dinosaur by speaking up for brands which are still so aligned with analogue media. And in creative advertising circles some of the young talent is averse to working in the old-school medium of print.

During the first 60 days of his tenure he visited 60 key advertising figures to gauge their views of the press. One of them simply responded: "The future's digital, what was the question again?" Olins is anxious to show that such views are far too narrow. "What's happened is that it has become fashionable to be scathing about the newspaper industry," he says. "But what has been lost sometimes is the fact that the newspaper industry is driving so much of the innovation in the new media."

Most leading advertising figures expressed "a huge amount of goodwill" for the news industry. Newsworks has printed in its pamphlets the views of key players such as Phil Georgiadis, chairman of Walker Media, who says: "They set the media agenda. They would still dominate a top 20 of UK media brands", and Daren Rubins, chief executive of PHD, who says: "Newsbrands provide a window into people's beliefs, observations, opinions and judgements." Newsworks boasts that 96 of the UK's top 100 advertisers still use newsbrands.

During the economic and technological turbulence of the past decade, the claims by newspaper stalwarts that there will always be a demand for print have become harder to digest as the quality of other formats has improved.

But Olins' attempts to redefine the argument and place the old Fleet Street brands back at the centre of the new media world, as innovators as well as trusted old friends, is helped by his diverse background. He has seen the news business from many perspectives. He began his career at the Hampstead & Highgate Express, covered business for The Sunday Times and edited Management Today before switching to the commercial side as a board member at publishers Haymarket. More recently, he has been chief executive of the World Advertising Research Centre, where he learned the importance of data in showing the power of a medium.

Olins says his famously competitive members, who have been clawing at each other like never before during the phone-hacking scandal, have never been so aligned (although Richard Desmond's Express Newspapers is typically outside of the tent). They will need that unity to emerge from what are still parlous times for the journalism business.

"The main players have recognised that they need to work together," says Olins. "They are all behind the changes and, despite the fact they have different revenue recipes, they are all on a journey from analogue to digital and recognise that. Over the next weeks and months you will see them collaborating together on a series of initiatives." Let's hope it works.

i.burrell@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower