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Market your way out: why the marketing department must be the print newspaper's best friend.

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WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF A PRINT newspaper hired singer Taylor Swift to convince teenagers to read it daily?

What if a newspaper sent direct mail only to people over 50 in an effort to get them to subscribe? Or aggressively went after advertisers who appealed to college-educated, e-book-reading voters over 50? Or held classes to teach seniors how to use their website?

What if you completely changed your newspaper to be a free alternative paper focusing on one industry? Or filled the front page with only ads? Or only local photos? And if you didn't put your name on the masthead, would people still read it?

Over the top? Too many questions? Like it or not, this is the future. It's here, and print newspapers are missing the whole point, media experts say. The point being that the marketing department should be the most important department in the news organization. Without compromising journalism ethics, of course, but with a determination that it isn't the same world anymore. The fundamental paradigm shifted years ago, and newspapers, print especially, have changed so slowly, they can't see themselves for the marketing slogs that they are.

Stick your head in the sand much longer, and you'll be wikileaked out. As one Los Angeles advertising guru put it, "I'm not the only one used to instant gratification, and (print) newspapers just don't give that to you."

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Dinosaurs Stuck in a Tar Pit

Newspaper publishers know a percentage of the population likes to hold the printed newspaper in their hand. It's a comfortable old shoe. It's easier on the eyes. They like breaking up the sections to share with family and folding it up to swat a fly. They read the stories. They look at the ads. But the number is quickly shrinking. One in four (26 percent) of adults reads a print newspaper on any given day, down from 38 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (June 2010). And of that 26 percent, only 8 percent are among adults younger than age 30.

Despite the statistics, publishers are still mass marketing their newspapers. Business as usual. Former newspaper executives who now do marketing say that's nuts.

"One of the most frustrating things is newspapers spend all this money convincing other businesses to market themselves, and they don't follow through themselves," said John Kimball, former chief marketing officer of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) who now runs a marketing and sales consulting firm bearing his name. "It's always been that way. Most newspapers feel like they are doing an adequate job. That's the problem. They are doing an adequate job"

Another marketing consultant put it more bluntly than Kimball.

"It's like trying to save a dinosaur in a tar pit,' said Bill Ostendorf, founder of Creative Circle Media Consulting, a newspaper redesign firm in Providence, R.I. (See "Don't Just Redesign, Rethink" on page 34). "They say, 'But it feels really warm in here; and you say, 'But you're sinking: They actually like it in the tar pit. They're in desperate straights, and they don't realize it because they are still profitable:'

U.S. newspapers generated about $5.4 billion in ads from their print editions, a drop of 7.1 percent, according to NAPs third quarter results. But that beats online advertising by a mile--$689 million, although that figure rose 10.7 percent. NAA President and CEO John F. Sturm called it "a continuing and encouraging trend toward recovery and growth for newspapers:'

But newspapers still feel the economic pinch from 17 consecutive quarters of ad revenue decline.

"I've been to half the top 50 papers in the U.S., and they all say things like, 'I have no money and no people, and I can't start a new thing. I can't. I can't. I can't," Ostendorf said. "They're not dying, they're committing suicide."

It's not that newspapers don't market all the time. They do. They send out direct mail, they do cross promotions with television and radio stations, and they hype themselves endlessly in their own publications and websites. They do all this while in the midst of budget and layoff hell and often with the public companies who own them pressuring them to make their profit margins, which are continually shrinking.

"The average profit margin (now) is 11 to 12 percent, which most businesses would be thrilled with" Kimball said. "But when you're used to margins in the high 20s, 30s and some even in the 40s, and you've built your business around that, you have to put another business model together."

Understanding the Reader

The chief creative officer of one of the world's largest advertising agencies, Ogilvy & Mather in New York, said he wouldn't even take on a newspaper as a client.

"It's an impossible battle to win,' said Ogilvy's Lars Bastholm. "You can't market your way out of that decline. I get The New York Times on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday because I'm old enough to sit and enjoy reading the newspaper.

But my younger counterparts say, 'Why?' Everything is available electronically ... you can cross-check references."

A newspaper's only hope, he says, is to do something completely different. Completely different starts with a commitment, Kimball said.

