3 Marketing Lessons From the Newspaper Industry

In a time when the industry as a whole is struggling, newspapers have been getting creative with their marketing approaches. Read on to see some of the more inventive tactics being used.

The nature of all industries is that they’ll have ups and downs, high points and low.

At the moment, the newspaper industry is in a not-so-great place, and it’s faced distinct questions of relevance in recent years as a result. But rather than flailing, the industry has taken to coming up with clever marketing approaches.

If you have members or a broader public to serve, take notes from these successful campaigns:

Emphasize the community. Last fall, the Dallas Morning News, a midsize daily newspaper, leaned on pop-up events and community chalkboards to help promote the launch of its new website. The chalkboard element, which asked the public “What Matters?,” was integrated into the paper’s advertising and content selections. The result, noted Dan Sherlock, the paper’s head of digital and brand marketing, turned what could have been a one-sided marketing campaign into something that seems poised to have a lasting impact. “We took the handwriting samples from the chalkboards and that’s what we integrated into our ads throughout town to illustrate that this is a dialogue with our audience, our community,” Sherlock told Editor & Publisher recently.

Focus on the pressure point. The Wall Street Journal focused on social media with a recent campaign, with the paper highlighting it as a point of competition and positioning the popular business paper as a way to break through the noise. The campaign, titled “Read Yourself Better,” involves both digital and traditional marketing channels, including television ads. In comments to Digiday, the paper’s vice president of global marketing, Paul Plumeri Jr., says that the goal is to reflect on the personal and individual role of independent thinking. “The deeper theme here is media literacy and having people be able to sort out for themselves what’s good-quality information and what’s a distraction,” Plumeri says. “That’s not a platform problem. It starts at the individual level.”

Embrace new platforms. You might think that targeting a more traditional audience might be the ticket for newspapers trying to build authority in a news-challenged world. But The Washington Post has taken to the social network TikTok in recent months, building a large audience on the network, then using the channel to help drive subscriptions to the newspaper—by relying on the paper’s employees to bring some personality to the network. “It creates a level of accessibility to the newsroom and the process of news gathering that is hard to capture in just reading a news story,” the Post’s chief marketing officer, Miki King, told Adweek.

A Wall Street Journal campaign aims to get readers thinking. (YouTube screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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