I am definitely someone who bemoans the loss of the daily newspaper, or at least the quality of the printed edition in my hands and available at every café. There is tremendous intrinsic value for turning the pages of a physical edition. For one, you are exposed to more news stories than you might be online. This sounds like a contradiction, but the fact is that most people read news outlets that are of particular interest to them, rather than reading a balanced mix of local and national stories that help give a narrative to events around them. Also, you might have the opportunity to talk with someone about a news story you see. You may have to speak to someone who wants to share a section of the newspaper with you. It actually serves a tremendous number of social functions.
The problem with the daily newspaper in most American smaller towns is actually one of marketing. To quote Seth Godin, the essence of marketing is “people like us do things like this.”When applied to our daily newspapers, it looks like “people living in my city read newspapers like this.” Newspapers have been on a vicious cycle in recent years, shrinking staff, cutting stories, shrinking formats, automating the sports sections. All this with the intention of becoming more generic so as to attract a wider group of readers, but having the unintended effect of attracting nobody, since it is not clear to the reader who this newspaper is really for.
Unfortunately, this has caused a loss of trust in the local newspaper, a trust that will only be restored over time. For the younger generation, the issue has been that the newspaper has never earned their trust to begin with. Local neighborhood blogs or alternative newspapers come to the stage as more powerful editorial sources.
The key for earning this trust, however, is to rebuild permission for the consumer’s attention. The steps for rebuilding this permission are like that of any other.
- Interrupt only in order to provide value.
Do not bother your consumer with a sale or cheap subscription rates. That doesn’t actually help them if they don’t know what is in it for them.
- Once a consumer receives that value, ask permission to know more personal information about them. Use this information only to offer them something of greater value (perhaps Sunday edition delivered). Add the value of instant news notifications.
- Once they have the Sunday edition delivered.
- Continue building greater and greater levels of permission by adding greater and greater levels of value with your customers so that advertisers know exactly who is subscribing and that relevant adds can be placed for the consumer.
- Move them up to a daily edition on account of the value it can provide, that you will know only as a result of them giving you permission.
One of the reasons I love the Diario de Navarra is that it contains certainly covers politics at city hall, the results of the weeks’ bull fights (Viva España!), new businesses popping up, long and detailed community events and concerts. It has carefully written articles on local businesses, people, events, disputes, and politics are fundamental to making a great newspaper. In addition it takes an unapologetic editorial stand (which may include a commitment to cover both sides of an issue), so that people know in advance who the newspaper is really for. Most of all, however, they have pride in the city and region that they are living in, shown by the care and coverage of even the smallest events.
My prediction is that soon the newspaper will become more popular but that augmented reality devices will make it an even more powerful experience. Imagine folding through the pages, but then seeing a short video of a concert appear and watching it on your Google Glass (or something similar. Technology, however, will not be the savior of the small town newspaper, rather, finding the right identity to communicate to their community and region. In addition, i predict that if printing technology continues to improve, we may see personalized advertisements based on zip code, interests, demographics, etc. It might be the same paper, but it might look a lot different than it does.