Newspapers will die, but there’s still lots of time to live creatively


A few weeks ago, I attended a newspaper congress where the organisers invited one of those gurus who make a living going around and predicting newspapers will die.

When I joined the panel discussion that followed, I was asked if I agreed with his pronouncement.

“Of course,” was my answer. “Newspapers will die, just like this guru will and I will and Google will and Facebook will and even retail stores will. Would you bet on a future for Google for more than 20 years?

“We are not blessed anymore to live thinking that our newspapers will be around for another 150 years, even though it has been a huge privilege to be here this long.”

But don’t plan the funeral yet.

Knowing that we have a limited mortality doesn’t mean that we have to head out to prepare our funerals yet, however. Instead, for our newspapers and ourselves, it makes more sense to improve our fitness and health to stay in reasonable shape as long as possible and even increase our longevity.

With this idea in mind, let us turn our attention back to our newspaper advertising business.

Despite all the trouble and dwindling revenue reported in our industry, there are still a lot of “hands-on” strategies and solutions that will help us improve our situation and heighten our profile as a really innovative newsmedia company.

Keeping our advertisers happy.

A few years ago at HNA, we established a subscriber bonus card for our readers and developed a host of special offers for our faithful subscribers. These have been used extensively. We procure the offers through good deals with local advertisers, offering them special advertising formats and rates if they are serious customers and want to offer unique specials to our readers.

One of the most successful campaigns we did in this regard was a deal with a furniture retailer who sold kitchens. Together we offered the “HNA subscriber special kitchen,” which gave the consumer/reader a great financial incentive, as well as the purchase of a fridge filled with all kinds of delicious food. This looked very impressive, but was not too pricey to provide. To make the deal irresistible, we added the services of a professional chef to prepare the first family meal in the new kitchen the consumer/reader would purchase.

Unique promotion was a mega hit.

Our retailer then had a great story to tell in his ad campaign. We supported the project with some serious print articles about the furniture store, as well as online advertorials and videos featuring happy and satisfied customers.

Our readers and the general public just loved it!

We understood with this promotion that it was not about column inches, extra colors, and page views, but about the number of kitchens that would be sold.

Our advertiser was so pleased and successful that he ordered the same campaign for the next year. Within a short time, we had secured three more stores wanting to copy the idea in their local markets.

We learned from this experience

This advertising campaign proved several things to us:

  • Our brand is still strong.

  • We are still able to move lots of people to take action on a certain point.

  • We are still innovative and can still develop stories.

Going back to my original metaphor about dying: We learned that, for newspapers as well as people, there is a long stretch of life between youth and death, where the tools you have can be used pretty effectively and powerfully, based on your experience.

Newspapers have to stop being depressed about the fact that they will die someday and instead live the time we have left with discipline and confidence and creativity.

Even if times are rough, there are still a lot of opportunities out there. We need to stop being depressed and instead take advantage of the life that still pours every day onto our pages. We need to use our experience to find new ways to stay healthy and vibrant.

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