In a fight for readers and advertisers, newspapers in recent years have tried campaigns to remind folks about the value our products are offering our audiences.

Sometimes they help but often times I find myself feeling they are way defensive and so print focused.

Colorado Press

The last rash of ads from the Maryland and DC Press Association illustrates the problem. It comes across as anti-Internet in a world when we should be doing everything we possibly can to engage our digital audiences and grow them, not suggest that getting news from the Internet is bad for print.
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There was this one from the National Newspaper Association whose headline was “Community newspapers: the original social network.” OK, I get what point they are trying to make but it comes across defensive and it feels like a real stretch to compare the sort of content that gets shared on social media to the content that gets created in a community publication. Not the same thing. At all.

Then there was this really creative one from The Akron Beacon that attempted to show the value of the print product by noting ways it’s easier to use than the web. Clever. But not sure it’s true, especially when it comes to sharing digitally.

While not a campaign, this example of a Ohio newspaper group attempting to take a stand about the value of their coverage and newspapers, totally misses the mark. They ran blank pages to so show what local news looks like without a local newspaper. The publisher said: “ “I’ve been threatening to run this kind of ad for years because I get so frustrated when readers — and especially nonreaders — complain that there’s never anything to read in the paper and use that as a reason to not subscribe.” How about working on improving coverage opposed to getting angry at readers? And in today’s world of tight page counts, are we really in a position to run blank pages?

smartsexyThere are others that were better like Newspaper Association of America’s Smart is the New Sexy campaign. This one actually made you feel something. We want readers to feel smarter after they read our products, so the branding really worked here. It was fresh. And this one also didn’t attempt to fight the Internet. Good one.

There is absolutely nothing wrong on reminding readers about the value of our products and fighting for audience. We should be doing that in a loud and boisterous way.

These national campaigns should focus on strong themes that make readers feel something positive about our products. If it’s a print-oriented advertisement, focus on what value it’s providing someone and why it’s worth the time and investment. And don’t come across as anti-Internet. Push our multi-platform offerings.

While there can be value in running national campaigns, ones that are specific to a local audience, may be even better. Those campaigns should focus on real value that a reader could see. For example:

  • In the last three months, our newsroom has provided you a half dozen watchdog pieces of journalism. Here are the headlines. It’s our job to keep a watchful eye on your government. And we are. And will continue to.
  • Not sure where to go eat this weekend? For the last year, we have reviewed more than 100 local restaurants. Read about a different one each week in our weekly entertainment section and find a database of them available on our website.
  • Looking to save some money? Over the last four weeks, our Sunday inserts have offered you more than $1,500 in savings. It’s one of the many reasons our Sunday paper offers so much value.
  • On the go but still want the news? Did you know there are eight ways to get the news that fit your lifestyle?
    • Print product
    • E-edition
    • Desktop website
    • Mobile web
    • Apps
    • Newsletters
    • Social media
    • RSS feeds

It’s also incredibly helpful to remind readers daily on the value you bring them. Consider consistent labels over headlines that say things like “Sunday in-depth” or “watchdog reporting.” Boxes that explain the lengths reporters go through as they report on a story, like FOIA requests they might make, are also really helpful in building value for readers.

There are ways to make these campaigns about the value we are creating and the many ways readers can interact with our products, without trying to start a fight with the Internet. We also can lift up our print products and talk about the value in a way that isn’t defensive but promotes what the print product actually gives you. It’s a valuable medium but we have to explain why.

This is one of my favorite newspaper campaign promotions and it’s a video. It shows what happened when three people were given newspapers and despite creating incredible distractions around them, how their attention was on the newspaper. While it’s not specific, it makes you feel something and it illustrates how print can be effective in your life.

I believe we can have campaigns that promote everything we offer and that can include print.

Let’s lift up the entire package, get specific about what we are offering and use our wide range of digital offerings to drive value for our customers.

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