NNN Perspectives

The Dallas Morning News continues to innovate online

October 4th, 2013

One of the bigger debates online has centered on the concept of paywalls. Publishers across the content spectrum have long wrestled with how to best monetize their content in the digital world. The testing of paywall models has been most prevalent among print based brands. In both the magazine and newspaper space publishers have long relied on circulation revenue derived from single copy and subscription initiatives.  As display and mobile traffic have grown the interest in finding ways to build revenue beyond advertising has escalated as well. Paywalls have become a common device to do just that.

One of the first properties to step forward and test paywalls was The Dallas Morning News. This week they announced that they would be taking their paywall down and would move forward with a different model – one designed to meet the needs of all key constituents – edit, advertising, and of course the consumer.

Soon The Dallas Morning News will serve content to two different sites. One will be a free site that is accessible to the general public. The other will be a premium site where print as well as digital subscribers will enjoy exclusive access. There they will find content that is customized to the kind of stories they prefer. It will also include a loyalty program that offers special discounts on activities like the state fair and special exclusive access to DMN events. Arguably the biggest difference will be how populated each page is with advertising.

The intent is to limit the number ads served on the premium site, and to encourage those who do advertise to purse executions that are more customized and that enrich the total reader interface/experience. On the free site visitors will continue to receive the high caliber content they have become accustomed to and advertisers will continue to have a platform with scale.

To date, The Dallas Morning News has found that the current paywall didn’t generate enough subscription revenue and that most print subscribers liked having access to content on both platforms. This new two site approach is, in that sense, an evolution of the original model and one that is currently underway in Boston. If it works it may well pave the way to creating an industry standard.

Regardless, what the shift in Dallas demonstrates is that some of the most daring innovation on the web continues to takes place within the realm of newspaper brands. There, we continue to see publishers expand the boundaries of what seems possible by maintaining their own think tanks and idea labs.  As history has shown, when newspapercracks the code it sets standards that apply beyond their own industry.  With premium content on the web, the latest development in Dallas seems to indicate that a new standard is not that far out of reach.

For more on this story click here.

Major League Baseball says goodbye to a legend through newspaper

October 2nd, 2013

The NNN in partnership with the NAA recently commissioned a research study designed to measure the impact of sports editorial within newspaper platforms – as well as the power of the consumer that it attracts. The study found that newspaper sports sections have one of the strongest and most trusted voices among all media. Moreover, the consumer who turns to sports news through this platform is fiercely loyal and resides within a demographic that appeals to most major marketers. For more on the study click here:

So -when Major League Baseball (MLB) was looking for a powerful way to bid farewell to one of the finest to ever play the game – newspaper – emerged as their preferred platform.  Mariano Rivera is someone that baseball not only admires – it celebrates.  Beyond the records he set, Mariano embodies everything that we look for in a role model,- transcending the game of baseball itself. In turn identifying the best way to acknowledge his contribution to the game was critical. The final product that MLB decided upon was as classy as the man it honors.

Last week, MLB ran the above ad in USA Today, The Daily News, The New York Post, and Metro NY. The salute from MLB could have taken the form of a big splashy video spot on ESPN, Fox Sports, or something that aired during the NFL’s week four medley. It could have been a big digital and/or social initiative on Yahoo. It wasn’t. The sendoff was as classy and sophisticated as the man it celebrates. Moreover, it appears on a platform that delivers the highest concentration of loyal sports fans.

Newspaper offered MLB the perfect canvas, the most efficient delivery system and a targeted audience with scale. At a moment when news coverage of Rivera’s retirement was at full throttle, newspaper found a way to cut through the clutter and provide a hero with a proper good bye.

Newspaper stocks don’t tell the same old story

September 27th, 2013

Major newspaper companies like The Washington Post, News York Times and Gannet all are beating the S&P 500 index by a wide margin this year.  These anchor companies in an industry that is purported to be ‘dying’ are sending out a positive message for investors of today and tomorrow.

And that’s the key, looking to tomorrow for newspapers.  The past 10 years have shown decreasing circulation and a struggling industry. However, with heavyweight investors like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet buying up over 60 newspapers in the past year, transformation for the business looks to be filled with more opportunities than threats.

Here are some keys to tomorrow’s success:

  • Be more than print. The Washington Post diversifies its income through several additional channels including broadcast and Kaplan education.
  • Go digital.  Just in the last quarter, The New York Times has shown a 40% YOY increase in paid digital subscriptions, increasing its total circulation by 5%.
  • Diversify.  Maximize and extend the strong community connection by building multiple touchpoints for newspaper brands.

