Last night Newsbrands Ireland (formerly National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI, the representative body for all national newspaper brands) held their industry night showcasing their wares to agency-land. These nights have had a tendency to be, well let’s say a little stuffy, and ceremonious in previous guises. Previous iterations would have done little to change a young planner’s perception of the print media industry and probably further strengthened any negative perceptions the medium may have had, they were largely attended by the old guard (myself included). With all the industry events in agency calendars now, it’s fair to say that the NNI night would not have been high on the not-to-be-missed list for twenty-something planners! So, I think it’s fair to say that the bar had been firmly set fairly low. I was interested to see would the print industry would come together, unite in the greater good to try and breathe life into their collective titles under this new “Newsbrands” umbrella, or would it simply be NNI with a lick of paint but little else changing under the bonnet.
The first thing that struck me was the invitation. A “Town Hall” event in Smock Alley? That sounded interesting. No formal presentation, no agency dinner. An informal event where nine publishers each had a stand pitching to small groups as they circled the event. It started at 4.30 and ran until 7.30, but you stayed as long or as little as you wanted, you could arrive at any time and make your round trip, it didn’t matter. You could have been in and out within 20 minutes had you wished, put most people stayed, there was a decent crowd all the way through. And a decent crowd of young planners too. Strangely, they weren’t packed at the bar, they seemed to like it. Yes there was wine and beer, but it wasn’t like normal, there was rarely anyone at the bar, people seemed to enjoy the event and the informality of moving from one stand to another. Yes there was an incentive to visit each stand, after you received your pitch you got a card stamped and once your card was full you were entered in a draw to win a holiday, know your audience!!!
Every publisher made a huge effort on their stand. Front page collages formed impressive backdrops and apart from the printed products on show, everyone had interactive elements, screens, tablets, apps or quizzes. There were spot prizes too on some stands and branded merchandise in goodie bags at others. I did my round, heard the pitch, picked up the product, saw the videos and swiped through the tablets. Before I knew it I’d been there an hour and a half. It didn’t feel like an hour and a half either. The event fulfilled the promise of the original invite that roused my interest, the publishers had done their industry proud.
I have to say the night was really well run, had a great atmosphere and tone. It just worked, it seemed effortless and that’s the best praise I can give as it clearly involved lots of effort. Print has had a torrid time recently, and arguably unfairly in a lot of cases as I don’t think print media gets the support or the investment that one would expect with the audience it delivers. Print is suffering from print-ism, written off as a medium by and large. Print still delivers an audience, a healthy audience, but it has lost its swagger. Last night’s event was a great first step at bringing some of that swagger back, news brands are in the “news” business first and the “paper” business second (or even third). It was great to see all publishers present their suite of creative and content offerings to the industry, to put their collective best foot forward rather than throwing stones at their nearest competitors in a bid to grab a slice of a diminishing pie. So, Newsbrands first outing to the industry has set the bar high and if I look forward to seeing what they do next.