Posted on | February 25, 2009 | No Comments
It once was easy (and appropriate) to chuckle at daily newspapers because they were arrogant and in denial for sooooo long, but now we realize that these important civic venues are a blink of an eye away from extinction. (It’s to the point where I’m worried not just because I grew up reading the Chron but because my 95-year-old uncle just passed away and I want to make sure his obit gets in the paper before the paper writes its own!).
So those of us born before the Vietnam conflict are losing a really lovely habit. That’s for another post. But the brands that are the Chronicle, the PI, et al are strong local brands. Sure they had an opportunity 10 years ago to leverage that online but they blew it. Water under the bridge.
It’s not too late. You can’t get local news and information from Yahoo or Google (unless they’re suckling the free-news teet of local news organizations).
So here’s the deal
Kill the print editions. Move the printing presses into a museum for our grandkids (make sure you have an ink exhibit where the kids can actually smell that wonderful smell).
Then get serious about moving online. Jimminy Christmas stop bringing the print paradigm to your site. FYI, memo to Hearst: Hire some kids a few blocks farther into SoMa from 5th and Market. They’re out of work and they know what they’re doing. You’ll be amazed what happens when you lower your average age from 56 to, say, 30 or 35.
Then charge for the news. Read Gordon Crovitz’s piece in The Wall Street Journal this week. “News Wants to be Expensive.” You have NOTHING to lose by monetizing your crown jewels now.
After the coming cuts, you’ll be a sliver of what The Chronicle used to be, but you have the brand and you can rebuild on it. Think Abercrombie & Fitch. (My mother bought my old man a fly rod and a shower head from there in the ’60s–we still use the shower head to this day! Those days are long gone, but the company reinvented itself as a distributor of breathtakingly ugly clothing but made millions in the process).
Next: Give away locally targeted social media stuff on your site for free (gosh maybe there’s even an advertising play there…you think?) Broad search advertising (i.e. Google) is a commodity business. Local search is where not only consumers find value but advertisers will pay dearly.
Every social media play that’s arisen in the past decade that has nibbled into your local lunch is still broad in scope–it has to be. But you, you’re local.
These are not rocket-scientist ideas. They’ve been bandied about for years, but you have few choices right now. As you ponder life without the printing press (you can write off the museum donation), here are two thinks to keep in mind:
1. Online, you have a highly engaged audience, sometimes commenting hundreds of times on even minor stories.
2. All profits today, like politics, are local.