By: Gretchen A. Peck
For businesses outside of publishing, creating a digital marketing strategy is a rather straightforward endeavor — use digital media to introduce and marry the supplier of the good or service with a consumer.
For publishers, however, devising a digital marketing strategy is exponentially more complicated, and even the term itself seems insufficient, given the newspaper publishing context. There is the need to promote the news brands themselves, especially burgeoning e-media publications and apps, in which publishers are heavily investing. There’s the need to leverage digital tools — websites, blogs, forums, social networking, measurement and tracking software, and the like — to engage readers and build communities; to learn about their wants and desires and habits; and to drive overall circulation.
The good news for publishers? Like the adage says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And out of these necessary marketing exercises springs opportunity — the opportunity to compel advertisers and intrigue prospective co-marketing partners.
In social circles, choose quality over quantity
It may be dazzling to publishers and advertisers alike that an entity such as Facebook would be the third most populous nation in the world if it were actually a nation. The marketing potential of social media is clearly compelling but should be tempered with an understanding that quality of relationships matters more in social circles than quantity.
Nancy Messieh recently reported for TheNextWeb.com (TNW) on a timely Semiocast (semiocast.com) study of Twitter, which currently boasts 107.7 million accounts worldwide. That’s a significant number. However, when you drill further down in the data, an important distinction is revealed: Only 27 percent of those accounts had posted a tweet within a three-month period, the study revealed. This is important to note for publishers, because it shows how these masses are using Twitter — by and large, absorbing information rather than contributing or sharing it, as Messieh concludes.
In the January issue of E&P, Scott Stines, president of mass2one, said that “authentic recommendations from a friend or everyday acquaintance are powerful forces when it comes to purchases and decision making, and positive buzz helps set a brand apart from its peers in a crowded marketplace.”
“A newspaper’s Facebook page should focus on engagement — contests, events, and offers — and serve to drive social media users to the newspaper’s traditional and online products and services, while rewarding that behavior along the way,” Stines said.
In an article titled “Digital Marketing Strategy Development: 12 Common Problems” posted on TheFutureBuzz.com, Adam Singer wrote that “it’s not enough to figure out ways to gain attention from random people for fleeting moments. You need to find a way to market to target groups consistently over time. And the tactics used should be compelling enough not just to attract an audience, but inspire the audience to grow itself.”
Build the archive
Adam Singer more recently wrote about “The Forgotten Value of Archival Content” for TheFutureBuzz.com. From a marketer’s and e-media user’s perspective, he offered important insight for publishers:
“Sites like Wikipedia, eHow, Quroa, even YouTube thrive on their archives. It’s not just that this content is found via users seeking something specific in a search engine. That’s extremely important on its own. But beyond that, when discovered, this content is frequently reshared back into user’s [sic] streams as if it’s new, or to provide context into a conversation happening now. The point is, this content has a lot of value. But if you’re not vesting the effort to publish and optimize, you can’t tap into it.”
Singer added, “An extremely frustrating thing for me as a user (and blogger) is when a media company removes a page I’ve linked to without any explanation. It happens again and again, but it’s almost always done by traditional media companies, such as newspapers or magazines.”
Stines of mass2one said that email remains a compelling marketing tool, and it is the most cost-effective platform for capitalizing on customer experiences and behavior across media channels. He said this method is a natural choice for newspapers to market their online and interactive products and services.
Invest in the Web
On Feb. 1, the Newspaper Association of America cited data compiled by comScore that indicated encouraging news for the health of newspapers’ Web-based properties.
“Newspaper websites in the fourth quarter of 2011 averaged more than 111 million monthly unique visitors, an increase of more than 6 million compared with the same period a year ago. The analysis, performed by the Newspaper Association of America based on data provided by comScore, also indicates continuing strong performance in other key engagement and demographic metrics important to advertisers, with 63 percent of all adult Internet users visiting newspaper websites,” the NAA reported.
