Newspapers have learned that in order to stay ahead in the industry they need to evolve and be innovative. This lesson is being practiced at the Buffalo (N.Y.) News, where a rebranding effort recently rolled out in conjunction with a new advertising campaign featuring its mobile and tablet apps.

Starting on Oct. 1, full access to buffalonews.com and its digital products now require a subscription. The home page, section fronts, and 10 stories per month are available without a fee, and current subscribers are able to register for digital content without any additional cost. New subscribers who opt-in under automatic renewal can sign-up for a digital-access-only plan for $2.49 a week.

News president Warren Colville said the company started to look into charging for digital content a year ago. They hired New Jersey marketing firm American Opinion Research to evaluate the pros and cons of the plan.

Colville described the paper’s new digital model as a “conservative approach.” In addition to its new subscription fees, the paper also updated its mobile app for Android and iPhone, and developed a tablet app for the Kindle Fire and iPad. An e-edition of the paper also launched late last month. Colville said he has not seen much pushback about the new fees, since the paper let readers know of the plans far in advance and current subscribers do not have to pay anything extra for digital. He said 50,000 of the paper’s current subscribers have registered so far, and the paper expects 19,000 new subscribers to sign-up for digital only access.

The new subscription model coincides with the News’ rebranding campaign. Working with advertising agency Eric Mower and Associates, Colville said an aggressive approach was created to market the company’s new image. According to the News, the campaign included 2,500 television commercials, six billboards, 135 moving billboards on buses, and thousands of radio spots. Full-page ads also rotated heavily inside the paper.

“It lets people know that what you get inside the Buffalo News, you can’t get anywhere else,” Colville said. “It shows we’re not hunkering down — we have big plans for the future.”

The rebranding features a new logo centered on two letters: BN (the paper’s initials). Billboards are splattered with words like “BN-riched,” BN-formed” and the sports-centric, “BN-in the game.” Colville said a second portion of the rebranding effort highlights reporters interviewing well-known figures such as Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson in TV spots, and the only way to finish the segment is to get it from the News.

“Our theme is to build on our brand and have it be easily recognized,” Colville said. “And hit on it over and over, ‘Nowhere but the Buffalo News.’”

Not only is the campaign creating buzz around the community, but it has also re-energized the newsroom. Colville said he purchased 10,000 T-shirts for News employees with “BN-inspired” printed on it. He called employees “BN-ambassadors” because they are out spreading the news about the campaign.

“I’ve received nice notes saying they’re so excited about what we’re doing as a company,” Colville said. “It’s worth a million dollars for me to see them as ambassadors.”

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