Time for newspapers to start “talking the talk” of their own digital success


On Sunday, April 14, 2013, my newsroom colleagues at The Star-Ledger collected three statuettes at the New York Emmy® Awards.

In marketing textbook terms, that piece of news constitutes “cognitive dissonance,” a situation where the facts are at odds with perceived reality.

Reality is, in this case, that the newspaper won three awards for television/video programme production, competing in the most challenging TV market in America. 

Even more surprising, these awards bring the Star-Ledger’s total Emmy® collection to 10 won since first entering the competition four years ago.

So what might this mean to you? Why do you care? How does this address the revenue problems you/we are facing today?

In my last blog, (Newspapers are “not dead yet”), I referenced the plight of the newspaper viewed as a media dinosaur, doomed to extinction by its perceived inability to survive a change in habitat.

We do not recognise the modern dinosaur in the thousands of species of birds that we observe around the world, so we assume that the dinosaur is gone, extinct, unable to survive in the Darwinian survival of the fittest. 

Yet the dinosaur/bird could give lessons in adaptability, differentiation, and survival. In fact, since Darwin developed his theory of evolution in part by observing the birds of the Galapagos Islands, dinosaurs/birds apparently have taught us a lesson!

Check out your newsroom’s digital traffic and audience stats. Compare them with any and all local competitors and you will probably find you are clearly the dominant digital player in your market.

But you have a dinosaur/bird conundrum in the making. Observers in your market do not recognise your digital success because they are too distracted by your print problems.

And you have dinosaur/bird issues.

Your company is evolving. You are changing. Your audience and how you deliver them content is changing. And your advertising environment is changing. It is becoming more crowded, more hostile, and more difficult to succeed in.

Well, we are “walking the talk” of success through digital adaptation in the news environment; too many newspapers fail to “talk the talk” of their own success. We do not present ourselves as winners to the advertising community and as a result we are perceived as losers with a capital “L.”

One way to change the course we are on is to begin to “talk the talk.” Our ability to lay claim to success in the digital environment is key to our ability to inspire confidence among our advertisers.

How many business marketing programmes are given in your market? How many are presented by your advertising team? Are you perceived as the thought leader and innovator in your business community?

I personally lead about a half dozen seminars a year using our successes as case history, and the change in attendee perception of our organisation is more than gratifying. It is rewarding with a capital “R,” where the “R” stands for revenue.

Nobody bets on a losing horse at the races, and clients will not continue to invest in a media partner that appears to have losing relevance. “Talk the talk” on sales calls, be the expert at the front of the room, and you can restore confidence and sales to your organisation.

Another point: Too often the silo separation between news and advertising, which in many ways protects our brand integrity and credibility, also represents a cultural barrier where learned behaviours are not shared.

Our newsroom colleagues in the newspaper industry have been far more successful in digital adaptation than our sales departments have been. A little cross-training, a little dialogue, and some healthy debate between the two departments will prove healthy and is worth the effort.

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