Monday, July 21, 2008

Community Coverage Up - What's It Mean for Local Businesses?

Today there's a story in the NYTimes, As Papers Struggle, News is Cut and Focus Turns Local, primarily reporting on a newly released study from Pew Research, The Changing Newsroom: Gains and Losses in Today's Papers.

Among other interesting tidbits, the study shows that 62% of a cross-section of American newspapers have increased community coverage.

One of Pew's key conclusions is, "Papers both large and small have reduced the space, resources and commitment devoted to a range of topics. At the top of that list, nearly two thirds of papers surveyed have cut back on foreign news, over half have trimmed national news and more than a third have reduced business coverage. In effect, America's newspapers are narrowing their reach and their ambitions and becoming niche reads."

So how does that play out as an ad vehicle for local businesses? Sadly, it doesn't much matter.

While newspapers fumble with content and formulas and business models, they are still locked in the past so far as an ad vehicle. The old model is, "We have lots of interesting content, which brings readers, which means any ad you put alongside that content will get eyeballs."

Well - the eyeballs are diminishing, the page size is shrinking, the content is not compelling, but the ads are still smished together on page after page.

Is any newspaper saying, "What can we do to so advertisers get better visibility? Are we tracking results our advertisers get and working on helping them get better results? Are we helping readers find ads that are of interest to them? Are we using all our media together to be sure that an ad buy with us becomes valuable content to our community? Is our content and our advertising working together to provide a valuable product?"

As far as I know, it's not happening.

I get the whole separation of advertising and journalists. Honest. But the whole model of how advertising fits into the changing face of the newsroom is one that demands exploration.

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