Newspapers need to innovate to survive. The speed of the internet makes it a perfect bed partner for breaking headlines and up-to-the-minute (often milli-second) current affairs, so it would be ignorant to think the future of news lies anywhere other than on the web.
However, this fact which many journalists view with such gloom is by no means the nail in the coffin lid for print media – as long as they are prepared to look to the future and innovate.
Many newspapers are dragging their heels at a time when they can’t afford to, resting on the laurels that a tradition as the fourth estate has given them. Self-promotion seems to be something which most papers consider below them in their role as the purveyors of information.
As one of the three factors in a newspaper’s revenue model (along with the digital part and, oh yes, the readers), advertising space is top priority, and a reason why the recession has hit print media so hard. (The advertising revenue from digital is still not strong enough financially to buoy up a fledgling paper).
Seeing as newspapers are a key medium through which all global brands communicate with consumers, why do newspapers struggle to speak about their own brand effectively?
Recently, a fellow City University student, who was working at The Sunday Times, blogged (unfortunately on an internal University page) about what can only be described as an employee pep-talk by James Murdoch.
“The newspaper industry is in one of the greatest opportunities for innovation I have ever seen, and if we don’t grasp it we’re pathetic,” he said.
She noted his “overwhelming positivity” in regard to the newspaper industry (a rarity these days) – yet also his urgent call to address the issues faced by papers and embrace change.
On his blog, The New Yorker‘s James Surowiecki makes a well-known but problematic observation:
“When it comes to promoting themselves, newspapers have historically been almost completely uninterested.”
Put simply, this just won’t do.
Not only do individual brands need to consider their identity and differentiate themselves to be marketed effectively, newspapers across the board should be reconsidered in terms of what they are offering readers as a product.
Murdoch spoke of a focus on engaging customers, communicating with them effectively and building strong, quality and long-lasting relationships. This may sting some traditionalists but thought needs to be given to what a newspaper can offer other than simply the news.
This is a great opportunity in print journalism to take a fresh perspective on how to communicate with readers. By no means should there be limits put on the quanitity, or quality of the news but perhaps thought should be given as to how best newspapers can address consumers needs, and promote themselves effectively in what is becoming a vicious market.