Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Driving Engagement: Five Ways Newspapers Can Deepen Their Relationships with Readers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Driving Engagement: Five Ways Newspapers Can Deepen Their Relationships with Readers

Article excerpt

He was 69. His weary eyes and lined face told the story of a man who had been in the furniture business for way too long. He was about to describe the demise of newspaper advertising.

Joe and I were having lunch in 2004. He owns a large furniture store in a wealthy demographic that included movie star's homes in Malibu. He had a six-figure contract with our newspaper (the Ventura County Star) for ROP ads.

"Have you ever heard of Craigslist?" he asked. Then he told me this story. He was short-staffed on drivers. He kept running two-inch ads in our Sunday classified section (for about $700 apiece, he added) and getting no response. "One of my drivers said to me, 'Have you tried Craigslist?' I said, What's that?' He took me into my office and showed me how to post an ad for drivers. We hired four people the next day. Guess who's not using your classified ads again?"

And that was when I knew newspaper advertising had crossed the Rubicon.

I talked to Joe recently. He's 80 now and walks around the store with a limp because he needs a hip operation. He's using print newspaper ads occasionally for special sales. He's moved into the digital advertising world. "I'm not fighting it anymore. This used to be so simple. What happened?"

I'd like to bring Joe to a newspaper publisher's convention to see how he'd react to the cafeteria of choices newspapers are offering to advertisers today.

Sorry, Joe. This isn't simple anymore.

I'll confess that in my current position, I use boosted Facebook posts and Facebook video ads for my public relations clients when I am trying to stir attention. My partner and I use print ads, but we buy digital ads to drive people to websites where we sign them up to receive emails.

It's easy for me to demonstrate "the ad worked" to my clients when Facebook tracks views, shares and comments, or when my email list grows 10 percent a month. The print ads do not carry the same "easy to track" measurements although it's clear that newspaper readers are "the right audience" for reaching the more educated, higher-income. The challenge for publishers is on the digital side where the choices are slick, high-quality, varied and often less expensive. We are behind our competitors because in 2004 while print publishers were still pushing banners and "value add" to their print ads, the competition was getting a huge lead.

Competitors understood Google ad words. They figured out tracking software before newspapers did. …

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