now you're good
Archive for the ‘Traditional Media’ Category
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
By Adam Ward
Something interesting is happening in the newspaper business. These days when people talk about the influence that online content and advertising exerts on newspapers, they focus on the negative aspects, which are plenty. But nobody seems to be talking about the online attention newspapers are getting for a markedly offline product: inserts.
Inserts are those slick advertisements that slide out and scatter across your floor when you open your paper. Sunday inserts often have more pages than the newsprint does. Newspapers like inserts because A) they don’t affect the layout, size and production of the paper (the advertisers pre-print inserts and ship them to the newspaper’s press facility, where inserting machines stack them neatly together and slide them into the news pages as they come down the conveyor belt), B) they get to charge per 1,000 copies inserted and C) they don’t care about the mess they make for the delivery boys and girls trying to put elastics around them, or for that matter, the readers.
For readers of the newspaper, inserts are a slight annoyance that must be dumped in the recycling bin along with the Travel (or in my case, Sports) section that will never be read. Readers may look at an insert if it catches their eyes, just like they do with ads on the pages of the paper itself. But for the most part, readers subscribe to the paper to read the news. A reader would never have multiple subscriptions to the same newspaper, because once news is read, it is old news, even if seen on a fresh sheet.
But for shoppers, a newspaper subscription may not be about the news at all. For shoppers, Sunday inserts are a goldmine. And if shoppers can get a good deal on one can of beans from an insert, they can get the same good deal on two cans if they have two identical inserts. And if a shopper normally eats five cans of beans each week, it may be cheaper to get discounts on five cans by buying five subscriptions to the same newspaper than it is to pay for all those subscriptions.
So buying multiple subscriptions sounds crazy, but that is exactly what is happening. Walk around your neighborhood some Sunday morning and look at your neighbors’ driveways. Many won’t have a newspaper at all, but I’ll bet you’ll see some that have up to eight copies of the same paper lying there. Congratulations, you’ve found a shopper. More precisely, you’ve found a couponer.
While there is nothing new about shoppers, inserts or newspapers, multiple news subscriptions does seem to be a new practice. And for that, newspapers have the Internet to thank. Specifically, they have bloggers to thank. Yes, the same people that are competing with newspapers for advertising dollars are helping them increase their circulations.
One silver lining of the sluggish economy has been the explosion of coupon websites and mommy blogs, many of which are making out quite nicely as affiliate marketers. Consumers are flocking to these sites to get deals on everyday items because they can’t afford to pay full price for anything anymore. And what they are finding is that many of the best deals (particularly on grocery items that people more or less have to buy week in and week out) come from coupons in the Sunday paper. Some coupon blogs even list all the deals you’ll find in the paper each week. And whereas many online coupons can be printed just once (making shoppers grumble when they find out too late that their toner has run out), there is nothing stopping a shopper from using two insert coupons on two of the same items.
I’m somewhat fascinated by this. Shoppers are going online to find deals. In an effort to provide information on deals wherever they can be found, bloggers are encouraging shoppers to buy multiple newspaper subscriptions (because ironically, like newspapers, the bloggers are trying to build readership on their sites by providing accurate, quality content). Shoppers are following the bloggers’ advice, which increases newspaper circulation, which newspapers can then use to attract quality advertisers. Newspapers are showing that they are still an effective vehicle for delivering advertiser messages straight to shoppers.
Newspapers are fond of touting both subscription numbers and readership. The conventional wisdom is that three people will read the same newspaper subscribed to by one person. I wonder how many shoppers buying multiple subscriptions throw a wrench in that metric. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters, since subscription and readership numbers are used for attracting advertisers (and justifying ad rates); and if people are buying multiple newspapers because they are planning on buying more products, I don’t think advertisers will have a problem with that.
