Musician and entrepreneur Jay Z dominated the news recently with the product release of Tidal, a music streaming service that would pay artists directly with higher royalty fees. While the announcement generated a lot of publicity, it also generated immediate pushback from bloggers and others online in the days that followed.

While the new streaming service now has nearly three quarters of a million customers, Tidal management admits they “stumbled” out of the gates due to a number of missteps.

News media companies can learn valuable lessons from the Tidal music streaming story, the first of which is the importance of telling your story before others start telling your story for you.

Tidal may very well be a better music streaming service, but the nature and tone of the product release failed to communicate relevant benefits to potential users of the service and opened the door for others to position the new music streaming service in an unfavourable light.

The failure of Tidal to immediately address questions and criticism only served to make matters worse.

The first tenet of marketing is to know your customer. The product release of Tidal paraded a half dozen millionaire musical artists on stage to announce the introduction of a service that would pay artists – them included – directly with higher royalties.

Tidal overestimated the importance consumers place on fair music royalties for artists. Those on stage with Jay Z must have assumed that their participation in the new music streaming service would be enough to sway fans to sign up.

The truth is, the only way to know what is important to consumers is to ask them what is important.

The news media industry has no shortage of new products, apps, and services, many of which were created to address a business challenge or opportunity rather than address specific consumer wants and needs.

In times of dramatic change, it is imperative to keep a finger on the pulse of customers. Yet the news media industry continues to spend less than most other major industries on consumer research.

The Tidal product release reinforces the fact that, if you don’t position yourself, others will position you to fit their needs.

The news media industry as a whole has done a woeful job of telling its story, especially when it comes to the value of the local print newspaper. We’ve allowed digital competitors to tell the story of newspapers, and they’ve positioned our print products for their benefit.

For an industry in the business of telling stories, we’ve failed to tell our own story well, and, in some cases, have reinforced the stories told by our competitors. It’s not only important to tell a story that is relevant to customers and prospective customers, we must also tell our story every day and in many different ways.

The Tidal story also reminds us that sometimes we need to get out of our own way to succeed. We must not forget that understanding customers’ wants and needs is where success begins. And creating and positioning our products and services to addresses consumers’ unique needs is the only path to our short- and long-term success.