Can marketing save the newspaper?


Today marks the debut of a new blog from INMA that puts marketing at the center of the news industry's renaissance: “Bottom-Line Marketing.”

Worldwide, the typical newspaper spends only 1.5% of revenue marketing itself — half of which goes to supporting circulation sales.

So we're an industry that when reaching for solutions to our erosion of audience and advertising, we haven't looked too seriously at marketing.

This blog aims to reverse such perceptions.

We want to celebrate the role of marketing from industry leaders in the field. To do this, we've invited as bloggers the chief marketing officers of the world's leading newspapers and newsmedia companies, most of whom were marketing top guns in other industries before they chose to apply their trade to a great industry in transition. You'll get perspectives from newsmedia industries in Europe, North America, South Asia, East Asia, and the South Pacific.

Along with that breadth, you'll get a flavor for what makes INMA special in our industry: a passion for marketing as an ethos that puts the customer front and center in our culture. That manifests itself different ways worldwide, and I leave it to you to decide which models and which ideas work best for you.

I suspect that in the coming months, you'll realize that marketing has changed dramatically from previous decades. There's a lot less guesswork (promotions) and a lot more science (multi-media) — mirroring broader trends in marketing communications that have impacted the news-on-paper business and other mass media.

I'm chairing this blog effort, and as such let me kick things off with some thoughts about marketing in the United States.

* * *

U.S. newspaper publishers and advertising directors today are likely searching for cover as third quarter results reporting looms. Despite total ad spending growing 5.7% during the first half of 2010, newspaper ad spending fell 3% to 4.6% depending on who you want to believe. The way in which U.S. newspapers make — and/or lose money — has changed and continues to change at a pace that would make anyone’s head spin.

Over the past two years, newspaper share of total ad spending has declined from 20% to less than 14% with key advertising sectors — automotive, retail and entertainment — spending less or shifting their budgets to other media channels such as internet, spot TV, and radio. Core classified advertising revenue — and its associated profits — have been nearly cut in half over the same time period, making the situation even worse.

U.S. newspapers have reacted with extreme cost-cutting or “right-sizing” to bring costs in line with revenue declines, but the jury is still out on whether these short-term changes alone will be enough to support their long-term recovery.

Now, more than ever, newspapers need to employ proven marketing practices to ensure their future viability and success.

It goes beyond increasing marketing spending — although that’s a good place to start — to elevating the role that marketing plays across the entire newspaper business.

It goes beyond increasing the promotion of existing products and services to using the proven marketing practices required to identify, develop, and promote a portfolio of new products and services that will address the ever-changing needs of readers and advertisers.

It goes beyond inviting marketing to the cross-department meeting to having the self-confidence required to tear down the walls that have segregated news gatherers from news marketers in the past.

It goes beyond adopting the vendor or industry program du jour to taking responsibility for and ownership of customer relationships and making decisions that are right for your market, regardless of what other newspapers are doing.

It goes beyond standardizing, consolidating, and eliminating redundant operations to providing an environment that rewards innovation and risk-taking.

It goes beyond reacting to that which we cannot control to the proactive use of proven marketing practices to leverage core newspaper assets to recapture audience and advertising budgets.

Finally, it goes beyond marketing as a department — or an individual — to integrating sound marketing practices (“marketing think” if you will) across every area of the newspaper to maximize return on limited resources.

Yes, marketing can save newspapers — just as innovative marketing practices continue to fuel worldwide growth in newspaper audience and advertising.

Hopefully, this “Bottom-Line Marketing” blog can shine a bright light on these practices.

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