OOne of the marketing buzzwords three years ago was “green.” But that word disappeared when we were confronted with a global economic crisis. Now, when the first signs of a prudent recovery are showing up, I believe it will soon be on top of the hit parades of marketers all over the world. And it will become very relevant for the newsmedia industry. As a threat, or as an opportunity. Just depending on your mindset.

Let's start with an example, from an economic sector that's known for a good feeling in which direction the economy will develop. On November 3, Nasdaq launched 66 green indices designed to track the performance of companies in the environmental and clean energy sector. Nasdaq says the green economy is shifting economic development towards sustainable practices in business and infrastructure.

Well, if the center of the financial world shows interest and creates products around this economy, it's time to act. Or at least to put this issue back on your dashboard.

Where could “green” be of interest for a newsmedia company? A non-limitative list shows already how rich this issue can be. But better is to make your own list after a brainstorm with some of your colleagues who are marketing sensitive:

Distribution: We all comply when paper mills raise their prices, and we are afraid of the consequences for our sales. I believe that prices will go up. Not only because of the consolidation of producers, but even more because regulators will raise taxes for paper. And they will deliver new regulations for a green way to recycle paper. Beside this we expect that those companies that use paper in their products will become responsible for the recycling of the product. Or, if they can't, pay an extra tax for it. In any case, it will raise the costs for printing. On the other hand, this is a great opportunity. A newspaper, what's in the word, like The Daily by News Corporation that will only be published on the iPad, will not suffer. And what's more: they have an extra marketing argument. Some consumers like the green argument, and prefer green label products. Others will follow.

Advertising: Perhaps not the first thing you think about when the green issue is mentioned. But there will be a great market for companies that advertise that they do their business “green.” This is the time to create new products or launch actions to put your medium in the spotlight for all those advertisers that will focus on green. Special prices, joint promotions, free space for product launches ... choices enough. Time for action.

Positioning: Recent research indicated that only 6% of consumers believe companies say they're green because they actually believe in it. This means that for those that really mean it, there's the big chance to be a first mover and take all the advances of it. When you're first to claim it, the market will remember you more than competitors. This is the reason why local newspapers can support the creation of a new national park in their region, co-organise a "green fair," launch the "green prize" for the most green economic initiative, and more.

Leadership: When you take responsibility, the public will notice it. The respect for a leader is always bigger than for a follower. Authenticity is bigger as well, and that's what most stakeholders in companies love. Investors, advertisers, suppliers, and ...

Employer Branding: We need to be attractive for young talent. A green company will soon be a much more attractive employer than a company “for older generations.” We need the most talented people in our industry. In our companies. That will be the best guarantee for future success. But no company needs followers. We need developers, with new fresh ideas. To make sure that we're ready for the fast-moving future. Green will attract employers with a “green” heart.

This is not easy stuff. When you work for a publicly traded company, it will be a necessity to introduce green in your strategy and in your quarterly reports. But as Joel Makower says in his book Future Lab, we know exactly what "good enough" is for green buildings, there's a standard for that, but not for green business. Lots of companies will struggle to understand where they are and where they need to go, not to mention how to get there.

In recent research by Shelton, only 35% of the people answered that they would be willing to give away their iPod to save the planet. Only 65% said they wouldn't.

A minority? Yes. At this moment. But even then, from a population of 200 million, this is still 70 million people. A segment I consider as “relevant” enough for immediate action. Even with this final remark in the back of our head:

Consumers say they want to do something about the environment (because that's the right thing to do), but when it comes to leaving their comfort zone or giving up on a benefit or on their lifestyle, most people won't make the green decision. “Never discount health, comfort, convenience, life style and beauty,” Shelton said. “That stuff can make or break your campaign.”

Soon “green” will be added to this list.