Freesheets: the right to be remembered
Despite past concerns, Freesheets today have a lot going for them argues Tim Carr, director and head of international at adconnection. They travel far and wide, attract new - and multiple - readers, and with the right online offering can lead people towards workable 'freemium' content...
There have always been a number of questions raised when considering advertising in freesheets. Brands ask the same questions time after time: are engagement levels as high as with paid-for publications? Do people actually read these magazines and newspapers or just pick them up and throw them away? Do you really know who's reading a freesheet?
While they may not be the right advertising space for all brands, these give-away publications are a vital part of the media mix, and a sector that certainly should be remembered.
You just need to consider the latest National Readership Survey (NRS), detailing April 2012 - March 2013, to see the continuing success of 'fremium' material.
Time Out, having become free in September last year, has seen an enormous rise in readership, up 49 per cent on the same period last year - the highest increase for a weekly title by far, with the next closest Auto Express magazine at just eight per cent [Time Out's circulation was also up a huge 455 per cent in six months, Ed.]
Furthermore, London Evening Standard saw a six per cent rise over this period - the most of any newspaper in England - and in fact a nine per cent increase when analysing the second six months against the same period last year. Again, this is more than any other English paper, the rest of which have seen decreases.
Volume has always been a chief concern in any ad campaign, and readership is a key measurement in campaign planning. Readership doesn't focus on the number of copies, but puts the person at the heart, as every good media campaign should, looking individually at what they read.
If you live in London, just think about your journey to work. How many people do you see picking up an already-read issue of the Metro? Or flicking through a discarded Stylist?
This is one area where NRS positions itself as a leading media metric, estimating the number of times publications are read, and splitting these into different demographic groups - vital when looking at appropriate media channels.
It is this multi-reader aspect of freesheets that is of such value to brands too. A paid-for copy would generally have a readership of one, two or maybe three, depending on the household.
However, when content is free - if distributed through the right channels - this dramatically increases.
The age-old adage is that if you buy a magazine or newspaper you engage with it more and read it for longer due to the commitment of purchasing and spending your hard-earned money on it. However, giving away free issues can attract new readers and foster loyalties that otherwise would not exist.
This loyalty goes beyond print and extends to the publication as a brand, across multiple channels and platforms.
NRS PADD (Print and Digital Data) figures out last week demonstrate that these freesheets foster loyalty that extends to online too. While you may think of the Metro purely as a multi-local free newspaper, it is much more than this; it is a newsbrand with a large readership both online and offline.
In fact, Metro's online readership is 1,868,000 - larger than the Daily Express, Daily Star and the Times Newspapers' titles under a paywall - which adds 11 per cent on to its overall brand reach of almost 12 million people.
The London Evening Standard has an even larger proportion of its readership online, with its website adding 24.8 per cent to overall readership, showing that 'fremium' content in print form complements a multichannel digital presence.
The standard of freesheets, in both magazine and newspaper form, is ever-improving. As more publications take up the 'fremium' model, increased competition means that this content is now more relevant and entertaining than ever.
In London alone Time Out, Sport, Stylist and Shortlist, as well as City AM, London Evening Standard and Metro, are thrust upon you on your commute to or from work.
A good 'premium' paper or magazine needs to be of a certain quality; it must have interesting and original content, trusted opinions, and the ability to engage enough to build its own audience.
They give brands the chance to reach consumers that they may otherwise struggle to engage, becoming synonymous with this dependable source of information and entertainment.
Ultimately, being media neutral is the key to any good advertising campaign. If by putting your consumer at the heart of your plans it means using, or indeed avoiding, freesheets, then so be it. However, media professionals need to realise that 'fremium' is an established model, with a proven track record that must not be forgotten.
I will leave you with a quote from City AM's commercial director, Harry Owen, in a Media Week article last year: "You wouldn't find anyone questioning the value of ITV's audience or content, would you?"
Image credit: The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/dec/10/pressandpublishing.transportintheuk