The Newspaper: Less a Medium than a Feeding Tube


Today I came across a banner ad run by the Newspaper Association of America, which seeks to reposition "the newspaper" -- a rolled-up, grayish mound of reading material that occasionally appears on the threshold of hotel room doors -- as "The Multi-Medium."

"Is newspaper old media or new media?" the ad asks, followed by an enigmatic, all-encompassing response: "Yes." Below the text is a woman whose newspaper appears to be feeding content to other media from a bunch of wires and cords. Cute.

Click-throughs guide the perplexed to Newspaper Media. With pretty imagery, plenty of data -- many of which are broken links -- and sentences that melodramatically start, "In a world where consumers are tuning out advertising...", the NAA hopes we'll start perceiving newspapers as less a stagnating medium than an abstract (but stable!) concept: "newspaper" isn't just where Gram finds the crossword; it is THE legit news source, offline and online (unless you're looking for data on why).

And the NAA can help you (yes, you!) advertise on both.

In defense of the NAA's position -- which could use some work, starting with those dead links -- print media isn't dying so very quickly. Newspaper readership grew 2.5 percent in the top 100 markets, according to a survey from earlier this year. And trusted newspaper brands increasingly dip into other so-called "new" media: mobile and internet, for a start. The New York Times even started embedding video.

See? Nobody's dying. Now go help Rupert Murdoch finance a new yacht.

by Angela Natividad    Sep-21-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Newspaper, Online, Strange   

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Angela, great post and style as usual but the newspaper stats are suspect. Print circ by itself -- that is, actual newspapers that people BUY -- is way down. "Readership" is a hogwash metric that inflates circulation by adding in web readers and "passalong" readers who, fiction has it, pick up your copy of the newspaper on the train, read it and pass to 2 or 3 other people. If you click through to the MRI study, the reasons sited for the supposed readership increase include more web readers and more people who supposedly read other people's newspapers.


I wish print well, but hiding the slippage in actual readers is a dangerous game and newspaper publishers should fess up. Advertisers who measure results are seeing the decline in calls per dollar spent, and that can't be hidden.

So newsprint publishers, good luck with your math!

Posted by: Ben Kunz on September 21, 2008 8:45 PM

Ben: Interesting observation. We used to do the same thing at my old web company: inflating the actual value of our ad metrics with this idea of WOM metrics: for every one click we got, we counted that "person" as two passalong mentions.

Was it Ben Franklin that said the rational mind can rationalize any acceptable perspective?

Posted by: Angela on September 22, 2008 11:50 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if print media is reaching the tail end of their readership mass exodus. At some point, they're bound to reach that plateau where their only customers are those who absolutely want a newspaper. For many, there are really no viable alternatives. Whether it's lack of cost-effective electronic options or just the lack of desire to read online.

At that point, Scripps can charge just about whatever they want because their loyal customers will pay it. With the daily paper costing $.50 - $.75, they have a long way to go before becoming cost prohibitive. Then, artificially inflating marketing metrics will be moot - except to their advertisers, of course.

Posted by: Keith Lauby on September 22, 2008 2:51 PM

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