"Newspapers need to establish a marketing and promotions budget that is as sacred to the budget process as fixed expenses--newsprint, gas for trucks--are,' Kimball said. "It cannot be subject to being cut because (the newspaper) needs to look for savings"

Dean Singleton, chairman of the board for Media News Group out of Denver, said the company probably spends more than most to market its 61 daily newspapers, which include The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.

"When we start our budget year, we say, 'What do we want our audience to be?'" and then focus on that goal, Singleton said. "I don't know that we market any differently than any other company does."

Singleton admitted newspapers in the past have been brickwallish when it comes to advertising.

"We only offered seven-day subscriptions. We were the Henry Ford,' he said, referring to the Ford Motor Co. founder's famous quote: 'Any customer can have a ear painted any color that he wants so long as it is black: "We now offer whatever frequency a reader wants. Some people want a Saturday and Sunday print, and Monday through Friday e-edition because they're traveling. If that's what they want, that's what we'll do. A lot of marketing is understanding who your target reader is."

No One Needs the Print Newspaper Anymore (but Some Still Want It)

News, by and large, is increasingly popular with consumers now that they have many ways to receive it. More than 71 percent of adults read a newspaper either in print or online in a given week, according to Scarborough Research (October 2010). As people become more sophisticated and technologically savvy and as technology becomes simpler to use, print newspapers will lose their relevance, said Gerald Bagg, CEO of Quigley-Simpson, one of the largest advertising agencies in Los Angeles, who has worked on campaigns for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Dallas Morning News.

"It's easier to read a newspaper than to read something online," he said, adding that as a man "in his 50s" he reads four print newspapers but also gets his news on his BlackBerry and iPad. "But with online there are hotlinks to other subjects, hotlinks to video. In the sense that I can go into a story and drill further down, it makes that a much richer experience.

"When I read a physical newspaper, I actually have my computer near me so I can do further research," Bagg said. "If I read a book review I like, I can click to Amazon.com and buy the book. It's instant gratification."

A newspaper's only hope is to aggressively pitch their digital editions while segmenting out the print side.

"One of the benefits of subscribing to a print newspaper is usually you get an electronic version free" Bagg said. "There's that relevance. And there's a certain comfort to holding it in your hand. You don't have to scroll down on a 5- or 10-inch screen."

Stay Relevant, Be a Leader

When Quigley-Simpson did advertising for the Los Angeles Times, it was prior to its owner Tribune Co.'s bankruptcy in 2008, at a time "when print circulation could be positively impacted and measured by effective advertising with compelling offers," Bagg said. It ran a series of commercials about the paper.

"The offers were simple--Sunday circulation with a bonus for example--a low entry price point with a weekend escapes guide covering the Los Angeles area," he said. "And then we would upsell some of the callers to seven-day subscriptions via telemarketing when the customer called in. One of the commercials with the testimonials ran for nearly four years and was a very effective subscription driver. The other, a lyrical Sunday ritual campaign, worked just as well too, but for about two years."

But neither of these two executions would work today. Not only is there a recession, but free Internet news has made subscribers reassess why they are paying for the paper.

"In commercials today, messaging about the digital versions of the newspapers would have to play a prominent part in the commercials," Bagg said. "The New York Times, for example, is doing that now in its current TV campaign, but they are still not leading the curve. They are still following the trend."

Newspapers should reconsider everything now, including whether they even want to have a daily newspaper anymore. Maybe the future is in a paper all about local team sports that can be handed out free to every pizza parlor and school in your distribution area. Maybe it means being one with the community by sponsoring job fairs, fashion shows, wedding events, charity events, health fairs, real estate fairs, and so on. Appeal to your readers and their strong connection to where they live.

Consider teaching people how to post a successful classified ad, Ostendorf said.

"Run examples of upsells," he said. "Let them order them by number like at McDonald's. Get the call center people off the phone."

Bagg, who used to be vice president of advertising for May Co., said he remembers when the company would run 10-12 full-page ads over the weekend. Today, there are only a few department stores left, and the competition between retail stores is low. With automotive and real estate advertising also diminishing, newspapers need to stop worrying so much about those businesses and actively pursue growth companies, such as software and technology.

And since advertisers still love to put their money into print newspapers, they will continue. They like their ads to sit around on the kitchen table instead of getting clicked away from.

"Newspapers are a critical force not only in democracy but from a business standpoint,' Kimball said. "(Print) newspapers are generally well-respected by advertisers. A lot of people are on the sidelines cheering on this business."