Newspapers have the opportunity to push ahead and lead news consumption in the digital age by building brand connections with this generation and the next across platforms and devices.

Read what the Motley Fool has to say about newspaper stocks being the big thing this year.

Newspapers Work Best to Deliver Widespread Messaging Quickly

September 20th, 2013

By now, most of America has heard about the position Howard Schultz has taken with regard to firearms and his company.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue, what’s impossible to ignore is how newspaper got the word out quickly, effectively and wide.

Yesterday, Starbucks ran ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Readers found an open letter from Schultz where he took a position on the issue of gun control and asked Starbucks patrons to refrain from bringing firearms into his stores – even within states where open carry is permitted.

This isn’t the first time that Schultz has used print newspapers as a bully pulpit. He ran ads after 9/11 and again last year to advance his position on job creation. When you look at the numbers, his strategy is incredibly effective. A Google search of “Howard Schultz Starbuck Guns” delivers almost 4 million results. Through one ad in four newspapers Schultz dominated the narrative for the day; some would argue the week.

This speaks volumes to the power of print and how provocative advertising can quickly make an impact with the newspaper  platform. The discourse this ad placement created will continue beyond the Sunday morning news programs and likely become a reference point for debate on the issue moving forward.  There’s little chance that a banner ad or a broadcast spot could make as much noise as quickly.

When it’s time to get the word out – there’s simply no better delivery system than newspaper. It simply works!

Read more here in AdAge.

Half of all mobile news consumers favor newspaper apps

September 11th, 2013

The Reynolds Journalism Institute just released their Digital Publishing Alliance Mobile News Consumption Survey which reflects what we have all known for some time now – newspaper apps in the mobile space are among the most popular. In fact, almost half of those consumers who use their smartphone to access the news download newspaper apps. That tops television, radio, or even general news services demonstrating once again that newspaper brands remain among the most powerful and trusted in the world.

It’s a confirmation of the fact that newspaper brands act as daily companions to the user. Throughout the day they find a wide range of information that helps them make better decisions, and lead more productive and enjoyable lives.

While tablet consumption of newspapers is strong, it’s smartphone usage that’s most impressive. There the case is made for how powerful these brands are and how they operate as part of a person’s daily life – always by their side. For marketers this creates extraordinary opportunities. More than ever, the mobile newspaper platform will allow major advertisers to employ targeted solutions that provide in the moment user engagement. This focused approach can be built with a scale and symmetry of content and design that delivers meaningful results for marketers in the moment.

The dynamic between newspaper editors and their readers has always been strong. As technology has advanced that connection has only become amplified  Those major market brands that place messaging within this exchange as it unfolds are the ones that will earn an edge within their competitive set and build a consumer relationship that can last a lifetime. There’s no question about it.

For more on this story, read Lucia Moses piece in Adweek here.

Jeff Bezos makes his first trip to The Washington Post today

September 3rd, 2013

In his first interview since the news broke that he had purchased The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos is offering insight into what his plan will be moving forward. The exchange conducted by phone from Seattle over the weekend has generated a lot of excitement from the Post staff, the industry, and the ad marketplace.

While he is not yet prepared to offer a concise and detailed game plan for what he intends to do with the brand, the thoughts he shared provide awareness into what the next few months will look like. “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.”

In the coming days Bezos is meeting with senior executives in an effort to begin to better understand the newspaper business. Bezos intends to offer a point of view as discussions take place on how the business model should evolve but at the moment his biggest contribution, as he says, will be the breathing room he gives the brand financially as they develop their course.

For more on what’s happening at The Post this week, click here.

Going head to head in Long Beach

August 20th, 2013

Over the past few weeks there has been a sizeable amount of attention placed on the newspaper industry. Granted, newspapers have certainly received their fair share of coverage over recent  years as their business challenges have grown.  What is different now is that the attention being paid to the medium has been largely positive. With the sale of both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post major media pundits and advertisers began to once again debate the future of newspaper. But this time it was impossible to ignore the inherent power of newspaper brands and the crucial role they play within the communities they serve. Where the conversation had centered before on how much longer most brands could hold on, current conversations are focused on where they could go, how they could evolve, and at times the discourse even moved to how newspaper could lead. It’s been a terrific moment for the industry.