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
By Adam Ward
There is a blog post by Janet Meiners Thaeler called Google Suggest & Your Reputation that took me back to Journalism 101 in college. As budding reporters, we learned the difference between public figures (e.g. politicians) and private citizens. We learned that the press was almost always protected against writing something about public figures in the paper (even if it turned out to be false), but we had to be careful about what we said—and why—about private citizens (even if it was true). Writing a damaging story about a private person for no apparent reason was cause for a lawsuit. The underlying reason for all that was privacy, and the unspoken need to protect the reputation of the average person. If the mayor is having an affair, it is fair game to report it. But don’t you dare write about the Mr. Nobody down the street having an affair, unless he does something newsworthy and the affair is applicable to the story.
Thaeler writes that a colleague of hers was denied an interview after the interviewee did a Google search for her colleague. Right or wrong, accurate or correct, information picked up from the Internet is influencing our decisions. And we don’t always have control over it.
In the pre-Internet age, someone could choose to remain a private person. The reason why politicians weren’t protected as well against libel and slander is because they chose to put themselves into the limelight, where privacy doesn’t exist. Now it appears that privacy doesn’t exist for the average Joe, either. Thaeler quotes the inventor of the cell phone saying, “Sorry, privacy is a thing of the past.” I certainly hope not.
As far as reputation goes, I know I can’t control what others say about me online, just like I can’t control what people say about me offline. Unfortunately, online commentary stays there forever. All I can do is control what I do and say online, which is why I recently deactivated my Facebook account. I felt like I no longer had control.
That takes me back to college. With college students today caring less about the information they put online than previous generations, I wonder what professors in Journalism 101, or Media Ethics are teaching today, and whether it is falling on deaf ears.
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
By Adam Ward
A couple of weeks ago I attended a benefit dinner for the Daily Utah Chronicle. This is an annual event where journalism veterans mingle with University of Utah student journalists and raise some money for scholarships.
The guest speaker that evening talked a lot about the demise of traditional media. He approached the topic from the business side of media, particularly newspapers, and how the old business model that traditional media companies are still clinging to don’t work. This was not new information to those in attendance, most of whom come from the editorial side of the media, not the business side.
I kept waiting for the speaker to offer some solutions, but he essentially ended by saying he didn’t have any, but he hoped the students there in attendance would figure it out.
That got me thinking about what the students would say if they had been standing behind the microphone. They have clearly made a conscious decision to learn the craft of journalism, knowing that the industry associated with journalism is having a tough time. I don’t know what those students were thinking during the speech that evening, but I admire them for choosing their paths, despite such seeming opposition.
When I was a journalism student many years ago, I often had people ask me why I chose that field, telling me reporters 1) don’t make much money and 2) are disliked almost as much as lawyers. But as I look back on my career, I’m amazed at how well my journalistic training has served me. So for all the naysayers out there, I’m writing this post in defense of journalism.
Good Writing Never Hurts
In an age where college students write term papers the same way they text their friends, communication seems to be on its way to becoming a lost art. At least communication where the implied meaning is clear. Journalists are taught to write without ambiguity. I would love it if everyone I did business with wrote clear, concise, complete emails to me so I don’t have to spend time trying to interpret their meanings.
We live in an era where good writing skills are arguably more important than ever. Between email, blogs, text messages and Facebook, people as a whole are writing more than ever before. In fact, I would guess many people communicate more through writing each day than through speaking. But just because people are writing more doesn’t mean they are writing better. Journalists are, not surprisingly, excellent writers.
Journalists are Fanatic Fact-Checkers
Just being a good writer isn’t enough. With so much information available to us through modern media channels, it becomes increasingly harder to filter out the junk. Just because you read it on the Internet, do you really believe it? I’ll bet you’ve found completely differing opinions from “gurus” on the web, right?
Journalists are trained to double-check their facts and sources. Their reputations and livelihood depend on it. And as a side benefit, that training is fully transferable. Not all journalists write for newspapers. Think of how the world would improve if the technical writers who write documentation were as diligent in checking their facts as news reporters were, or how we’d be able to trust marketing campaigns if we knew they were written by trained journalists.
