PRINT newspapers are locked in competition with the Internet for the hearts and minds of readers.
But ignoring the demographic shift to online reading is like turning away from the fire because it’s not your house. A disturbing new Pew Research Center study (pewresearch.org/pubs/1133/decline-print-newspapers-increased-online-news) shows that since 2006, the percentage of people who say they read a daily newspaper has fallen from 43 percent to 39 percent, and only 25 percent say they read the print-only edition. Meanwhile, online readership has increased from 9 percent in 2006 to 14 percent last year.
For decades, we didn’t have any way to get information about local businesses and their sales, except from local newspaper advertising. Unless you lived in a major city, it wasn’t easy to access newspapers from other parts of the country, let alone other parts of the world.
That gave newspapers and magazines a compelling way to generate lucrative revenue from advertisers, because if an advertiser wanted to reach a particular geographic audience, this was the only way to do it.
Today, if you’re interested in global news, you can read a newspaper from Europe. If there’s breaking news in India, you can watch Indian television over the Internet.
But advertisers remain focused on the traditional model. They think about eyes on ads, only worrying about how unlikely it is they will get business from readers in Mumbai ordering engagement rings from Philadelphia.
The new paradigm is not just about the readers, but about the searchers. A significant component of online advertising results will come from being effectively discovered in searches.
It’s going to be important for newspapers to have an online presence for advertisers, because news organizations will have very robust Web sites changing constantly, with lots of hyperlinks that search engines love. Being a part of these Web sites will give advertisers lots of good visibility in searches people conduct to find products and services that solve their problems.
The way people find solutions to their problems has changed dramatically. When younger audiences have a problem, they usually use one or two basic — and online — solutions, one of which is now used in a verb form. They “Google” it. They don’t go to the Yellow Pages to find the services they need.
The bottom line? You need to show up in the first page or so of a Google search.
One way to do this is to pay for the use of certain key phrases or “Paid Ad-Words.” This is expensive if you have a popular search term like “engagement ring.”
One way advertisers are responding smartly is to create compelling “rich media” content like social networking communities, video and audio podcasts, and online presentations and blogs and to update the content on a regular, frequent basis. Google and other search robots love pages that update frequently (blogs) have rich content (photos, videos, audio, RSS feeds) and lots of hyperlinks (blogs, podcast show notes pages, etc.) to other sites and resources.
The general idea is to be helpful. Give up some of your knowledge content for free, in return for visibility as a “thought leader,” or subject matter expert.
A properly managed social media presence populated with good quality content, can make an advertiser the “go-to” company, the ultimate resource for people who want to know how that particular industry works, or how consumers of that product or service can become more informed about using or comparing products or services in that sector.
It’s all part of an overall marketing effort that focuses on where potential audiences are, not where business owners may want them to be.
Here’s an example of the power of a modest social media marketing strategy.
One of my clients is a retailing company. In addition to traditional media relations, we also produce digital photos and digital video reports about the events we cover for them, such as store openings, events with community groups, and so on.
We post the photos on Flickr.com, a social sharing site for photography (it’s also a very easy way to deliver photos to the people pictured in them and to local news media who use them), and the videos on Blip.tv, a video sharing site.
Because the photo captions had my office phone number instead of the store number, we were getting a lot of phone calls from people thinking they had called the store. People were finding the new stores by Googling the name of the store and the city!
But once we caught on and started adding the store address and phone number into the captions, the calls stopped.
Newspapers can face the future by creating a sophisticated way for their advertisers to reach those searchers by buying effective, searchable presence on the newspaper’sWeb site. I’m fairly convinved that the combined credibility of both brands will lift search results and restore profitability.
By Steve Lubetkin - managing partner of Professional Podcasts LLC, an award-winning producer of multimedia content for the Web.