MA AT 225

MA memories: trade leaders have their say

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

What they said: leading figures from the pub trade give their view on the publication's history
What they said: leading figures from the pub trade give their view on the publication's history
Senior people in the trade offer their opinions on the oldest trade title, which is still running, in the UK

Bob Ivell, Mitchells & Butlers:

Bob Ivell cut out

Mitchells & Butlers nonexecutive chairman Bob Ivell said: “I have always been impressed with the way The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ has moved with the times and stayed relevant over the 225 years.

“One of the important things that has always been good about the MA​ is that it has kept its finger on the pulse of the guys running the businesses, at the sharp end as well as talking about what is going on with [pub] groups and organisations.

“It has always been intuitive in understanding what the issues are throughout the trade – and has always kept up with the way the industry has changed over those years.

“Rather than pinpoint one stand-out feature, the MA​ has been very much at the forefront of issues from a legislation perspective or changes, and the MA​ has always been there to champion the cause.”

Nick Bish, NB Pub Consultants:

Nick Bish NEW

NB Consultants partner Nick Bish said: “I first came in contact with The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ when I was working with Courage, quite a long time ago.

“It famously had the best racing pages in the newspaper world, probably as good as the Racing Post​ and it was, of course, a daily publication, six days a week.

“Its racing pages were famous for being accurate and informative and MA​ would be found on many pub bars for the customers to read so it was regarded as a genuine newspaper with a trade slant rather than necessarily just being a trade paper. That was my first memory.

“I regarded it as always being the go-to publication for information about what was going on in the business and it has always continued its tradition of being pub-led rather than company-led.

“Although it has amalgamated now, its one-time main rival, The Publican​, was much more headquarters-led and had a bird’s eye view of the industry in a holistic way, rather than from ground level, which was MA’s​ expertise. That was my first and continuing memory.

“Then ownership moved, and it reduced its frequency and, therefore, it changed and was far more in competition with other trade press publications. Each developed their own style, but it was always there and part of the furniture.

“A comfortable, easy read, sometimes campaigning and insightful, sometimes reporting and celebrating and a mixture of all.

“Then I moved to set up and run the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) so trade media became significantly more important and was very much involved in licensing reform, such as the smoking ban.

“We were involved in many of the campaigns – particularly when the tie issues came up – so we had to be close with the journalists on that so we could brief them and that meant everyone understood it all.

“One of my claims to fame is my name on edition one of the revamped MA​, it was rather poignant to have my name there on edition number one.

“When Andrew Pring was editor, he and I had long conversations and he sought my advice and I claim credit for advising that he set up – what is now – the MA500 business club to stay close to the multiple operators, and their channel of infl uence was, and continues to be, increasingly important. MA​ has stayed on it and has been part of that channel.

“The way in which MA worked was collecting news and being a network for those operators – who were part of the ALMR – and that always hooked very nicely into what I was doing.

MA​ has evolved with the times to reflect the industry it serves and for some moments, it has been influential and guided [the industry].”

Brigid Simmonds, BBPA:


British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ has been a constant presence in the past 25 years I have worked in the leisure, tourism, brewing and pubs sector.

“While its circulation may now not be second only to The Times​ in terms of readership, as it was when the Licensed Victuallers first published it in 1794, it is still the mainstay of commentary, information and support for the sector.

“The influence of MA​ is clear to see with it’s breaking news and stories often included in the national newspapers.

MA​ has long supported and campaigned for the wellbeing of the beer and pub industry. From beer duty and business rates to extended hours for the World Cup and more technical issues like duty operations and ensuring our pubs are accessible to all, it fights the sector’s corner and is a cherished and highly valued resource for thousands of publicans across the UK.

MA​ has, without a doubt, played a key role in the success of the world renowned great British pub, which we all enjoy to this day.”

Kate Nicholls, UKH:

Kate Nicholls 055

UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “I remember first reading The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ when I joined Whitbread in 1994.

“The paper was a valuable introduction to the ins and outs of the pub sector and very useful for gauging the concerns of businesses as well as the opportunities facing pubs and the constantly changing nature of the industry.

MA​ has always been a great supporter of the UK’s pubs and vocal champion of grassroots causes and businesses that lie at the heart of every UK community.

“The pub sector, and hospitality in general, has changed almost out of all recognition in recent years but, after 225 years, MA​ is still the go-to document for publicans around the UK.

“That longevity is proof that the paper has evolved and embraced new ideas and trends in just the same way as pubs themselves. In 2019, MA​ appears to be in rude health and remains a fantastically valuable and insightful record of, and window on, the pub sector.

“I have certainly enjoyed providing my own contributions to its pages and reading the advice and insights of other industry leaders. I look forward to the next issue and the next and whatever the future has in store.”

Robert Humphreys, former honorary secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group

Robert Humphreys

"My first encounter with The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) was in 1974, a year after I joined Charrington as a youngish district manager.

"The paper sent a reporter and its own photographer to photograph a presentation at one of my tenanted pubs in Blackfriars Road.

