Newspapers Must Think like Brands; ON ADVERTISING & MARKETING

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 4, 2010 | Go to article overview

Newspapers Must Think like Brands; ON ADVERTISING & MARKETING


Byline: Gideon Spanier

JANET Robinson, chief executive of the New York Times Group, has a simple message: Newspapers are great, trusted brands and they should do more to exploit that.

Robinson, on a visit to London as part of a European tour to meet advertisers, is suitably excited about all things digital.

She is planning the launch of a new, updated app for Apple iPad next month and will start charging for some of NYTimes.com, the world's most popular online newspaper, with a "metered" semi-paywall model from January.

But Robinson is clear about three things: First, the New York Times will continue to be published in print for "many, many years to come". Little wonder, when its digital revenues still count for only 16% of the paper's turnover, up from 12% two years ago.

Second, the NYT won't put up a full paywall like, say, The Times in London as it would cut itself from what she calls "the eco-system of the web" and lead to a slump in digital ad revenue.

Third, Robinson says the key for newspapers to survive in the digital age is to keep investing in the brand and that means investing in its journalism.

"Newspapers that support quality journalism will be the ones that are left standing," she says. "They will prosper in a time when quality will not be as free-flowing as once it was."

Robinson's point is that trusted news sources such as the New York Times now carry more importance, not less, for readers and advertisers. After all, we are living in an era when there is less money to fund journalism and much of the information that is in such overabundance on the web is recycled. All this matters because US papers have been through an even tougher time than their UK counterparts.

Like virtually every paid-for title, the NYT's print circulation has fallen. Then recession sent ad revenues at the paper plunging 25% last year -- on top of a long-term shift in classified revenue away from print. US advertising has begun growing again, but only slowly. Robinson has sold off a string of radio assets to cut the group's debt pile to $750 million. But then she has also had to contend with a newly resurgent Wall Street Journal, bought by Rupert Murdoch in 2007, which is muscling in on the NYT's general news and arts coverage in a bid to scoop up some of its rival's high-end lifestyle advertising.

Robinson points out that despite all these challenges, the NYT still has a loyal audience with scale. The paper sells 951,000 on weekdays and 1.37 million on Sundays. Outside the US, the New York Times' global edition is the International Herald Tribune, which sells almost 220,000. (Full disclosure: My mother is a journalist at the IHT.) Robinson's focus is on wooing and exploiting what she calls the "brand loyalists" -- subscribers and regular readers. The NYT has already amassed a lot of data from two main sources: its longstanding home-delivery operation (around 55% of weekday copies of the NYT are delivered to subscribers -- higher than most UK papers) and the online details that NYTimes. …

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