Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Circulation Figures

There are essentially two auditors of the Spanish media - the OJD which measures how many copies are printed, and the slightly larger, but perhaps less believable, EGM, which says how many people read them (or see or listen to them in the case of broadcasters). The OJD is older, similar to the British ABC.
The EGM sometimes appears to be quite generous with the numbers - with twelve people, for example, reading each and every copy of our local daily newspaper. Perhaps that includes Internet visitors (who rarely read an entire newspaper on the screen).
I once owned a 'free' newspaper with three editions (The Entertainer), rather before these things were popular. We were printing 40,000 copies for a while there, although the OJD rather unkindly audited us at a disappointing 39,950. They then wanted to triple their price because it was, you know, three editions. With the unsurprising result that...
OJD exits left, followed by bear.
Printing papers these days is quite expensive. Let us say, as a nice round figure (variables include colour, pagination and of course volume), one euro a copy. Distribution is extra - getting them to the corner newspaper kiosk (or, in the case of the freebies, to the corner bar or shop). Distribution for the ordinary press is a bit cheaper per unit, because the costs are shared, although it remains disturbingly high (see the figures here). A large agency like Boyacá picks them up and takes them fast to the sales points - essentially for all of the competing titles. 
In the case of the freebies, it's each one for himself (although the EWNMG has now acquired a couple of its erstwhile competitors which must lower their unit distribution costs).
There are, of course, many other costs typical to any business: premises, staff, transport, social security and bird-food for the parrot.
However, the printing costs are higher these days than ever, and - for the regular newspapers - readership is down. Profit, if there is to be any, must come from the advertisers. This, as we have seen elsewhere (BoTs passim) leads to manipulation of the news items, especially when the juicy institutional advertising accounts are signed. Even so, some of the major Spanish dailies (including the ABC, El País and La Vanguardia) are now talking of reducing their editions to just two or three a week in 2018.
The weekly free newspapers, particularly (and of course!) the foreign-owned foreign-language freebies, get no institutional advertising at all. They also (in  my experience) get no, or very little, Spanish agency advertising. You can search all day without finding any adverts for Volkswagens, Parador hotels, Nesquik, toothpaste or cough medicines. Perhaps to save the agency the bother of a second advert in another language, perhaps to keep them focused on the traditional high-volume kick-back paid by their larger customers, known as un rápel, and perhaps because it's 'all in the family', which doesn't include furriners (sorry).
While a normal newspaper goes to the kiosk, and a free publication can be easily put into the letterbox, in the case of foreign-language free-sheets we must ask the reader to pick up a copy, which means there must be something to read. Costs again go up.
So what do they live on? Local advertisers, usually foreigners. Which brings us back to where we started: the circulation figures. I looked at the EWN's slightly alarming Media Pack (which begins with a Donald Trump quote) and found a claim of 'more than half a million copies per month' (a month has, I guess, 4.3 weeks in it) and a readership of  'more than half a million readers per week'. I wrote the other day and asked them for some audited figures, but haven't heard anything from them so far. At a presumed 120,000 copies per week (six editions), they have a higher print run than the 99,000 daily sales figure reported for El País!
Newspapers, free ones and paid for ones, have all fallen for the charms of the Internet. The thing is - it's almost free. You just pay the writers (and, in the certain cases, the lay-out artists), and you wait for your readers to show up. Some Spanish dailies, like El Diario and El Español, only exist as cyber-news.
Then there are the bloggers, who (like Spanish Shilling) apparently do their thing for free!
The readers, of course, are going to be visiting more than just one site (one newspaper), receiving a plurality of differently-shaded news. They probably won't dwell on the advertisers any more than they do reading a newspaper. After all, with the TV or radio, you are forced to sit through an advert: with a newspaper, you simply turn the page.
With the subscription news-service Business over Tapas (here) - there's no adverts to be leery of (although...).