"So long ago is this, that only the newspaper and I survive – the MA​’s network of regional reporters is long gone, it’s unthinkable they’d book a photographer for such a trivial event today, the tenant is deceased and the pub demolished and redeveloped as a dental surgery. Heady days!

"A decade or so later, by then the company’s PR manager, I recall being summoned to the office of my boss, the MD, one morning.

"He was sitting at his desk with that day’s MA​ front page on his desk, stabbing his finger at the lead article, containing a few minor inaccuracies.

“This is all wrong – it’s nonsense” he blustered – “we shall have nothing to do with this paper from now on”. I gently reminded him that the

"Editorial staff of the MA​ were not on the company payroll, and carried on as normal."

Michael Hardman MBE, one of the four drinkers who founded Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)


"The British brewing industry has suffered a bigger upheaval over the past 50 years than at any time since the monks who had been brewing ale since the Middle Ages gave way to mechanised breweries during the Industrial Revolution. 

"In 1971, the year that CAMRA was founded, there were fewer than 200 breweries in Britain. The vast majority of beer was produced by half a dozen companies known as the Big Six and by the Irish firm Guinness. The same six also owned a significant majority of the nation’s pubs, which slaked their customers’ thirsts almost exclusively with three types of beer: bitter, mild and stout.

"But the world was changing fast. The bigger brewers were able to make use of a nascent motorway network to sell their standardised and heavily advertised brews far and wide.

"Lager, which was a comparative newcomer to the market, especially in England, was beginning to make itself known to drinkers who had tasted cool, light beers in Spain and other continental destinations opened up by package holidays.

"The smaller, mainly family-owned brewers couldn’t compete with these unanticipated changes and many were beginning to copy their bigger rivals by turning to filtered, pasteurised and carbonated beer transported to distant pubs and clubs in kegs that gave them a longer shelf life than traditional, mainly local brews in casks.

"At the end of the 1980s the government of Margaret Thatcher, concerned about lack of competition in the brewing industry, introduced the Beer Orders, which restricted the number of tied pubs that any brewer could own to 2,000 and gave many pub tenants the right to serve a guest ale from other brewers.

"The result was that the big brewers were forced to sell off most of their pubs, which led to the creation of pub-owning companies, or pubcos.

"The Beer Orders were repealed in 2003, after which a House of Commons report stated that no company now held a dominant position in the beer market.

"Meanwhile, a new phenomenon had arrived: microbreweries, small businesses run by real ale enthusiasts, retired or redundant brewers and entrepreneurs both large and small.

"They produced interesting brews that caught the public’s eye. They gave us stouts, porters, light beers and dark beers, strong beers and weaker ones. They produced bitters, milds, lagers, versions of beers from continental Europe and further afield — arguably the widest choice of beer that had ever been available in Britain."

"Estimates vary as to how many breweries there are in Britain in 2019, but the number is somewhere around 2,000. The brewery list in CAMRA’s 2019 Good Beer Guide takes up 293 pages. Its first commercial edition, published in 1974, devoted a mere two pages to breweries, including one that readers were advised to avoid like the plague.

"How times have changed. A great institution with a fascinating history, the MA​ has moved with the times, evolving with the changing world that is its subject. Here’s to the next 225 years!"

Chris Lowe, The Morning Advertiser publisher


"I started with the MA​ at the beginning of 2016. My first weeks of the job included the infamous Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) ski trip and Publican Awards judging process.

"Quite an introduction. My remit when approached about the role was to restructure the brand to a more digital focussed one, while protecting the magazine from declining revenues (while printing and postage costs increased) and to enhance our events portfolio.

"Of course profits are important, but it was so important to have a credible product with a clear strategy that remains true to its companies values. As part of the project we were asked to look at changing the brand name to modernise.

"Having come afresh to the industry I had no preconceived aversions and we considered reusing the ‘Publican’ brand as well as relaunching as a completely new name. We all agreed on retaining The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) with a new look. 

"Partly because the URL has really strong link equity meaning I could see how we would be able to dominate SEO with the correct content strategy but mainly because the name holds such trust amongst its readers. The majority have been reading the magazine for more than 10 years – quite rare in media. Or even recall their parents reading it in the bar when they were a child.

"After some team, content and commercial changes we soon relaunched, back to the MA​, but as a fortnightly with news only in the digital channels. Our events were streamlined, there were just too many industry events vying for attention, whereas we decided to do fewer events, but increasing our investment and efforts with those tenfold. In short our strategy was fewer, bigger bets.

"Today the brand is in a great position. We are working to a very evenly spread revenue split between events, digital and print and have increased to a very sustainable 20% margin. Our content has continued to grow its digital audience, now consistently over 200k people every month, over double that of 3 years previous."

Our biggest challenge has and will remain to be as relevant as possible with our very broad range of readers. We want to remain true to pubs and bars rather than the whole of hospitality.  Our readers share similar challenges but are at very different sites / business setups. We aim to help these readers with business building content, in an entertaining and engaging tone – I don’t think this was any different back when the brand was originally conceived.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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