Newspapers should get personal because it pays


Sophia Loren reads a newspaper
Sophia Loren reads a newspaper

The past: My mother-in law died recently. She was a wise old lady who was always cheerful and had enjoyed life – even though she had lived through the terrifying bombing of London during World War II, and lost to the blitz several members of her close family.

Shortly before she died I asked what was the greatest change that she had seen during her lifetime. Guess what she said. Air travel? Television? Radio? The motorcar?

Surprisingly, it was none of these.

It was “electricity” – the ability to flick a switch in her home and have instant light. No more candles or gas lamps. Can you image what that Eureka! moment must have been like for a young girl – and it was only a short lifetime away.

Change in our lives continues to accelerate. Mobile phones used not to be very mobile. My first mobile cost then more than £1,000, and the battery seemed to weigh nearly as much!

Call me a luddite, but only five years ago I did not imagine that millions of people would be walking around today with the power of the iPhone in their pocket – or being able to afford such a device. Now we have the iPad. What will be next? (They would all be useless without electricity to re-charge their batteries – but I digress.)

The future: I would like you to think five short years into the future. You log on to your website. Yes, “your” website – with news, entertainment, stocks – and advertising – delivered to you in the format you want, on the device of your choice, at any time, anywhere. Not only that, it is exactly the information that you hoped to receive. Time is money. You no longer have the time to browse through lots of information to find what you want. You need alerts if things change. You need to get on with your life.

You love this provider of really relevant information; you are therefore a loyal subscriber.

What is stopping this from happening today?

Nothing at all except the willingness – or vision – of your information provider (hopefully you, the local newspaper publisher) from putting in the effort to learn more about you, as an individual. Every one of those millions of mobile devices is used by an individual, someone like you or me. Someone with purchasing power.

We can all make the effort to search for the information we need, but this hardly builds the essential engagement that builds brand loyalty. How about if I knew sufficient enough about you that I could save you the trouble of searching, that I provided you with the convenience and service of delivering content that I knew was relevant to you, in exactly the way, and at the time, you wanted it?

This future could be today: Imagine being presented first thing in the morning with a traffic report for your commute that morning, last night’s sports results, weather for tomorrow, headline news – and an ad for something that was on offer at your local store, which I, as the publisher, knew would be of particular interest to you, personally.

How could I do this? It’s not hard – it just takes the effort. I would know where you live (because you are a subscriber), know which team you support (because you had bought tickets to the game through my website) and know that you would be interested in baby clothing (because you had posted a birth announcement in my newspaper). These are just a few small examples of audience “touch points” with a newspaper.

Newspapers, over time, have very many touch points with people in their communities. They also buy-in demographic data to learn about communities – but not as individuals. The data is there, but often it’s not all collected, and it is not kept in a form where it can be easily used. It could be all much more useful, more profitable.

Publishing businesses, in the main, still run as production processes with a separate systems for classified advertising, display advertising, circulation, editorial, images libraries, accounts, CRM, etc. Sadly there is, for example, typically little or no interaction between circulation and advertising departments. This has to change. Technology can make the change painless.

Be personal: Today, more than ever, information is essential in building any successful business. Personalisation will be the new electricity that builds loyal communities. It will again make newspapers the dominant and preferred source of information – and once again make them highly relevant.

The big question – the money: How much would an advertiser pay you for delivering their ad to a known ‘hot prospect’ for their product or service?

I suggest that for them to know that you were reaching people that had an immediate need, or desire, for their product, and could afford to purchase it, they would probably pay you a percentage of the almost inevitable sale, whatever that amount might be. It is this knowledge, I believe, that will monetize the Web for you, the trusted source of highly relevant information, “personally” delivered. It will provide a rapidly growing and profitable part of your future business.

Once you intimately know about the individuals that go to make up your audience you can sell them anything, either for your advertiser customers, or your own products.

Targeting pays. Google has proved it. Personalisation is now the key. The growth and results achieved in personalised direct marketing has proved that, beyond doubt.

Rich audience information provides the power that enables you to flick your revenue switch from Stop to Go. It’s important that you start collating the data today, before someone else does.

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