Savage Tactics: Print v. Digital

Piles of print.

Dateline, January 18, 2011

The Economist, in its January 8th issue, published a comparison of strategy amongst Great Britain’s many and disparate newspaper publishers.

Among those mentioned are behemoth News Corporation, which it seems prefers not to have to dabble in online ads, as well as a startup Рyep, you read right Рa startup newspaper. According to the article, the trimmed down version of the Independent, called simply, i, decided to give it away (at 20 pence per issue) and forgo the complications of a web presence. Their hope is that young people, having grown tired of the web and television, will grow increasingly cozy with the papers of yore, especially at such a price.

To the chagrin of many, News Corporations’ British mast heads – the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World – will all move behind a paywall, and a pricey one at that, at three pounds ten per week (about $5 USD). Allegedly, News Corporation worries not about attrition. Though only 14% of existing readers have signed on, and only 1% of existing sign-ups represent new business, Murdock & Co. believe that advertising dollars are unreliable and fickle, thus a strategy prone to waste, and that the subscription to their titles will establish itself in the consumer’s mind as something that is more of a hassle to cancel than not, like a cable bill.

Taking a different strategic tack is the executive board at the Daily Mail. The Mail, though not nearly as dreadfully serious as the average newspaper, finds great solace – and revenue – in its digital advertising and content placement strategy. According to the article, based on page visits and external linking, the paper’s site now competes outside of the newspaper racket, piling up stats in line with portals like Yahoo! and MSN.com, and advertising revenue to match.

It seems the majority of Brits like a healthy dose of advertising with their celeb-gossip, local crime and, as The Economist puts it, “attractive women in swimsuits”. Take that, Gawker. But alas, Gawker is run by a Brit too. And a successful one at that.

It’s now (if it ever wasn’t) apparent that the winds of digital change blow fast. And it seems newspapers, in varying degrees of acceptance, are realizing that they’ll want to do something about it.

The venerable and agile Economist concludes by rightly pointing out that, Wikileaks or no Wikileaks, while the Guardian once stood atop the digital heap by embracing a large, free web-version of all of its content, it now lags behind its competitors, and has been out-punched mid match by the Mail. Could the old adage that a little bit of skin goes a long way be applicable here?

Not fundamentally. The only real lesson here is that digital continues to move quite quickly.

A living, breathing engagement.

Thanks to Apple, we all know that there is a new app every minute, and this is no longer a medium where one can build a strategy, implement it, then sit back and just watch it work. Furthermore, ads are not merely ads anymore. They can live, breathe, and integrate with a website, not to mention the engagement opportunities that spring up when mobile, social and digital out of home are woven into your digital fabric.

It’s a fast-moving, hard-knock life in the news business these days. If an organization wishes to remain at the vanguard, it should be agile and constantly willing to adapt. And in the interest of doing what it’s good at, it should consider partnering up with a kick-ass digital agency. Soon.

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