As Sandy MacLeod introduced this new blog – “Unlocking the Value of Content” – he described how many newspaper companies have approached Web sites:

“Virtually every media site in North America these days has a website – all offer 24/7 breaking news and most offer a full suite of inventory. In fact, most break news first to the website and publish all quality news items to their sites – often the photos and stories are virtually images of what will (or has already) appeared in print.”

 

He describes a grave threat to traditional media companies:  We have been too slow to recognize that consumers of digital content aren’t interested in having the same stories and photos that were in the morning newspaper.

 

It’s not uncommon for the photo and story on a newspaper’s Web site to be identical to the print edition.

 

At the Gannett Co., we have identified key content priorities for our journalists in 2010.  One tackles this issue by spelling out the need to understand the distinct audiences and more carefully tailor news to them.

 

We need to reposition Web sites and reposition newspapers so that the content is differentiated.

 

With this blog I will share the lessons we learn as we experiment in 2010 with delivering the right content to key audiences.  We will test ideas in our newspapers and Web sites across the United States, in large markets and small.

 

In Tallahassee, Florida, the Tallahassee Democrat has experimented with building value in the Sunday newspaper by creating exclusive, enterprising stories exclusively for print.  A brief summary is published on its Web site, but the full story is only in print.

 

Before this experiment started in the fall of 2009, the Democrat’s Sunday single-copy sales were down year-over-year about 13%.  That was cut in half in 10 weeks and is now flat year-over-year.

 

One of the lessons learned:  To work, this requires in-depth reporting, exclusive content and strong promotion.  The harder-edged the topic, the better the sales.

 

The stories are promoted to traditional print readers through in-paper promotion and rack cards.  They are promoted to digital readers through the Web site, blogs and social media.

 

The editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, Bob Gabordi, says there has been little push-back from readers of Tallahassee.com.  They get a summary of the story, a video interview with the reporters, any documents involved, photos and appropriate multimedia.

 

Gabordi and his team are exploring the value of content.

 

He explains:  “The newspaper is the ultimate paid-content model. The best argument against print exclusives is about the historic digital record. I think we’ve preserved that by producing the summaries and multimedia coverage. In the end, all this does is use each medium to its respective strength.”