Shoptalk/Commentary: Think Integration, Not Separation

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By: Gary Randazzo

Having come from the world of media management, I have a great interest in how media companies are coping with new technologies and developing a business model that creates value and profits.

As I look at the media responses to new Internet-based alternatives, I find that media respond to new technologies in a silo fashion. That is, they tend to create products that stand by themselves but can be bundled.

It seems that a more studied, strategic approach to new product development is in order.

Consider the classified section of the newspaper. The Internet’s ability to allow consumers to search quickly to find products that match their needs has made the newspaper-classified section seemingly obsolete. Specialized search engines quickly decimated the merchandise, employment, auto, and real estate listings.

Over the past few years there have been new versions of Internet classified search engines. In fact, so many have been introduced it is difficult for advertisers to decide which to use.

So why didn’t newspapers create the Internet alternative? The simple answer is they tried. They developed websites that offered the same attributes as the competition, but the innovators on the Internet had already made headway in attracting an audience, a large number of whom were not newspaper readers.

The newspapers tried to preserve their successful model and simultaneously attract a new audience — a response that usually involved the creation of a website that operated separately from the printed edition’s organizational structure. The results have not been encouraging. Newspapers continue to be under financial pressure as their audiences and ad revenues shrink.

I have long been an advocate of melding Internet operations with the newspaper organization model as opposed to creating a separate organization to operate the newspapers’ websites. If the newspapers’ classified department managed the websites’ classified revenue goals, the marketing solutions would have been different.

I would think that under this scenario, products would have been developed that would have integrated the strengths of both products and built the audiences of both simultaneously. For example, newspaper websites could offer their classified customers, for a small fee, an opportunity to place a two- or three-line ad in the printed and digital editions of the newspaper, directing the reader to the website. This would provide a means of preserving the classified section in the newspaper plus a means of driving traffic to the newspaper website. This scenario provides a symbiotic relationship between the newspapers’ websites and their printed and digital editions.

Similarly, if the newspaper advertising department were responsible for creating ad revenues for the newspapers’ digital edition and website, then the marketing solutions would be different than if the website competes against the newspaper for ad revenues.

Preprints, for example, are a strong source of revenue for newspapers, but advertisers are concerned about falling circulation penetration. Combining a strategy that allows an index of preprints to be added to the digital edition and website provides some opportunities to expand revenues and satisfy advertisers’ needs to improve their preprint ROI. Internet versions of preprints could have video capabilities allowing advertisers the ability to expand their sales pitch.

Preprint advertisers often sell space in their preprints to suppliers that stock their stores. Adding an Internet component with video capabilities would provide a means for advertisers to increase the ROI on their preprint and for their suppliers to increase sales.

Under this scenario the printed newspaper continues to reach its market and drive traffic to the digital edition and website.

It just seems to me the solutions for newspaper survival already exist; it merely requires an organizational structure that allows the strengths of the Internet and the printed product to be combined in a way that benefits readers and advertisers. This is where the newspapers have the advantage — Internet-only operators cannot easily duplicate a newspaper or its franchise. Newspapers, on the other hand, can add digital editions and website capabilities that match any Internet competitor.

Gary Randazzo is founder of GWR Research, a marketing and management-consulting firm. He served as senior vice president at the Houston Chronicle, and as executive vice president and general manager of the San Francisco Chronicle. He can be reached at

2 thoughts on “Shoptalk/Commentary: Think Integration, Not Separation

  • October 22, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ) integrated their printed classified sections with their web site. It exemplifies some concepts that Gary advocates in this article. Automotive ads are perhaps the best example. The printed classified section directs readers to the web site, There the reader can enter a short “Web ID” from a printed ad. The Web ID links to more detailed information, photos, etc. Words do not quite illustrate the example. It may help to look at a printed copy of The Star-Ledger. Considering the rising popularity of smart phones, I suggest a QR code in the printed classified section, in the same area that drives readers to the web site. The QR code would also link to the web site. On a bus, train, or at a restaurant table, it is faster and easier for someone with a smart phone to scan a QR code. It saves them the time of (mis)typing the URL. Their transition from print to Internet would then be easy. It is not unthinkable that printed classified ads could look different. Typically, each ad contains 3-4 lines of text with as much information as can fit. Optionally, a photo. That holds true today for most classified ads. However the ad may look different. For a rough example, each ad may print as a row of key information (e.g. year, make, model, price, and Web ID) in a table / spreadsheet. It allows people to see at a glance what is available.

  • December 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    A patent-pending QR technology that addresses the issue of brand engagement plus the added benefit of building social media engagement, data-base collection and Facebook integration is This takes QR to the next level and gives both consumers and advertisers what they both need to make a deal! Think: A groupon where you control the deal, you have access to the collected data, see the analytics live (can measure success), gain valuable social media proof by driving ‘likes’ to your Facebook page, and have your customers spread the news of an offer they scanned on their Facebook wall to all their friends. Just one scan by any of those friends, results in the process repeating all over again. Who said QR’s are dead?


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