Perspective - The opportunity outside metro markets

By Jarrah Petzold | 8 December 2023
Jarrah Petzold.

The AdNews end of year Perspectives, looking back at 2023 and forward to next year.

The two big talking points in every boardroom and BBQ for 2023 have been The Voice referendum and ChatGPT.

Unlike trends of previous years, AI is finding meaningful and immediate applications across the industry - not least of all the way that news content is produced and consumed. It is important to remember though that AI isn’t a replacement for human journalists on the ground in a community. 

At ACM where we have nearly 100 mastheads and over 140,000 digital subscribers - we believe in quality community journalism, so we are carefully embracing the transformative power of AI. To harness the potential of generative AI across our business operations, ACM has formed an internal, cross-functional working group tasked with identifying and implementing efficiency-enhancing strategies.

Frankly, it's great to be having discussions about how AI can be used to make the lives of our journalists easier. The potential to alleviate some of the digital production responsibility they’ve inherited in recent years and freeing them up to spend more time on their craft is exciting. 

A lot has been said about the Voice, from a marketing and comms point of view, the disconnect between the Yes campaign and regional Australia was interesting. In that way The Voice referendum showcased the risk of forgetting the regions - the difference in sentiment was really clear in polling throughout the year - and ultimately it was a disappointing missed opportunity to see the Yes campaign fail to connect with that audience.

Looking ahead at 2024 it’d be remiss not to talk about the regional opportunity for businesses. The continuing regional migration trend started during covid, but as recently as the September quarter capital city to regional migration is tracking 11.7% above the pre-covid average. With one in five consumers in our cities considering the move, cost of living pressures are bound to only escalate the trend. Importantly, for marketers, this migration is being led by millennials, with the average age of regional shifters now 34 years old. 

This growing audience joins a regional Australia with more manageable mortgages and higher disposable incomes. And they are a less fragmented market, because they’re also an audience with far less quality options for news & information about their hometown. Regional audiences are an outstanding target market.

A standout example of a client capitalising on this with ACM was the success of Hawkes Brewing Co’s campaign earlier in the year in a non-traditional category for press. Hawkes used “pure” brand ads in our newspapers and in six months they drove +16% growth in sales in regional markets in the premium beer category, a category that contracted -11% over the same period. 

With new hotels, restaurants, bars and galleries popping up across the country, another continuing trend is the rise and rise of hip Aussie towns on traveller's hitlists. Our audiences have a high propensity to travel so over the last few years we've invested to establish our "Explore" travel vertical as a trusted cross-platform offering and the feedback we're getting from readers is really positive; 86% drawing inspiration from our content for their next adventure.  

In the current economic climate the ad market is obviously challenged - the team at ACM are focussed on building long term strategic partnerships to connect clients with our valuable regional audience and drive business results. 

Jarrah Petzold is Director of Marketing at ACM

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