Without Content You Have Nothing
Whether new media or traditional media, the business side of any media company relies on its product, and its product is content. Although content can be video, podcasts, radio, etc., someone still had to write that content. So without talented writers, those companies would have no content. It goes without saying, then, that without training the next generation of writers and journalists, the quality of that content goes down the tubes. And if your content is not worth anything, how can you monetize it?
And it isn’t just the media companies that rely on writing for content. Even businesses that sell tangible products still have to do a lot of writing in the process. That’s why MBA programs require students to take a business writing class. In my responsibilities as a non-journalist, I’ve written software documentation, marketing brochures, video scripts, business contracts, website copy, product descriptions, and more (like this blog).
We Live in a Democracy
Last, I’d like to point out probably the biggest defense of journalists, and why it is so important for young journalists to learn the trade. Regardless of the medium used, we will always have a need for journalists. Our very democracy hinges on it. Most politicians don’t like reporters. And for good reason. If we as a citizenry don’t know what they are up to, they have little reason to keep our best interests in mind. And without committed journalists on the front lines holding the politicians’ feet to the fire, tirelessly fact-checking their stories and letting us know what’s going on in the world, nation and our communities, we would be clueless.
So I want to thank and encourage all the journalism students out there for learning their craft. Whether they end up using their skills in a newsroom or in a boardroom, the world will be a better place.
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Although I have been advocating for traditional media organizations to adopt performance marketing into their online ad space, I’d like to add this caveat: know what ads are running on your sites, and steer clear of ads that don’t belong there. Ad managers use discretion when placing ads on TV, radio and in print. So why do they give carte blanche to affiliate managers to run questionable ads on their websites?
Case in point: What’s with USA Today, MSNBC and even my local daily, the Salt Lake Tribune, doing running blatantly bogus ads touting people in my area working from home and making lots of money? I expect to see offers like that scrawled on poster paper and stapled to telephone poles, but on legitimate news sites? Do those news organizations realize how much that cheapens their content?
Check out the landing page of one of the banner ads from these sites, which was placed by the Pulse 360 network. The banner ad itself is dubious, but the landing page is downright sleazy.
Notice how the whole website is set up like it is a legitimate news organization. They’ve copied the format that newspapers use in reporting stories. They try to make the content look local by entering the name of city where your IP address originates from (in my case, Roy, Utah). Your page might look different, but mine says that Mike Richardson from Roy, Utah, went from his lost job as a “boring account rep for a manufacturing company” to making “$5,000 a month at home” in four weeks. Unlike real news stories that mention a person’s full name the first time, then subsequently refer to the person by just the last name, this “story” refers to Mike by his full name in each reference. That’s another sign that some non-human is populating elements into this story.
This site tries to look like other news sites by having icons you can click if you like it, dislike it, or want to share it on reddit, digg, facebook, etc. Only they are just for show. You can’t actually click any of them. And all those favorable comments by readers at the bottom of the “story” that rave how similar their experiences were making loads of money doing nothing? All bogus. Yes, it looks like you can add a comment, but of course you can’t.
Two other things I thought were frustratingly brilliant in their deception was that 1) in the “story” it discounts get-rich-quick schemes (inferring that we all know those don’t work, so this must somehow not be one of those) and 2) how it has advertising links along the side. The ads seem to lend credibility to the “story,” all while linking to other bogus offers.
If you actually read the disclaimer (yes, the small print nobody reads) at the bottom of the page, you’ll learn what those warning bells in your head were telling you: that Mike Richardson is not a real person, and you’re more likely to end up in the hole instead of making money.
One can argue that if people are dumb enough to fall for these types of gimmicks, that’s their fault, not the fault of the website that drove those people there. But when I see those types of ads next to real news content of legitimate news organizations, I can’t help but question the integrity of the story.
There are plenty of legitimate networks pushing legitimate offers to web publishers. So my advice to traditional news organizations is this: steer clear of the bottom feeders and make sure your affiliate ads don’t drag you into the muck. Your readers will appreciate you for it.