Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What? A newspaper that is actually INCREASING circulation?

by Don Keith

Regular followers of this rant know that I have criticized long and hard the silly moves being made by traditional newspapers (and other media, for that matter!) to attempt to overcome major technologically-driven changes in how people consume media.  My favorite target is The Birmingham News, which continues to shoot themselves in the foot as they attempt to cut their way to prosperity and rely on a clunky, cluttered web presence (www.al.com) to meet the shift in users to a digital platform.

Well, in a recent blog post, media researcher and all-around bright guy Mark Ramsey takes a look at one newspaper that seems to be doing it right.  And it is an entity that many said was doomed, partly because it was a printed newspaper and partly because it was a hybrid local/"national? publication.  But mostly because a digital guy bought the dying paper and would surely run it the rest of the way into the ground.

Read on:

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been the owner of the Washington Post for a year, and while his experiment at the Post remains a work in progress, the brand is experiencing the highest digital traffic in its history and is even modestly increasing print circulation in a time when most newspaper brands are continuing to suffer steep declines.

1. Bezos is playing for the long term
Bezos is famous for putting long-term growth ahead of short-term financial pressures. Indeed, there would be no Amazon.com without this thinking style.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore the day-to-day financial demands of your balance sheet and your stockholders. But it does mean that you can’t create a long-term future in disruptive times one financial quarter and one round of layoffs at a time. It’s cliché, but true: You can’t shrink your way to success.

2. Bezos is investing in the brand
Bezos has added some 60 new editorial staff at a time when newspapers across the country are only cutting staff.  If you want someone to pay attention to your brand – to care about it – you had better give them more to pay attention to and care about, not less.

3. Bezos has launched a number of innovative initiatives
GigaOm writes:  [Editor-in-chief Marty] Baron gave credit to PostEverything and Storyline, as well as growth at other Post features and blogs such as Wonkblog (whose creator Ezra Klein left to start what eventually became Vox), along with new ventures such as The Morning Mix, and verticals devoted to health, science and sports.

4. Bezos has put great emphasis on digital, both strategically and in terms of hiring
Many of the new editorial hires were specifically for the brand’s digital platform.
Editor-in-chief Baron, from Capital New York:  In order to achieve those goals, we think we need to hire people who are fundamentally digital. They’ve sort of grown up in the digital world, they’ve written primarily for digital platforms, and that’s what we’ve been looking for. Our view is that the web is a different medium, and it calls for a different form of storytelling. These are all people who are experienced in that form of storytelling, and in many instances it’s second-nature for them, and that’s their primary form of expression. We need more of that, we want more of that.

So the Bezos recipe sums up to this: Focus on the long term, invest in the brand, take risks by experimenting with new initiatives, and see the world the way today’s digital consumer sees her world.


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