Sunday, December 03, 2017


Market Day

The Sunday market just outside El Alquilán (the town near the Almería airport) is massive. It starts on a roundabout - things in Andalucía are often informal - and reaches up a roadway for a kilometre or more. There's a roast chicken stand at the bottom, together with a chocolate and churro waggon and a number of tables, and then the market begins. The first half a kilometre is for clothes - cheap shoes, bras, tee shirts, jackets, children's outfits, hats, sweaters and scarves. The stalls are on each side. 'Cheap, cheap, how do we do it?' calls one toothless old chap. 'Buy them now, these prices can't last', shouts a scrawny-looking woman. The market-people are Arabs, Spaniards, Gypsies, Africans, Orientals and many others. The walkway is crowded. There are thousands of people looking for a bargain. Some are returning from further up the market, where the cheese, fruit, olives and ornamental plants are sold. Among the crowds, a number of manteros - Africans without papers -  hover over a sheet covered in shoes or CDs, watching for the brightly-uniformed municipal cop, whose job is either to fine them, or more likely frighten them away. The Africans will pick up their sheet by the four corners and be off, as the cop comes within about fifty metres of them. They head out and around, setting up once again just behind him.
We buy a few clothes and take some surreptitious pictures. The market is like something from Latin America. 'Watch your pockets', I'm told redundantly. 
Outside and heading towards where we left our vehicle, a man catches up with us - 'look at my jackets', he says, opening the boot of his nearby car. 'Genuine leather, just the thing for you', he looks meaningfully at me.
What a salesman.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Adra (because it's there)

Over the years, I have visited many parts of Spain. I've studied in Seville, lived in Madrid, spent long hospital time with my poor wife in Pamplona and run offices in Altea, Benhavís, San Pedro and Fuengirola (the old newspaper I had called 'The Entertainer' - from 1985 to 1999). Plus an office or two in  Mojácar, where I normally live. I know the province of Almería pretty well, with time spent in the capital and trips to various towns and villages over the past fifty years.
But, I'd never been to Adra.
This hardly makes me unique. No one has ever been to Adra.
Adra, at 25,000 inhabitants, is the large fishing port that signals the end of Almería heading west into Granada and Málaga. In the old days, it was a turn-off from another switch-back curve on the ghastly road between Málaga and Almería (there were 1,060 of those horrible switch-backs, as the old N340 curved and wiggled through the sharp hills), but now the fishing town is close to the bright new motorway. There is still little inclination to visit the place, which, as I finally discovered this weekend, is a shame.
According to Wiki (we couldn't find a tourist office), Adra is the fourth oldest town in Spain, founded in 1520BC. Let see... flattened by an earthquake in 881, yadda yadda, it had the first steam engine in Spain and is a big fishing port...
Yep, the man from the Wiki hasn't visited there either.
So, in the spirit of 'because it's there'. I went with my girlfriend to give the car a good growl, see the sights, buy a 'He who is tired of Adra is tired of Life' bumper sticker, and hopefully enjoy a good fishy lunch. The road swings you in, through and out in a confusing swirl, but then, as your heart sinks and you wonder whether the next town down, Motril, might is open, the planners relent and bring you back down to the harbour.
Last Sunday there was, by chance,  a flea market. We walked around, admiring a stand selling Franco memorabilia, and eventually, while looking for a bullfight poster for a friend, we bought a couple of naïf pictures from another dealer.
Adra looks like a place which is worth getting to know, or maybe a great place to hide, as nobody would ever think of looking for you there. It's probably chock-full of museums and interesting relics and buildings, plus a few wanted counterfeiters and smugglers (the murderers prefer Marbella, obviously), but we were there for a beer and a fish-head.
My companion didn't want to eat in the Club Náutico (you can never go wrong in a Club Náutico) so we walked past some dowdy looking places, including a 'American/Italian' joint, before alighting on Taberna La Granja, a splendid and atmospheric bar/restaurant in a back street. We ate a satisfyingly expensive lunch there and returned to the car.
La Granja - and you are on your own here - has a great Tarta de Whisky. The owner pours half a bottle of scotch over it to make sure that it meets with the diner's approval.
Worked for me, although I may have got a ticket driving home...

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Independent Almería Towns

In the last hundred years or so, a number of Almerian towns and villages have become independent from their larger neighbour. In all, about fifteen, including El Ejido (now with a population of 89,000), Garrucha and La Mojonera. Indeed, until 1981, El Ejido was just a district of next-door Dalías.
The latest to gain independence, only last year, was Balanegra, when it departed from Berja.
There are now 103 municipalities in the province, including the newer ones of Roquetas de Mar, Pulpí, Carboneras and Los Gallardos.
Which one will be next: Mojácar Playa perhaps?
Perhaps even more peculiar is the story of Huercal Overa, which until 1668 used to belong to Lorca, in the province of Murcia.

