NNN Perspectives

Pulitzer Prize winner leads team in a mobile newsroom tour de force

April 2nd, 2014

The continuously transforming company that is the New York Times has added another product to its portfolio of news and information:  NYTNow. The iphone/i-touch only app is available starting today and looks to increase the NYT brands market share of Millennials on mobile devices.   A major feature that sets NYTNow apart from other Times digital properties is its curation of news from outside sources, chosen by the news team with the goal of being interesting and digestible.  Serving up 30-40 articles per day which are succinctly prepped for the NYTNow generation, the morning and evening ‘briefings’ function as quickly consumed content.

I downloaded the app today and it was extremely sleek and user-friendly, with a mobile responsiveness that makes swiping from story to story seamless. I could read the daily briefing in a couple minutes or delve deeper into the full articles. The ability to save stories to read later or to share via text, email or social was also incredibly easy.  Not to fluff it too much, but the NYTNow experience felt vanguard, intuitive and still enriching with quality content, certainly a cut above any other summary style news app I’ve encountered.

The user can access 10 articles for FREE/month; they will have to subscribe to the app to satiate their appetite for more full articles.  With a combination of Times edit and curated external content, the Times team is seeking the app worthy $8 price tag/month. In a sea of free and 99 cent apps, some critics are skeptical, but the Times stands by its decision, backed by months of research and focus groups. “No one else doing news apps right now has that same level of experience, talent, and editing know-how…[the audience is] IS going to delight in the presentation and in the fact that we’ve really developed a strong sense of what the mobile reader wants…they believe in the New York Times and trust that we’re there.”

I’m eager to see the Times’ new vision pave the way for the industry, this time pioneering a new mobile newsroom for my generation.

Read what digital news leader Buzzfeed is saying about the app.

Boston’s newspaper websites are getting makeovers

February 27th, 2014

When The Boston Globe Company divided its site to Bostonglobe.com and Boston.com back in 2011, it was a bold move. But in a time where strategies like the need to create engaging content while concurrently distinguishing your site amongst millions of others are both major goals for publishers, The Boston Globe decided the split was a clever way to visually and socially appeal to its community while also housing premier content behind a paywall of its print publication, The Boston Globe.

Fast forward 3 years and both sites are alive and continuing to innovate to push forward in the marketplace.  Bostonglobe.com is moving to a metered model paywall in order to reel in readers with a certain number of free stories per month before having to pay.  This change in the paywall model strategy can most likely be attributed to last year’s purchase of the Globe from The New York Times Company by Redsox Owner John Henry who assumed the role to work for “a cause worth fighting for.”

Boston.com is undergoing a much more substantial change; it’s seeking a new identity.  Henry wants it to be “a phone-first website” that is completely independent of the Globe. It will broaden its scope to incorporate user-generated and flash-written content of Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. With the surge of mobile users, Henry envisions this site to be the mobile destination for Bostonians.

Henry believes The Globes journalism to be strong, in fact, irreplaceable – but George Brock, the head of the journalism department at City University London recently reminded him it’s time to “not ask his people to innovate. They need to experiment. Turn the Globe into a giant laboratory for journalism.”

Read more about the variables and controls being matriculated in “the lab of BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com” here.

The “Road Warrior” column for The Bergen Record is vigilant as it sounds

February 14th, 2014

Traffic jams escalating to political scandals don’t happen every day, but when something seethes under the surface of what could easily be brushed off as a disorganized debacle of lane closures, local newspaper reporting delves deep to find out why? When The Bergen Record received a tip that the lane closures were comparable to the gridlocked roads of 9/11, its editor asked traffic column “Road Warrior” writer John Cichowski to dig deeper. Who knows how long the political scandal would have taken to surface if Cichowski didn’t break it in January?

The Bergen Record, a family-owned business, is a progressively valuable commodity to its readers.  Being locally owned, resourced and focused has given the paper continuity in messaging, purpose and personnel.  It also has unmatched roots and resources in the community when seeking information and keeps its readers interested and trusting with compelling and relevant edit.

The watchdog journalism that is required to break a story like this involves weeks and even months of leads and tips, waiting during every wiggle and wobble surrounding the Port Authority to come crashing down.

Even though newspaper reporters can’t stop the darkness, at least they can keep us in the light so we have some idea of where we can stand. One place that is for certain is behind the quality content of the local newspaper.

Read more on how The Record broke “Bridgegate” in the New York Times article.

Skittles/Seahawks Super Sponsorship Soars with Seattletimes.com

January 31st, 2014

Skittles scores. In honor of Skittles super fan Marshawn Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks team and fans, Skittles is taking over Seattle on Super Bowl Sunday weekend. The Seattle running back’s mom used to give him the “power pellets” every time he scored a touchdown when he was a kid. And Seahawks fans make it rain Skittles whenever he scores.

