When we think of valuable content, we often times get into the rut of thinking exclusively of editorial content. Many studies conducted over the years have shown us that our readers view our entire product as content, with advertising content having the same pull or power that editorial content conveys. That being the case, what can we do to stimulate and promote cutting-edge and stimulating non-editorial content?
For the longest time, newspapers have built this hypothetical wall between the newsroom and other departments; we might compare this to the hypothetical separation of church and state that we hear in the political arena.
But much like the separation of church and state, nowhere in the founding documents does this statement exist. In a world where we are competing against opponents such as the internet that have few rules, we must adapt and revisit the rules and self-imposed limitations that have left us fighting this battle with one arm behind our backs.
The time for the walls to come down is now! The time to break the hard and fast rules is now! The time to experiment with new rules and guidelines is now! Better yet, the time to eliminate many of the guidelines is now! It is time to embrace change and adapt to the new world before we become extinct.
I am constantly fighting within our newsroom on simple things as getting quotes from our advertisers in lieu of the other like businesses in our market. The newsroom must embrace the profit motive of our business if our industry is to survive. I’m certainly not advocating that we compromise all our core values; however, I am advocating that every newsroom employee needs to understand the business side of the industry and understand that without that part of the business, they cease to exist.
As an example, we are quick to do a story on a new business that hasn’t spent a dime with us; however, what is really wrong about doing a huge two-page story each week on one of our larger advertisers just because we want to nurture and enhance the relationship? Is it not their money that is allowing the freedom of the press to prosper? Without their money, the newsroom would be no more.
What is wrong with mandating that when utilizing AP stories that come to us across the wire, that we localize it with quotes from our local businesses stroking them a bit? Once again, it is those local businesses that are paying our paychecks and allowing the news to flow freely! Such simple things that a newsroom can do that would yield huge results on the revenue side.
I believe that we have lost our way when it comes to the local advertisers. We are so concerned with the separation of the news and business aspect of the business. We have gone out of our way to avoid a conflict of interest. The most interesting aspect of all of this is that our readers already acknowledge and accept that it is business that pays the bills and allows for their subscriptions to remain at such low prices. The only people that insist on doing it the current way are our own newsrooms; that has got to change sooner rather than later in order for business to survive. We have to embrace the local advertisers from the top down and once we do that, our readers and advertisers will each benefit.
That is the real value proposition that we can offer to the community — and yes, as the community benefits, so will our bottom-line.