Fairfax Media’s regional and rural publishing arm, Australian Community Media (ACM), has launched a specialised sales division to make regional and rural media more accessible to agency buyers.
Commercial director Rodney House, who will lead the team alongside Ian Thomson as national sales director, said the regional and rural markets were still an untapped resource.
“Australians are discerning buyers and with 34% of our population residing outside capital city areas, advertisers neglect a huge market if they don’t include regional and rural Australia in their schedules,” he said.
The ACM stable includes 16 daily newspaper titles and a digital network of more than 140 websites.
The new sales team is part of a customer-led initiative which will see ad buying options shifting from agricultural, regional and community silos to a more modular, customised format, focusing on networks rather than individual mastheads.
To stand out a crowded marketplace is “really difficult”, Mr House said. “Having this team of specialists on this audience is ensuring we make it easy for buyers.
Increasing customer focus was part of the development, he said. “Our teams are multi-platform experts who put the customers’ requirements first. I encourage all clients to provide feedback on how we can help them grow their businesses.”
Media buyers sometimes have preconceived notions of size of the [rural and regional] audience, and their sophistication and buying power is underestimated, he explained.
“Farmers are not just out driving tractors – they are often early adopters,” Mr House said. “They’re very IT savvy but simple things like cost of living pressures being less means they’ve got more money to spend than the metro markets.”
According to emma, regional Australians make similar lifestyle choices and enjoy comparative levels of income to those in metro areas, and they are also 25 per cent more likely to own their own home outright, which is a significant erosion of disposable incomes in cities.
Print mastheads are still “definitely a strong part of the community”, Mr House said, but emma data has shown despite declines in print readership, total audience of regional media has grown thanks to growth in digital readers.
Mr House joined Fairfax in 2005 and has served in a variety of roles including National Advertising Manager for The Sunday Age, National Sales Director for Employment, Fairfax Integrated Group Sales Manager and Agency Group Director for Fairfax Media.
He joined Australian Community Media in 2013 to develop sales strategy for Fairfax Media’s regional mastheads.
As ACM’s commercial director, Mr House overs sales in agricultural, regional and community mastheads including The Canberra Times, The Land, St George & Sutherland Shire Leader and Newcastle Herald.
Mr Thomson has more than 36 years’ experience in regional and agricultural publishing and has led the Fairfax Agricultural National Sales team for the past 20 years.
His goal, he said, was “to make it simpler for advertisers to reach regional, agricultural and community-based Australians with one contact”.
“I am committed to providing cost-effective solutions that don’t force customers to create numerous versions of the same ad when they advertise with us.”