Three Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from the Newspaper Industry

In a time when the printing industry as a whole is struggling, newspapers have been getting creative with their marketing approaches. Ernie Smith narrates here some of the more inventive tactics being used by some of the world’s leading newspapers.

The nature of all industries is that they’ll have ups and downs, high points and low. At the moment, the newspaper industry is in a not-so-great place, and it’s faced distinct questions of relevance in recent years as a result. But rather than flailing, the industry has taken to coming up with clever marketing approaches. If you have members or a broader public or readers to serve, take notes from these successful campaigns from some of the popular overseas newspapers.

1. Emphasize the community

Last fall, Dallas Morning News, a midsize daily newspaper which serves the Dallas–Fort Worth area of Texas, leaned on pop-up events and community chalkboards to help promote the launch of its new website. The chalkboard element, which asked the public “What Matters?” was integrated into the paper’s advertising and content selections. The result, noted Dan Sherlock, the paper’s head of digital and brand marketing, turned what could have been a one-sided marketing campaign into something that seems poised to have a lasting impact.

Dan Sherlock continued to say that they took the handwriting samples from the chalkboards and that’s what they have integrated into the ads of Dallas Morning News throughout town to illustrate that this is a dialogue with their audience and community.

2. Focus on the pressure point

The Wall Street Journal focused on social media with a recent campaign, with the paper highlighting it as a point of competition and positioning the popular business paper as a way to break through the noise. The campaign, titled “Read Yourself Better,” involves both digital and traditional marketing channels, including television ads. The newspaper’s vice president of global marketing, Paul Plumeri Jr., said that that the goal is to reflect on the personal and individual role of independent thinking.

He added that the deeper theme here is media literacy and having people be able to sort out for themselves what’s good-quality information and what’s a distraction. That’s not a platform problem. It starts at the individual level.

3. Embrace new platforms

You might think that targeting a more traditional audience might be the ticket for newspapers trying to build authority in a news-challenged world. But The Washington Post has taken to the social network TikTok in recent months, building a large audience on the network, then using the channel to help drive subscriptions to the newspaper—by relying on the paper’s employees to bring some personality to the network.

Miki King, Chief Marketing Officer of The Washington Post said that the campaign creates a level of accessibility to the newsroom and the process of news gathering that is hard to capture in just reading a news story.

(Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now. This article originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. Copyright ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership (January 2020), Washington, DC.)

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