Category Archives: Advertising
The year was 2005, and the scene was a meeting of the Newspaper Next Industry Task Force — some of the best and most innovative minds in the newspaper business.
In midstream, the brilliant and irascible Lincoln Millstein, then head of digital for the Hearst newspaper group, threw down this challenge (not his exact words, but my best recollection):
“You can’t name any other business that would leave a manager in charge of a product whose sales have fallen every year for the last 30 years!”
He rammed home the point: Newspaper circulation had been falling steadily for decades, and yet newspaper companies had left the same kinds of people in charge of content, doing the same old stuff. When were we going to get serious about changing the content to produce better results?
Amen, Lincoln. I’ve never forgotten your point. It’s as deadly accurate today as it was 12 years ago — and the results keep getting worse.
In this blog, for five years, I’ve written repeatedly about why and how our our content needs to change. We keep acting out that old cliche about insanity — doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
This time, instead of trying to come up with yet another way to say it, I will point back to 13 of my previous posts. Or should I say, 13 previous attempts to open this industry’s eyes to the desperate need for change in content.
Rethinking the mission and purpose of local reporting
“So we need to start with a different question. Not, “How do we fund journalism?” but “What is the content that local people really want and need?”
“And that points me back to the core purpose of local reporting. It’s not “doing journalism.” It’s providing information every day that meets genuinely felt needs among the people who live in our communities.
“Our purpose should be to figure out what those needs are and go get that information.”
The hardest part of saving news: Changing the definition
The tiny share of web traffic we’re getting with news, what Millennials consider to be news, and a metrics approach that can lead us to more successful content.
Millennials, news and the Borneo effect
How the explosion in available content has reduced the demand for news. With a parable from a friend’s experience in the jungles of Borneo: If you grew up with an infinite supply of every kind of food, how much rice would you eat?
Millennials grew up with access to every kind of information; no wonder they don’t consume a lot of news. And what we should do about it.
The audience game is forever changed; will we change, too?
“The stats (presented here) show that we’re losing the audience game in a big way. So we need to do some hard thinking about which audiences in local markets have the most value and therefore are most worth pursuing.
“Home buyers? Car buyers? Job seekers? Finance, insurance and mortgage customers? What else? Then we need to set appropriate priorities among the most promising target groups and figure which solutions will work best for each of them.”
Media business model: Are you running the Scotch Tape store?
How an old Saturday Night Live sketch about the Scotch Tape store at the old mall parodies our business’s relentless concentration on news.
And how, at the “new mall” — the Web — “you can find content directly relating to every big and little interest and concern in your life. You can get content that’s immediately useful in what you’re doing or about to do. Content that’s suited to exactly who you are, to what your life situation is, to what you care about, to what makes you laugh, to what you are considering doing right now. And, with a smartphone in your hand, you can get all of this in seconds, anywhere you are.”
Why the definition of news must change in the digital age
To understand the new landscape, every news person should take up a challenge from magazine blogger Andrew Davis, who said:
I challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of your primary audience. Spend the day consuming the content they consume, visiting the websites they visit. Then, ask yourself what you could do to make your print product more valuable given the experience you’ve just encountered.“
And not just print, of course. We’re a local information franchise, print and digital. To get back to success, we need to start over by understanding the appetites that are driving our desired audiences today.
The big picture: Mass media era was the blink of an eye
Excerpt: “Let’s put it in individual human terms. For 200,000 years, you could get hardly any information about anything. For 150 years, you could get whatever someone decided to print or broadcast. And now, from about the year 2000 on, you can get just about any information you want, from just about any source, wherever you happen to be.”
Excerpt: “On a planet where everyone can get virtually any information, what new models can we discover for engaging their attention, for being indispensable, for supplying information they aren’t willing to live without? And how can we help businesses take advantage of the vast new range of audience-reaching channels and technologies — whether we own them or not — that are penetrating every waking moment of human consciousness? And get paid for it?”
Desperately needed: More innovation on the audience side
A visual rendering of the change in our world that’s destroying our old, keyhole-based business model.
Everyday goal for media companies: Be the greatest show on earth
Now that we’re in competition with all the information available on the planet, we have to win our audiences every day by the value of what we offer them. So the job of the publisher, the editor and the VP of content/audience (if there is one) needs to be: Produce content throughout the day — every day — that no one can live without.
Seven kinds of “new news” for the 21st century
A deeper description of the seven kinds of content that would draw audience like crazy in any local market.
Part 1: The Mass Media bubble
My first explanation of the paradigm-shattering concept of “The Infinite Pipe.” This is one of three foundational posts from which virtually every other post in my five years of blogging is derived.
“The Infinite Pipe” — the history of human access to information over 200,000 years — reveals what’s happening to the entire mass-media business today, and why.
Part II — The end of the Mass Media era
What happens when information goes from limited to infinite? Five basic changes that are swamping the mass media businesses in a tsunami far larger than we can imagine.
