Are Newspapers Still Relevant?

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Newspapers and New MediaI was recently at a presentation by the Publisher of the San Diego Union Tribune, Ed Moss. His speech was good – he definitely has a good business approach and has been successful in turning around the struggling paper. As he shared the strategies of the company, he mentioned the way that the Union Tribune is differentiating itself is through local content.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

San Diegans love to hear about what’s going on at Camp Pendleton, the latest news about the Chargers, and how the weather might not quite get to 74 degrees and sunny today. 🙂

Mr Moss also talked about the newspaper’s approach to new technologies multiple times, including the iPad. It seems obvious that the UT would be investigating ways to deliver information in a more efficient timely manner. In this way Mr. Moss was expecting to expand the reach of the daily news beyond the baby boomers. Nothing exciting there – and good news for iPad users.

But, I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t mention changing the content for the “under 40″ demographic? I jokingly mentioned to my friend sitting next to me that the UT will have to reduce the articles to 140 characters each to get the younger crowd to read the news. In thinking about that some more, it seems like less of a joke.

What DO the ‘younger generation’ want out of a news service?

The latest escapades of Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen? Access to early ticket sales for Justin Bieber? Short descriptions of Apple’s latest gadget? That’s what google stats would tell you… but I’m not sure that we should underestimate this important demographic.

Surely the millenials want to know what’s going on in the community/country/world too, right?

I am sure that we need to not only rethink the way in which information is shared to all groups within the community, but also the actual content that is shared. True, people are deluged with information today from all angles, and it’s tough to break through the noise. But I believe that valuable, relevant information will never become obsolete. The key word here is relevant.

The important thing to reach the younger generation (gosh I’m sounding like my father) is to understand them. What is it they want? What information is going to make a difference to their day, every day? That’s for the UT to research. (And I don’t think it’s the coupon-laden Sunday newspaper.)

So what’s the takeaway for today’s savvy marketer? It’s an old adage, but a goodie:

Content is king.

(Corollary: RELEVANT content is emperor!)
(Corollory Two: The delivery mechanism is always subservient to the message.)

For the Union Tribune, great job on improving the profitability of the organization and evolving with your technology investigation. But please make sure that the 170+ people in your newsroom are focused on the “what” as well as the “how”… especially as you start the evolution to mobile distribution.

  1. Jim Tenuto
    Jim Tenuto05-05-2011

    My 30-year old son, a talented writer in his own right (heis the content manager for an Internet-based legal services company), is an avid newspaper reader. But what does he truly read?

    The “three dot” columnist, lyrical sportswriters, and the crossword puzzle.

    Frankly, I find myself getting through the paper more quickly these days, as most of the front page is old news.

    Heard Ed Moss speak when he first came into town. I agree with your oberservations. A transition to e-readers will only succeed if content and graphics change.

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