Market Outside Your Comfort Zone

Advertising revenues fell 43 percent from 2006-2009, and newspapers devoted $1.6 billion less annually to news than they did the three years earlier, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual report "The State of the News Media 2010." Today, newspapers are doing things that would have been unheard-of five or 10 years ago. They now share printing presses and bundle delivery services. They go to their advertisers and cross-sell stories and ads. But many still live in a linotype world, Kimball said.

"Journalists have to get out of their own way," he said. "There's a fine line between the traditions of the traditional newsroom and the realities of the current marketplace. When they first put ads on page one of The New York Times, people got upset about it. But if you look at the first newspapers, half of it was ads. The public is smart enough to know what's news and what is advertising."

Some out-of-the-box thinking might include:

* Find a way to make candidates your advertisers. Voters traditionally are print newspaper readers, but the candidates don't want to advertise because the newspapers cover them editorially. And they like to see their mugs on television. All the more reason to figure out a way to court them.

"That's an example of the strength of newspapers to an audience," Kimball said. "Newspapers just need to a do a better job of (going after) that business."

* Use celebrities to sell the newspaper. When NAA used celebrities to read the newspaper to children, it increased the visibility and credibility of newspapers as a literacy vehicle by encouraging parents to read the paper to their kids. It also fostered goodwill. And celebrities often donate their time if they're working for a good cause.

* Go after senior citizens. While all age groups saw a decline in newspaper readership from the year before, according to recent Scarborough Research, people 65 and older had only a 2 percent decline. A whopping 62 percent of people in that age group said they had read a newspaper the day before. Hake a deal with Carrows restaurant. Distribute to nursing homes. God forbid, partner with funeral homes.

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* Find smart, rich advertisers for your brainy, affluent readers. The latest data from Scarborough Research says that newspapers attract consumers with buying power--adults who earn more than $100,000 annually who have advanced degrees, work in professional jobs, and like to shop. Said Sturm after the data came out last fall, "Dollar for dollar, newspapers offer unmatched value to advertisers by attracting a powerful consumer audience that no other medium can match."

Marketing Stunts That Worked

The Roanoke Times in Virginia, was recently named one of the fastest-growing U.S. dailies in total audience by the Audit Bureau of Circulation's March 2010 Audience-FAX.

The paper does constant marketing and cross-promotions between print and online. According to NAA, it increased its daily print readership 9 percent by having online contests where the name and photo of the winner was published in the print edition first, then posted online two days later.

The Gazette in Montreal, Canada took the word Gazette out of its nameplate on the front page and told readers that the newspaper's brand and its distinctive typography are recognizable even in truncated form. Its "Words Hatter" campaign emphasized that "The" stands for local news that really matters to the reader. The campaign did so well it won more than 70 national and international prizes, including best in show at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association Awards, according to Gazette publisher and editor-in-chief Alan Allnutt.

* The Oklahoman, part of OPUBCO Communications Group, has a studio inside its newspaper offices where they present editorials on video to send to television stations and make presentations to promote itself to consumers. In addition, the paper has "an aggressive marketing budget" and is "incredibly involved in its community," Kimball said. "It's hard to do anything in Oklahoma City and not have it sponsored by the newspaper."

* The Oklahoman has an advantage--it is privately owned by the Gaylord Family of Grand Ole Opry fame, not some conglomerate busy filing for bankruptcy or with a board of directors bickering about budgets. "Candidly, it's easier for either a smaller or privately held company to make those kinds of decisions," Kimball said.

* The Chicago Tribune and St. Petersburg Times in Florida both launched free alternative dailies to give them a new advertising base. Easy to produce because they just re-edit material already in the big newspapers, they provide a quick-read to the busy younger generation.

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* The Idaho Statesman in Boise, a McClatchy paper, rethought the whole newspaper by hiring a consultant. It started thinking of itself as a product. A brochure touting its weekend edition made it seem as if the newspaper were a helpful guide. On the brochure, it said, "Can a newspaper save you money? We think it can." Then the brochure proceeded to list all the articles in the Saturday section to do with money, such as the cost of a plasma television and how to manage a 401k.
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Comment:Market your way out: why the marketing department must be the print newspaper's best friend.
Author:Nenad, Deena Higgs
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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