Part III — What about news?
In this post, five years ago, I threw down the gauntlet for the first time:
“So it’s time for a fundamental awakening in local media businesses. We need to stop thinking of our communities as places where news happens and we report it. We need to start thinking of our communities as places where people lead their lives and we help them do it. We need to figure how to provide solutions they will regard as essential in their own lives and will use over and over every day. News has its place in this, but it’s a far bigger assignment than news.”
Folks, the game isn’t over. But we will continue to lose if we don’t wake up to the fact that we are responsible for producing content that works in today’s information systems, for people who are living today’s lives.
It’s change or die.
Jobs have been disappearing from these media companies at an alarming rate for more than a decade.
Print-based newspaper and magazine companies are fighting hard to replace declining print revenues with digital revenues and other business models. But very few — if any — are winning. The jobs keep going away. Read the rest of this entry
Back in April, I lamented the steady decline in commitment to local editorials across the shrinking newspaper industry with this post: “Editorials: Headed for extinction?”
It’s a sad story. As ad revenues tumble and newsrooms shrink, so, too, are owners’ commitments to strong, impactful local comment in editorial pages.
Editorials lack any clear business model, so they’re vulnerable to cuts. Never mind that a strong, community-leading editorial voice can be a hallmark of our local brand and a reason we are seen as essential in the community.
In April, I hinted that I would blog on this subject again soon. One of the Morris publishers, Mark Nusbaum at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, was working on an entirely new way to amplify his paper’s editorial voice and build a bold new business model around it. But it was still in development.
Last week it hit homes and businesses in Jacksonville. Read the rest of this entry
Yeah, sure — Big Data. We get it, right?
We all know that the digital age is producing huge amounts of data about consumers and their behavior. And, sure, we know that anybody who’s in the marketing and advertising business — like local media companies — needs to get good at it. Right?
Not that we’ve quite learned how to do it yet. But surely we know — don’t we? — that we simply must master it to benefit both ourselves and our customers? And we’re working on it, right?
Well, I am. I hope you are, too.
Why? Because somebody is going to bring Big Data to Main Street. If it’s not us, Big Data will be the next big wave of disruption in our advertising and marketing business. It’s guaranteed to whittle down our local media ad revenues still further. Read the rest of this entry
Ah, real estate. It used to be such a wonderfully profitable sweet spot for newspapers, back in the dear, now-dead days before the Web. And now it’s just a shadow of its former self.
The real estate business itself is doing okay these days, although it always has its ups and downs. It’s print real estate advertising in newspapers that’s been deeply and permanently disrupted.
The question I’m trying to answer these days is, isn’t there another model through which local media companies can play key roles in the real estate market? Read the rest of this entry
Data, data, data. From every direction lately, I’m being hit with urgent reminders about the imperative for local media companies to master data.
Every day, I’m more convinced: This is the next wave of threat — or opportunity — for local media companies. That’s how disruptive innovation works — you either grab the opportunity, or you are overrun by it.
As Big Data marches down upon us, I’m reminded of Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” It tells how, on the eve of the American Revolution, patriots gave warning of the British Army’s advance by hanging lanterns in the belfry of Boston’s Old North Church:
“One if by land, two if by sea.”
I’m hanging out three lanterns. Big Data is bearing down on us right now — by land, by sea and from every other direction. Read the rest of this entry
In the fall of 2006, as the Internet was devastating the newspaper industry in earnest, the American Press Institute unveiled a new program to push back against the disruption.
We called the project Newspaper Next, and its first report was called Blueprint for Transformation.
Ten years later, what did it accomplish? And what should we still remember from that body of work? Read the rest of this entry
In the last several weeks, my whole concept of advertising and marketing has been reframed, and I’m still sorting out what it means. But I know this: It has given me a clearer understanding of the path local media companies must take in sales.
Now I’m going to try to work the same kind of reframing on you.
Reframing is what happens when some new fact, or a new interpretation of old facts, reveals a subject in a very different light. It’s often a breakthrough that clarifies your priorities and shows you new ways to overcome your challenges.
And in advertising and marketing, we have more than our share of challenges. Print and broadcast media have been struggling for years to assimilate a bewildering array of new tactics.
The list includes buzz terms like SEM, SEO, targeting, retargeting, social media, video, reputation management, email, native advertising, content marketing, Big Data, programmatic advertising and more. And new ones show up all the time.
Let’s try some thought experiments, in the best tradition of Albert Einstein.
The hypothesis we’ll explore is this: That the large, lucrative revenue stream that newspaper companies have enjoyed from major/national advertisers will decline to something approaching zero.
Our thought experiments will examine what we should do about that. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been getting a series of demos from Big Data providers as we at Morris Publishing Group work to figure out how we will offer Big Data services to local advertisers.
Just lately, we’ve been getting down into the details. For me, this brought a profound leap in comprehension.
It was like staring into a crystal ball and seeing a monumental event that’s about to change your life. Read the rest of this entry