Content Is Advertising... In The Newspaper Industry

from the not-that-they-realize-it dept

Continuing my series of posts on content being advertising, I wanted to look at the newspaper industry. This seems rather fitting, as the industry seems to be freaking out about a new report claiming the largest ad revenue plunge in the newspaper business in over fifty years. While there's some movement to online ad revenue, it's not making up the difference and there are signs that the online ad business is slowing as well (which is what kicked off this series of posts anyway). First off, though, it's worth pointing out, as Chris Anderson does that things aren't nearly as bad as they look. While there is a downturn, the industry is still making a ton of money, much more than even 20 years ago.

However, I did still want to take a look at how the newspaper business has struggled to deal with changing times in the context of the discussion of "advertising is content, content is advertising." The simple fact is that, for many years, newspapers acted as "advertising" for eyeballs. That is, the "news" content was there merely to bring in eyeballs in order to sell print ads and classified ads. So the news itself (the content) was advertising to get the attention of people who might then go on to look at the ads in the rest of the paper (or, ideally, place some ads themselves). When there were relatively few competing sources of news, this system worked. Readers were effectively a captive audience, who would come back day after day, and even put up with less than stellar news coverage and slightly annoying or unhelpful ads.

Unfortunately for newspapers (but fortunately for everyone else) that equation has changed drastically. That captive audience is gone, and with so many different options for news, simply reposting AP reports that everyone saw online yesterday, combined with weak local coverage just isn't that compelling. What happens is that the content isn't advertising anything worth looking at any more -- so people go elsewhere. Google gets them the relevant news and Craigslist handles the classifieds in a much more efficient (and cost efficient) manner. Newspapers, unfortunately, are still acting as if they have a captive audience. Many have done little to differentiate themselves or to provide content that matters to their select readers that distinguishes them from the same content that can be found elsewhere. In other words, they're missing out on that final key element of understanding this space: the advertising/content needs to be useful and valuable.

So how should newspapers adjust? Well, it's time to redefine what news is, and start providing useful information to communities of individuals who value that. That means not playing to the broadest possible audience, but enabling specific audiences to get very specific content that they want and value, which is more difficult for others to provide. And, as we were just discussing, that includes making that community a part of the process. Stop focusing on trying to sell ads and focus on ways to deliver useful and valuable information in a manner that a specific community can gain value out of it and then suddenly your content acts as effective "advertising" again, leading to business models that make sense.
Other posts in this series:

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Filed Under: advertising, content, newspapers

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2008 @ 6:10am

    Re: not the entire picture

    But when people stop reading printed newspapers, and advertisers catch on to the fact, all you'll have left to drive around in is your pinto. So maybe you should think about a way of trading up before you have to start taking the bus.

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