Media buyers foresee problems with Thomson sale

With Hollinger, Quebecor and Torstar the likeliest beneficiaries of the sale of Thomson Newspaper Group's daily and community newspaper holdings, several media buyers have expressed concern that the increased concentration of ownership won't benefit Canadian advertisers. Rising ad rates aside, buyers...

With Hollinger, Quebecor and Torstar the likeliest beneficiaries of the sale of Thomson Newspaper Group’s daily and community newspaper holdings, several media buyers have expressed concern that the increased concentration of ownership won’t benefit Canadian advertisers.

Rising ad rates aside, buyers say there are other, more insidious problems that may arise with the consolidation of several properties under one owner.

Mariam Hoosen, vice-president, strategy director of Toronto-based media management company Starcom, says buyers might be forced to consider other media if they’re compelled to buy several newspapers within a chain in order to get a decent rate.

‘We try to be fair, but if a package is imposed on us…it’s not responsible for us to suggest it to our clients.’

In addition, Hoosen says organizational ‘synergies’ – shared content and a consequent reduction in editorial staff – threaten to reduce local coverage, a strength that has always made local papers attractive to advertisers.

‘If we want a national presence, we go into the National Post, The Globe and Mail, or magazines. But we often want to have insertions in local media that project (our client) as good citizens in that market as well.’

One of the most prized Thomson papers under scrutiny by suitors is The Winnipeg Free Press, which has three times the market penetration of its daily rival The Winnipeg Sun, a tabloid in the Quebecor chain.

Margot Brown, vice-president of client services and media for McKim Communications in Winnipeg, says the Free Press plays an important role in the city, in a region where there are fewer papers per community than are found in Ontario.

‘With all these changes, it will be interesting to see how much of the community aspect will be maintained and how much lost,’ she says.

While many are concerned about the spectre of one Canadian newspaper publishing company having too much control, David Cairns, president of Toronto-based media management firm Carat Cairns, says there are plenty of opportunities to be had in working with a corporation that has multiple media holdings.

The Thomson Corporation is divesting itself of all of its newspaper holdings – 75 non-daily and 55 daily newspapers in Canada and U.S. – except for The Globe and Mail. The company plans to concentrate on electronic and information services such as those it has built around the Globe brand – Globeinvestor.com, ROBTV, Globemegawheels.com, and the new job site Workopolis.com, a joint venture with Torstar.

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