Pass it on
Gary W. Randazzo, founder, GWR Research, wrote in E&P last year about the promise of digital editions for newspapers (see “How Digital Editions Can Help Save Newspapers,” April 2011). And one of the key digital marketing strategies he proposed was to allow up to four individuals to view a digital edition under the same subscription, facilitating pass-along readership growth.
Get the facts
“How can we, as marketers, deliver the relevance customers want and need,” Jonathan Gardner, director of communications for Vibrant, wrote in a blog on iMediaConnection.com. “How can we ensure that our content — whether it’s an article, an ad, or an image — reaches the right consumers in the most relevant and meaningful way?”
Naturally, these are questions that newspaper publishers are poised to respond to with circ numbers and readership demographics. But Gardner points out that it’s deeper, richer information about the audience that compels marketers, and newspaper publishers should be able to deploy tools and techniques to mine this information.
“Behavioral targeting gets part of the job done,” Gardner said. “Knowing what a potential shopper has recently done online, what sites they visited, what e-commerce channels they browsed, gives us a sense of their past behavior and some indication of what they’re likely to view, see, and buy in the future.” However, he cautioned, context matters.
“Smart marketing strategies need to combine behavioral — or ‘personal’ — relevance with contextual relevance,” he said. “SoLoMo (social, local, mobile if you’ve somehow avoided it so far) is part of our buzzy jargon now. If you’re doing a social media campaign, think about the contexts. For instance, a young working mom on Pinterest is in the context of seeing popular recipes her friends are cooking, or she’s on LinkedIn researching advice about work/life balance, and on Facebook accepting invitations for a night out with friends. The content is being shaped, controlled, and shared by the user (consumer), but it’s the contexts that marketers need to understand to deliver a message that will resonate with the consumer … Regardless of the platform, whatever the device, and however smart the strategy, content still matters — but relevance and context rule.”
Seek out custom-publishing opportunities
If they haven’t already, newspaper publishers may want to take a page from their magazine-publishing brethren’s playbook and create custom- publishing teams to partner with advertisers in the interest of creating highly targeted, innovative, and informational campaigns that could be delivered in any medium: print, Web, mobile, tablet, or across them all.
Peyman Nilforoush, chief executive officer and co-founder of NetShelter, provided invaluable insight into the mind of contemporary marketers in his January 2012 iMediaConnection.com article, “The Benefits of Integrating Paid, Owned, and Earned Media.”
“As a marketer, imagine having the ability to tie your messaging to objective editorial content that an independent expert has written about your brand, and to then use your paid media spend to amplify that message, along with the validating content, across sites that consumers visit to make their decisions. This approach is unique, because it offers relevant and helpful information and allows for a heightened level of engagement to socially drive consideration for a brand’s product,” Nilforoush said.
“Our advertisers are struggling in the new fragmented media environment to figure out what will work for them and how they can best use their marketing dollars,” Mike Klingensmith of the Minnesota Star Tribune said when he was profiled as E&P’s Publisher of the Year.
“Here in the Midwest, a lot of the businesses we serve are small, local businesses. There’s a big role for us to play. We look for ways we can help them with their marketing and to utilize their budgets as effectively as possible … It’s changed the nature of the sales job for a local newspaper rep. It used to be about just calling up and placing an order. It’s not like that anymore,” Klingensmith said.
Form strategic alliances
Newspaper organizations have long understood the importance of community partnerships and sponsorship. These types of co-branding opportunities need not be limited to special events but may be extended to the Web and other e-media platforms, as well.
“Digital alliances are an underused element in marketing,” Singer wrote in his article on digital marketing for TheFutureBuzz.com. “So many opportunities to work and grow together remain untapped. Bring alliances/relationships into your strategy … and you can encourage mutual growth,” he said.
Measure and compare
In his article “How Digital Editions Can Help Save Newspapers,” Randazzo reminded newspaper publishers that digital marketing strategies are only as valuable as the results they produce. It’s not enough to devise the strategy; initiatives must be continually measured and analyzed.
“Track the value of the strategy,” Randazzo said. “Has ad revenue increased? Has traffic increased? Has profit increased?”