Why newspapers should be worried that supermarkets love print advertising

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Tesco, Advertising, Newspapers

Why newspapers should be worried that supermarkets love print advertising

Supermarkets are responsible for a huge chunk of newspapers' advertising income, but is consumer advertiser enthusiasm for print a ticking timebomb for newspapers?

Between them, the eight biggest UK supermarkets spent £186.6 million on advertising with UK newspapers in the last year, according to Nielsen (via Newsworks). That's almost one quarter of the newspaper adspend from the UK's top 100 advertisers.

But despite the explosion in digital audiences for newspaper publishers, with the main publishers reaching close to or in excess of 100 million visitors a month, in aggregate those supermarkets put just 3.2 percent of their advertising budgets into digital newspaper products. 

So with a total combined pot of advertising of more than £500 million, the top eight supermarkets spend £180 million on print advertising and £6.1 million on digital newspapers.

Supermarket ad spend news brands Nielsen July 2012 - June 2013

There is variation here. Marks & Spencer spends 21 percent of its newspaper budget online - equivalent to  £4.4 million. But excluding M&S, the remaining seven supermarkets spend just over 1 percent of their spend with newspapers online

Across the board, the average proportion of newspaper digital spend by the top 100 UK advertisers on digital is 5.2 percent. That's still not huge, but a firmer endorsement of digital than from supermarkets.  

Supermarkets are enthusiastic supporters of newspapers but they are overwhelmingly putting their money into print ads, not digital. 

Recent reports of Tesco's reluctance to advertise on The Sun website once it goes behind a paywall next month could signal that with access models changing, big retailers may be even less keen to shift spend to digital.

Shifting platforms

We shouldn't be in any doubt how crucial big retailers are to the media economy. Compared to other big ad spenders, supermarkets are spending more than twice as much on newspapers. 

An average of 36 percent of their ad budgets go to newspapers, compared to an average of 16.2 percent across the UK's top 100 advertisers.

News brand ad spend top 100 supermarkets Nielsen 

-- Only Waitrose spent less than 30 percent with newspapers.

-- Budget supermarket Lidl spends 56 percent of its advertising budget on newsbrands.

-- BSkyB, by some distance the largest source of advertising income for newspapers, spent £51 million, which is a fifth of its total ad budget.

-- Apple spent less than £800,000 advertising in newspapers in the year to June 2013, for some contrast.

What happens next?

OK, supermarkets love newspapers. So what? On its own that might not be interesting. But it's entirely unclear how newspapers' relationship with retailers will change as print declines.

As our data modelling found back in October, in the decade from 2007 to 2017 print paid-for circulation is set to fall by 45 percent:

Past and predicted declines in combined daily and Sunday print circulations



If big retailers haven't begun embracing digital advertising with new brands now, you have to ask if they ever will. Could spending move over to rivals such as Facebook, or will Tesco simply use its own growing media empire to reach consumers directly?

The odds of this relationship surviving the transition to digital unscathed look slim.

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