The Daily Sport's unimpressive figures

The Daily Sport hopes a re-launch can revive its fortunes - but other revenues might prove more reliable...

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Shares in Sport Media Group, owner of the Daily and Sunday Sport, have plummeted by more than a quarter after the publisher said growth in the second half of the year would be slower than expected – despite a 48% jump in first-half profits. It blamed a drop in consumer spending brought on by the credit crunch, although it’s also suffered because of delays to the planned re-launch of its daily title.

The Sport is trying to move away from its top-shelf image to re-brand itself as the daily equivalent of a lad’s mag – an unsurprising move, given that ex-Zoo boss Barry McIlheney and former Loaded chief James Brown are now at the editorial helm. The idea is to exploit a gap in the market (as other papers increasingly target female readers), while also attracting mainstream advertisers – who would previously have been a bit squeamish about running their ads next door to a list of phone sex lines. Describing itself as ‘the only paper for men’, it will apparently boast ‘Sports! Girls! Funny Stuff!’ – which gives you a clue as to its upmarket aspirations.

The new format was due to hit the newsstands last quarter, but Sport Media Group decided to wait until after the Easter holidays, on the grounds that people normally buy the paper after dropping off their kids at school (it’s always a good sign when you have to base your marketing strategy on the fact that people are too embarrassed to buy your product in polite company). This has obviously hit revenues, because advertisers won’t start spending money until they know whether it can attract an audience.

The X-rated phone line ads that have always been the cornerstone of the Sport’s model will still be there – but they’ll be confined to a pull-out section in the middle called X-tra! (McIlheney described it as a ‘bit like G2’, which we imagine might come as rather a shock to the Guardian). And the good news for SMG is that there’s no sign of this ‘classified advertising’ revenue slowing down – in fact, if anything it’s likely to hold up better than traditional advertising as the economy slows down...

The Sport has never been the most progressive of titles – note its delicate approach to John Prescott’s bulimia story this weekend, under the headline ‘Spew Jags’ – but it’ll be interesting to see whether there is still a gap in the newspaper market for this kind of thing, allowing it to pull in advertisers. We wish them luck, but we can’t help feeling that it’s about as likely as one of their ‘Double-decker bus found on the moon’ style front-page stories...

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