This week the narrative continues. In Long Beach California, Freedom Communications, publisher of The Orange County Register, launched a brand new property. The Long Beach Register debuted yesterday and is positioned directly against The MediaNews Group’s Long Beach Press-Telegram. Suddenly this Los Angeles area market is a two newspaper town and the healthy competition that emerged has directed conversation away from major metro properties to community news services.   There are a lot of people making big bets on newspaper brands, and in the case of Freedom it’s for good reason.

Eric Spitz, president of Freedom wrote an op-ed piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal and walks the reader through his over-arching business strategy. Freedom has shifted a good amount of the financial burden of reporting the news from the advertiser to the reader.  This change helps demonstrate a sense of reader wantedness and better supports its value proposition to advertisers. The strategy is working. Circulation and ad revenue have both grown and this has helped support the sizeable investment Freedom made in staff, product development, and launches.

If their investment in Long Beach continues to succeed, it will serve as another a testament to the power of the platform. A category only exists when there is more than one player in the space and for anyone involved in the newspaper business, it is great to watch a new brand enter the market. If both papers thrive as a result of the added attention the market receives then it’s good for the medium everywhere.  The conversation can then transition from how these newspaper brands impact and serve their local markets to how advertisers can benefit from put their messaging in the middle of that important exchange.

Read what the local LA tv station is saying about the launch.

Patch can’t patch holes in their business model

August 16th, 2013

Last week the buzz surrounding AOL’s announcement to close or sell 400 out of 900 Patch Network owned and operated sites received lots of media attention, but much of it was focused on the wrong thing. There’s no question that the narrative captured on tape by a staffer is something most people don’t hear every day on business conference call, thus confirming that Patch has a “unique” culture. But the core issue raised by this announcement surrounds the viability of the Patch business model. When over 40 percent of your market profile goes away, it leads the average observer to question whether your model works and moreover whether it ever had the kind of footing that could one day deliver steady and substantial revenue.

When it debuted Patch seemed novel in concept. It would offer a national platform with a symmetrical design and deliver consumers first rate national content and up to the minute news within their community. The visionary design powered by an AOL engine would attract more advertisers, both local and national. The promise of Patch seemed pretty terrific! The problem is that it just never worked.  Each site had a dedicated ad seller and a dedicated editorial director. That’s it – two people per property.  This anemic staff just couldn’t keep up with the need to populate sites with accurate, timely and compelling information; as that started to lag the user experience suffered and ad sales began to wane.

Patch competes with local newspaper brands. With larger staffs that have real journalistic chops and a more committed understanding of the communities that they serve, newspaper brands are in a whole other league. The business side of newspaper operations is managed accordingly and relies on multiple revenue streams for survival. The sheer power, authority, and credible voice that newspaper brands have established were never going to be threatened by a Patch like product because the infrastructure that newspaper has built is terrifically difficult to replicate.

So the news last week was an indirect endorsement of newspaper brands reinforcing the vital role they play in the lives of their readers. For many they operate as a daily companion, offering a healthy diet of news and information that help people lead better lives. As newspaper brands expand into other platforms, the appeal of a tech based asset like Patch begins to wane and we get back to the most significant piece of the equation – content. You can’t just patch the holes in AOL’s game plan. To compete, requires a better business model.

See what Ad Age is saying about the recent downsizing.

Washington Post is Billionaire’s Baby

August 6th, 2013

As you may have already heard, Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post yesterday for $250 million dollars. So to the good people working at the Washington Post, what does this mean? With the “changes” that Bezos hopes to make, he will be taking what is already a highly respected and authoritative voice in news and expand its voice into platforms that are highly trackable and cater to the reader’s habits and interests.

Bezos will not “be leading the Washington Post day-to-day…the Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I.” However, if Bezos carries over the success principles that he’s had in his main enterprise Amazon.com, the Washington Post will have many exciting new chapters to come.

Read more here.

Boston Globe Utilizes Twitter as a Microblog

July 18th, 2013

Keeping true to its award winning journalism while adapting to the way readers consume information, the Boston Globe was in constant dialog with its readers during the pivotal events following the Boston Marathon bombings.  With second to second information updates, journalists updated their Twitter feed virtually as quickly as the events unfolded. In the days of and following the bombing, the impact of @BostonGlobe skyrocketed over regular tweet volume tenfold with over 120,000 mentions on 4/15 and 4/20.

For more stats, read here.