A series of presentations during Sunday’s INMA World Congress Print Innovation Workshop revealed a foundational trend that persists as companies around the world innovate in the print space: quality is crucial.
Quality not only applies to content and ads that appear in a printed newspaper, but also to the relationships readers have with a news brand.
Newspapers are known for their trustworthiness, and this has carried over into a digital-first era, Marcelo Benez, executive commercial director at Folha de S. Paulo, told the audience.
“If we are to ask ourselves why print matters in a digital age, credibility is my answer,” Benez said.
This sentiment extends to South Africa. Tradition as a thorough news source, engaging sensory experience, and high-quality advertising partners create a strong bond between audiences and companies.
“There’s a huge loyalty factor,” Tasmia Ismail, general manager of EP Media and Die Burger, said.
Ismail’s company bases success on content, audience, engagement, and creation. By dedicating efforts in these areas, the company creates value that audiences miss.
“If they don’t get a copy of express in their box, you’ll get a call,” Ismail said.
When done well, content reflects the communities in which news media companies work. Innovation in content can help news media companies stay relevant in users’ lives.
“If you want to be relevant, you have to deliver something which is more than the ordinary items,” Pit Gottschalk, editor-in-chief of Funke Medien said.
To create value across its titles, the company has worked to centralise its newsroom. The centralised newsroom takes advantage of the fact that there are similar topics covered across its titles. By working together, local newspapers can deliver national coverage that appeals to different communities across the country.
For example, Funke Sports saves time and money by pooling questions specific newspapers want answered, and, in return, the reporter is more likely to get an interview because the final product will reach a much wider audience. Gottschalk said this answers a question asked by many news media companies: “Can a local paper deliver national topics as the reader wants to read it?”
Beyond content, the newspaper itself can create value in a local community, simply by existing.
“One of the biggest value that we offer to our local community is that it is a family read and it helps children use our newspapers that they get for free to help them learn to read,” Tasmia Ismail said.
Emphasising the value of print can be a challenge for news media, an industry that historically reached readers by being the primary source of trustworthy news.
“We cost less a year than an Amazon Prime subsciption, and all you get from that is the ability to buy other products,” Gregg Fernandes, vice president of customer care and logistics at The Washington Post said.
Creating a sales culture can help as companies attempt to communicate and uphold their value to subscribers. Keeping the sales staff accountable for their performance is important to encouraging a consistent culture.
It can be a tricky balance, Steve Shrout, executive vice president of sales at Metro English Canada said. Some sales staff may consider accountability as micromanagement, but, he added, when done well it becomes a tool for growth. His company has unapologetic performance expectations, setting clear goals and doing what it takes to reach them. This, too, requires balance.
“When you have unapologetic performance expectations, transparency and honesty must be prevalent, it must exist,” Shrout said.
As a platform of premium content, it is clear that print offers advertisers value. Being placed near trustworthy stories transfers credibility to brand partners and even the communities they serve. In Brazil, advertisement plays a significant role in the GDP of the country, Leonardo Lazzarotto, founding president of Tailor Media, said.
“Each dollar invested in advertisement moves R$10 in the Brazil economy,” he said.
Advertisers are not the only group that needs to consider the importance of investment. Acquisition has traditionally been a crucial aspect of the print strategy, as new readers meant a larger reach for both the company and its ad partners. Now, investment in retention can have huge pay-offs.
Jerry Hill, vice president of consumer sales and marketing at Gannett, pointed out the recent cost-cutting efforts of companies across the world, warning that there may be value in rewarding premium customers.
“Some of our most loyal customers are the ones who are most acceptable of our price increases,” Hill said.
Investing in audiences must go beyond general appreciation, Matt Lindsay, president of Mather Economics added: “We found that really what helps a lot is personalisation.”
Even in a digital era, print brings value to audiences and advertisers. Despite print’s inherent and evolving value, Ismail said there is still a long road ahead for the medium: “Print still plays a huge role in South Africa, and I think we still have our fair share of challenges moving forward.”