In writing about steps newspapers should take to survive and thrive, my third recommendation was, "Realign the internal operations of local newspaper companies to make marketing, advertising and editorial partners every step of the way."
Reader and friend John Leach, managing Partner at Digital Strategies LLC, pointed out how the recent experience of The New York Times, when it received more than 9 million page views on one story in a few hours from a Yahoo! link, was a good example of how what I was proposing could help newspapers. If news organizations were restructured in the way I described, they'd be better able to capitalize on this kind of opportunity because the whole team would react instantly, together. Instead, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab story, the Times sold remnant ads on the page getting the fire hose of traffic.
John wrote me: "You talked in No. 3 about putting together news, advertising and marketing staffs along the lines of what you described for CNN at the Democratic convention when you talked with the (CU Journalism School) advisory board. It's a great idea, and it's long overdue.
An online advertising staff has to be as nimble as the online news staff in order to take advantage of opportunities like the one the Times had -- and the same thing goes for the online marketing staff. As I pointed out in a brief comment to that post, the online advertising staff should have sold a client like Bing on being able to pick up 1 million or 2 million page views from a big event like that one, which is an ideal place for Bing to promote its new search engine. It could have done something similar with other big advertisers.
"What an opportunity that presents to deliver extraordinary value to a key advertiser, even if it's for a price halfway between the usual rate and the dismal remnant rate.
Instead, newspapers are functioning online like they do in print -- selling ad space, building the ad and putting it into that space on a set schedule. It's the equivalent of posting the day's paper and stopping there. Why can't we have breaking news ads to go with our breaking news?
The Times also could have targeted a marketing campaign for itself onto those pages -- getting far more value than it did from remnant ads. After all, the Times undoubtedly was getting visitors who hadn't been to the Times very often before, and visitors who hadn't been there at all, and that's a prime group to tell about what the Times offers in breaking news, in-depth coverage and multimedia. It's also a group that might well buy Times photos or other products."
I think John makes great points. Are newspapers nimble enough and are they structured to seize opportunities that present themselves quickly? Instead of complaining about the link economy, they should capitalize on it. By the way, I'm not saying the Times was complaining. But John is right that in my previous post on Yahoo! driving traffic to the Times I undervalued the opportunity that kind of traffic represented by not reiterating the importance of advertising, editorial and marketing working side by side.