Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Can Learn from Advertising Agencies

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Can Learn from Advertising Agencies

Article excerpt

Newspapers can learn from advertising agencies

I spent 30 years with advertising agencies and 20 years with newspapers and I believe the latter can learn something from the former.

For one thing, newspapers can learn a great deal about creativity and innovation from advertising. In the newspaper business a new idea is usually a retrofit--an adjustment or adaptation, rarely a breakthrough. Creativity in advertising seeks a complete break with the heretofore; remembrance of things past is an unwelcome intruder.

Newspapers, with a surfeit of award programs, still do not have an award for creativity. They could borrow a leaf from advertising and recognize the most creative achievements in writing, editing, circulation, production, promotion and other areas.

Today, under the gun of declining penetration, newspapers are desperately trying to innovate, after a late start. The world's flux is on their front pages every day, yet they did not react to changes in their own universe until recently.

Many have even revived "brain-storming," a group method of generating ideas invented by a Batten Barton Durstine & Osborn vice president nearly 30 years ago and now rarely used in advertising, but they are finding it tough going.

Managing change is not easy when you have resisted it for a long time. Now, inhibited by their past, newspapers find themselves conflicted. A little of advertising's irreverence might help ease the pain and break the spell of the customary.

To stay abreast of fast-paced marketplace changes newspaper publishers and editors might mingle more with advertising people. Something might rub off from instincts sharpened to give consumers what they want before they know they want it.

Newspapers could use more of advertising's introspection. Their response: They put out a new product every day and simply do not have the time for soul-searching and self-analysis.

Advertisers learned that machines or equipment--and printing presses--do not make sales: people do. So the smart ones no longer sell what they make, they make what they can sell. That means thinking of the customer first, something newspapers have not been known to do.

For a long time, newspapers felt that it was their job to decide what readers should see. Happily, that is changing.

N. Christian Anderson, editor and vice president of the Orange County Register in California, recognizes it when he says, "The First Amendment says we have a right to produce a newspaper but it doesn't say anybody has an obligation to buy it. …

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