Skittles is releasing limited edition “Seattle mix” packages, featuring only blue and green candies as a tribute to their MVP.  But that’s not all!  Wrigley-Skittles, NNN, Starcom and seattletimes.com  created a new play for the championship game.  As a team, we developed a first-to-market custom content takeover that integrates Skittles, the Seattle Times brand, and the Seahawks into one eye popping execution.

Check it out here and here on seattletimes.com!  For the first time ever, a green Skittles “S” will replace the “S” in Sports and Seahawks and deliver a brand message on the homepage of seattletimes.com and on all Seahawks pages, guaranteeing the brand 100% SOV.  To complete the game winning strategy, the Skittles “S” will be reinforced with a banner ads on NFL/Seahawks coverage throughout the site (including the homepage and news).

Skittles will dominate Seattle this weekend via newspaper sports and stay tuned if the Seahawks win!

seattletimes.com sports

Creating the “content connection” is a great strategy for newspaper brands

January 28th, 2014

In a digital media universe where 27 million pieces of content are shared daily, how does one stand out? Newspaper brands stand out for delivery of highly credible and trustworthy content but more is needed to remain top of mind across generations.

In the age of content portfolios built through curation essentially as quick as you can click your mouse, how does the stately newspaper boost brand loyalty? It is increasingly apparent that this industry of prize winning journalists and established brands must aim to excel on the same playing field as everyone else on the internet and exude engaging and innovative content.

An article by Adweek partner aptly named Contently lays out some smart approaches for publishers and brands (truly anyone looking to have a voice) to stand out in this noisy world of content.  Some of the tips that pertain directly to newspaper brands are:

1)      Look outside: Tap into content that surrounds the heart of your brand.  Ask questions like: What do you stand for? What is the niche you fill in the market?  By taking content that surrounds your brand and describing it directly, then spinning a web from those terms, you never lose sight of the core passion points of your audience.  By broadening your “web” of terms, you don’t break the connection to the user and the brand, whether you are trying to connect the ideals of ‘time with kids’ to the weekend section of a newspaper or to efficient washer and dryers. As Katrina Craigwell, manager of Digital Marketing at G.E. points out: “Brands aren’t just competing with their traditional business and competitive set online; they’re competing with any other publisher, most of which are media publishers.”

2)      Go inside: Create a lasting connection between you and your audience. Newspapers fare well in this arena already with high brand loyalty and quality articles connecting to their community.   Also, user generated content via picture galleries and reviews of restaurants, as well as archives of popular articles, newspapers give the audience depth of value when coming to their site.

3)      Give it Muscle: Well-reported narratives and rich multimedia experiences are another thing that increase brand loyalty.  The Webby/Pulitzer-winning New York Times Snowfall is a pioneer in this space and will certainly push other newspaper sites to follow suit with immersive and compelling content experiences.

Shuffling through mass news sources like Huffington Post and Yahoo, newspapers let us know they aren’t trying to be everything to everyone. By focusing on what they do best: local, newsworthy reporting, the content resonates with their communities. The best way to stand out is by being true to themselves.

Mobile journalism is good for newspapers

January 17th, 2014

Mobile audiences are skyrocketing, especially for newspapers, where comScore revealed that 141 million monthly uniques are reading digital newspapers; half are on mobile devices. What’s more, 1 in 5 adults consume their newspaper exclusively through their smartphone or tablet.

People are clearly enjoying the instant gratification of accessing information on mobile devices, news included. So what does this mean for the future of newspapers?  Like all news media, the newspaper industry must cater to both the “on-the go” audience that wants to find what they are looking for and exit the site, and those who like to “flip” through their daily paper.

The New York Times is getting ahead of the curve by launching TimesMinute, which is a brief snapshot of three key news developments that posts in the morning, afternoon and evening. From an advertising standpoint they’ve introduced customized campaigns for mobile devices. For example, they are experimenting with interactive ads on iPads to increase engagement and future revenue.

As we all become more immersed in consuming content with digital devices – especially mobile – it’s evident that the newspaper industry can leverage this for their benefit from both consumption and advertising standpoints.

To hear more about what mobile means for the industry, click here.

Hard news deserves great advertising

January 13th, 2014

News consumption, through print, digital, social media and citizen journalism – is growing exponentially.  Branded news organizations reach consumers through various touchpoints multiple times a day.  The level of engagement and content-sharing by users is experiencing an astonishing increase.

All of this makes it difficult to understand why the allocation of advertiser dollars does not line up with the consumption of news media by consumers.   The advertiser that is positioned against news and information stories can benefit from the power, immediacy, and authority of the medium.  Where marketers are highly focused on the age of the “brand newsroom” and creating content to cater to the advertiser, maybe it is about time for journalism and advertising to stand together.