Almería Hoy has more here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Tourism: Snakes and Ladders

Tourism is a wonderful business. Instead of a fair trade between nations, it’s just an invisible export. The punters arrive, get sunburnt, see something, acquire a tattoo... and go home again, empty-handed. Their money remains safely in the hands of the shopkeepers and the hoteliers. What a business. However, it’s a gamble that they may not be back next season. The service may not have been good, or they may have been rumbled over the diarrhoea scam, or maybe Brexit finally pulled the pound down and the cost of a week or two in Benidorm rose accordingly.
Britons may account for 20% of all foreign visitors to Spain, but close behind them are the Germans, the Dutch and the Italians. All of whom are just as likely to choose another destination next year (especially the Italians, who, unlike the rest of us, are always moaning about Spanish cooking).
Other countries are competing for Spain’s amazing 80 million-strong tourist business, and tourists may easily chose another destination next time – after all, there’s not much loyalty among the holidaymakers. Back home with a sun-tan, it’s nice to be able to say ‘oh this year we went to Miami’. Then there’s the media: one wrong word in the Daily Express or Bild Zeitung and they’ll all be trotting down to cancel their visit to Ibiza.
Other countries have had problems – the terrorists, political upheavals or maybe a shortage of gin – but now we hear that Turkey, Egypt and Tunis are considering devaluing their currencies precisely to bleed off (sorry) some of Spain’s massive harvest.
Now is the time for travel fairs, with the London World Travel Market closing its doors this Wednesday, followed in due course by the FITUR in Madrid (January 17 – 21) and the ITB in Berlin (March 7 – 11 2018). All of these major markets are there to commercialise their own resorts and offers, with special prices, ‘all-inclusives’ and a host of other tactics. Last year, worldwide international tourist arrivals rose to 1,235 million people – now that makes one’s fingers tingle.  Our tourist councillors, plus their entourage, will be busy.

Thursday, November 02, 2017


The Balloon that Fell in the Sea

There's a fascinating Facebook page called ALMERIA & PROVINCIA VINTAGE with old black and white photographs and many a story of bygone times. Here's a recent post by Juan Marcos Puel, translated into English:

'In 1907, Alfredo Kindelán Duany, a soldier and aviator, considered the founder of the current Air Force, participated as an amateur in an aerostatic competition held in Valencia. The balloon with which he ascended - christened "Maria Teresa" - crashed due to an unexpected storm that dragged him more than 15 miles from the city towards the high seas. And as fate is capricious, after hours of drifting, refusing help and refusing to leave his balloon, when the situation was already critical, he was fortunate enough to be glimpsed in time by an English steamboat. The crewmen of the "West-Point" steamboat, which was heading for GARRUCHA, rescued him from the cold Mediterranean waters and from an almost certain death. Upon his arrival in Garrucha, he was offered lodging and a welcome worthy of a hero. The photographer Gómez Durán captured in a snapshot the welcome of the Garruchero mayor of the time, Sr. José López and the wealthy merchant Sr. Simón Fuentes who housed Kindelán'.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Mojácar and Turre: La Belle et le Bête.

Mojácar is the more beautiful of the two towns - there's no doubt about that. The one, with its narrow streets, its white flat roofs and its astonishing views - the other, a flat unattractive town a few miles inland. Whether Mojácar really is one of the most 'Beautiful Towns of Spain' is perhaps more down to marketing than to common sense. After all, and without going any further, where is Bédar on the list?
Mojácar has an energetic tourist board, a number of hotels (and thus, punters) and a swollen number of businesses that only cater for the visitors: souvenir shops in particular, but night clubs, camel rides and rent-a-bikes. Now with the 'season' over, the huge number of visitors reduced to an agreeable trickle, many of the shops, bars, restaurants and, above all, souvenir places are closed. One I saw in the village last night has a sign on the door that says: 'See you at Easter'. In a few weeks time, when I clamber up the hill for a beer, I'll be lucky to find anything open at all. Mojácar is for tourists. We've all heard that. That's where the money comes from and the residents are welcome as a second string to this fabulous business. Mojácar is like Disneyville: it closes tight at twelve midnight when the coach turns back into a pumpkin.
Turre on the other hand has as many people on the streets in November as it does in March and in August. It's a residential town, without a beach, any hotels, camels or tourists. You can see the difference just by going to the market. The shops and restaurants there pretty much stay open all year (except when they change ownership) and, you know, there are no souvenir shops at all. In Turre, where the large foreign population speaks no more Spanish than it does in Mojácar, there's a sense of participation: of camaraderie.
I love the Mojácar views, but I prefer the integration and timelessness of Turre.

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