So much has changed since I was a child.
The personal computer was not in every household, and the only mobile phones were much larger than the biggest laptop of today. Now the mobile phone is the personal computer of today, with all the applications needed wrapped up in one small device.
The world has changed. But have newspapers evolved totally into that change?
I don’t think so. And from the looks of declining print volume numbers, our readers do not think so either. Although according to comScore and NAA, our net reach of digital content has climbed over the last year by almost 18%, there is still plenty we need to do to reach a new audience.
A USA Today article talks about the restaurant chain Olive Garden, which has been criticised for failing to transform its business model and attract a younger eater.
I think media companies can take the same criticisms applied to Olive Garden and apply them to our business. There are seven key areas suggested for improvement:
- Think like Millennials.
This is such a true statement for newspapers. We need to live and breathe Millennial and really use our staff that falls in this bracket to help guide us to a successful future.
Matthew Ingram writes about how journalism is being replaced, making this point is key: “If you’re a media company, your competition isn’t the product or service that is better than you — and it’s certainly not the one that you think is doing journalism — it’s the one that is good enough for your readers or users.”
- Retrain staff.
This is another key area that we can be more proactive with at newspapers. Staff that has been with us for 10 to 20 years have a great wealth of knowledge, but constant training on the new way that readers are reaching us can be critical.
Our audience department staff has had to become much more familiar with digital over the last year to better help us handle customers access our product. Resources can also be key here.
At The News Tribune, each of our customer service team members has an iPad. This way, they can view and relate to the content in much the same way as our readers.
- Become more authentic.
While journalism is changing, there is no reason for newspapers to try to become another BuzzFeed.
Solid community journalism is still core to our business, and appeals to all readers of our products. While we do need to attract millenials with new ideas, we also can’t forget our basic demographic who is reading us for the local news we provide.
Ingram also mentions that we need to “focus on storytelling and personality, because those things are irreplaceable, and concentrate on appealing to readers who are passionate about a specific topics.”
- Upgrade the salad.
This is all about investment in resources. The newsroom needs to experiment with drones and equip reporters with a mobile arsenal.
Advertising representatives should submit insertion orders on iPads through an online ordering system, and the audience team needs to handle calls quickly and professionally to deliver the best service possible, both to print and digital customers.
To do this, resources are needed, especially those that can speed a transition to a digital future.
- Lighten the menu.
Quality journalism is definitely a piece that needs to be addressed in a changing world, but features are also something that readers enjoy — and that we have had to cut in recent years in light of expense savings.
At The News Tribune, one of our most-read sections both in print and online is our dining reviews. We need to continue to provide this to complete the product.
- Update the image.
Image is everything. This isn’t just about redesigning page one, or even the whole newspaper, but enhancing our image to reach the Millennial reader mentioned earlier. Our marketing messages need to be clear and concise, and trend toward what is working for other industries.
We are constantly looking at advertising from retail and other sources to see what could work to better market our newspapers. This is many times the first impression someone has of our products; let’s at least look like we’ve modernised our thinking.
- Offer better value.
All in all, everything mentioned above can only help to provide a better value for our readers. As newspapers have increased prices and cut costs, we have offered less and less of a value proposition.
The key to winning in the end is to offer the best value for the money we are charging, even if the readers can find something similar elsewhere.
So while we are not a restaurant serving unlimited breadsticks, we still can learn from Olive Garden’s mistakes and try to improve our brands. None of what is listed above is a home run, but together, they can add up to positive revenue and growth for our newspapers.