To read more about how advertisers can position great ads against great content, click here

A new study by the OPA reveals how paywalls are working

December 13th, 2013

A new study by the Online Publishers Association indicates that paywalls do not impede the ability to drive ad revenue as previously thought. Both newspaper and magazine publishers have tested various paywall models and the results have been mixed. Moreover, advertisers have remained divided on what it ultimately delivers for marketers. Some believe that paywalls deliver highly engaged consumers with a pronounced sense of wantedness for the protected content. For others paywalls simply act as a device to charge marketers higher CPMs.

While this study is not likely to swing the industry in one direction or another, the sample used contains an impressive list of brands and properties. It also is unclear whether the study measured the impact of various user interfaces to measure ease of entry. This of course will ultimately serve as the holy grail in terms of compliance.

Studies like this are important because they allow publishers to measure how devices like paywalls can evolve. It also allows for marketers to ideate with publishers on how to build better delivery systems for their messaging. Most relevant is that through paywalls, publishers can glean information about the user and use the data to help marketers understand consumer behavior and trends more comprehensively. In that moment – everyone wins.

Read more about the study here.

The other side of programmatic buying

November 21st, 2013

After earning reports were released last week the industry started to question what the real impact of programmatic buying will be on publishing. Interest escalated when the New York Times cited programmatic as having already affected their digital ad revenue decline for the quarter. There is no question that programmatic buying will influence publisher yields as direct sales to agency/client are always going to capture a higher CPM and often a larger deal size. But the impact that programmatic is having at the moment is primarily focused on national advertising campaigns. This in turn affects national magazines and national newspapers much more dramatically than metro or community papers.

Both metro and community papers for years have put their out of market inventory up for sale through third parties with the understanding that yields would be lower. When someone in Cleveland visits a newspaper website in Dallas to read more about the Cowboys they generate ad impressions for the Dallas paper. To maximize revenue, local properties make out of market inventory available for sale through third parties and exchanges where programmatic buying resides. For them, programmatic has been an important tool to generate passive revenue. In market traffic is something they monetize effectively through their local sales staff usually securing strong cpms in the process.

For national properties, the challenge is clearer and the resolutions are more complex. They require that publishers develop unique, first to market products that allow advertisers to do things they couldn’t do before. When these products work they create demand and command a premium. That’s why native is the word of the day. It allows marketers to explore a new frontier that is difficult to replicate in a programmatic buy. It’s also why pay wall models have begun to change. Technology like Google Polls creates a porous barrier to content and affords publishers a more user friendly toll booth that doesn’t deter traffic or engagement.

Programmatic isn’t going away and has already set its sights on broadcast as the next frontier.  In the interim, publishers will need to continue to develop pathways to remedy the immediate losses programmatic creates. So far the solutions they have created are those that the marketplace welcomes. If that continues, it will not only guard revenue but make the user dynamic on newspaper platforms even more compelling and important.

For more on this story,


College students still prefer print

November 11th, 2013

Re:fuel magazine recently released a study challenging conventional thought on media consumption. Their findings indicate 60% of all college students regularly read their college newspaper. Moreover, 60% prefer the printed version while only 16% prefer to receive their college news online or through other platforms like mobile. This stunning piece of research goes against so much of what major markets think about the 18-24 year old consumer. In fact, it warrants repeating: “60% of all consumers of college newspaper media prefer the printed version”!

It’s intriguing to view this trend during the same time Facebook has had to address a problem with teens. Last week they confirmed data that indicates how teens are quickly moving away from the social network and developing relationships with other social platforms/environments. Meanwhile, Re:fuel found  that students continue to enjoy picking up copies of the college newspaper in their student unions and dorm lounges. These social hubs of the college community are an environment where consumption of college news becomes more of a shared experience. Here college aged consumers digest and debate content in the moment with their peers in a catered social network. Here the topics addressed impact their daily lives in meaningful ways. Whether it is discussing the quality of cafeteria food or the cost of tuition the printed platform inspires a live exchange day to day between students. Demand for the printed product is so strong that the financial model is changing.  Traditionally free, college newspapers are now facing rising publishing costs which have prompted some schools to shift a portion of the burden away from advertisers to the students themselves. The Daily Illini now asks students to pay a media fee of $1.85. At UCal Irvine they approved a $3 fee. At Western State they just approved an annual $3 fee to support all media platforms at the school.  And UConn approved a $6 fee just this year.

College newspapers aren’t exempt from the challenges of general market properties. As colleges have faced budget cutbacks they generally are one of the first line items to take a hit. Moreover, for journalism majors, the ability to develop skills that can be better applied to emerging platforms like mobile are requiring that resources are employed to fully compliment the department’s capabilities.

However, at the end of the day the relationship that college students have with their newspapers is among the most powerful at play today. Their engagement is high, loyalty is unparalleled, and the opportunity to begin a dialogue with a consumer is extraordinary. Moreover – targeting will never be easier.  Once they graduate and leave the college campus, the simple act of locating them will prove harder than finding a marketing message that resonates with their demo. For advertisers – the time to act is now.