Newspapers got in trouble because they didn’t protect their turf. No, I’m not talking about news. I’m talking about want ads, job listings, real estate ads and automative – areas that generated the majority of the profits at newspapers.
They didn’t do such a great a job protecting their news either. It shouldn’t have taken them so long to understand that the Internet was a continuous medium, not a once-a-day one. But that’s not really the heart of the problem, which was the decline of all those things that financed the news.
The good news is that it’s not too late for existing papers with a strong brand presence in their markets. The bad news is that it’s very late in the game, immediate action is necessary and the outcome is not certain.
The surviving newspapers still have an incredibly powerful local brand. It doesn’t matter whether people even still subscribe. They know the name. Newspapers need to use this residual brand power to get themselves back in the commerce game.
There are many ways they could leverage their local presence and brand. One that comes easily to mind is a local merchants and services marketplace. If the Boston Globe (my local paper) advertised that any merchant could have a free account and storefront, who wouldn’t take them up on it? The power of the brand is such that every store, every service business and anyone with anything to sell is going to take advantage. Who would dare take the chance of not being there, particularly when the price was zero?
Obviously the payoff comes in two ways. One is to sell upgrades from the free service and the other is to offer 100% local search as the ONLY way to access this extensive local database. And of course sell search ads around the search.
This is just one example. Newspapers need to look at all the markets they lost and see how their brand and local presence can get them back in the game.