This is the third in a series of 10 posts on steps local newspapers should take to survive and thrive in the face of the economic meltdown and the societal shift to the Internet.
3. Realign the internal operations of local newspaper companies to make marketing, advertising and editorial partners every step of the way. This will involve a zero-based approach to the structure and commitments of the company. Newspapers tell their advertisers how critical it is to get out their message on a regular basis. Yet newspaper companies appear to see marketing as the first place to cut. Marketing doesn’t mean traditional ad campaigns, although it could include some of that. It does mean an entire organization telling a consistent story about itself and living up to that story. Google says its mission is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That’s pretty easy to understand. If a local newspaper had as clear a mission – “to be the central source of news and information on (x place) and make it easily accessible and useful” – it would enable the entire organization to tell a consistent story and evaluate every potential use of resources against the mission statement.
Here are some concrete steps:
• Locate advertising, marketing and editorial types in close physical proximity so they’re working together and talking every day.
• Make each main content focus of the organization its own channel, or sub brand, with a business manager attached to the content type. Establish separate tracking for audience, reach and revenue for each channel: sports, news, multimedia and business, for example. Share that information with the staff. Give the channel managers responsibility and authority to develop new products.
• Develop or hire expertise in social networking and viral marketing. Every advertiser needs to be exposed to new ways to reach customers and offer them benefits.
• Make mobile the focus of this new approach. This should be the fastest-growing part of any newspaper and as the new frontier it will be the place where there will be the fewest institutional obstacles to experimentation.
Next: Make the classifieds a separate, standalone business.
Previous: Establish a clear and credible public service mission.