Brand Loyality Lacking At Nation’s Dailies

By: Jennifer Loven, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Catchy mottoes and better marketing won’t win the hearts of those younger, less frequent readers that newspapers are courting, an analyst told top editors.

These on-the-go news consumers need something more complicated: A hometown paper they can personally connect with, Readership Institute Director John Lavine told editors of the nation’s daily newspapers Wednesday.

The newspaper industry is suffering from a 30-year decline in readership. To attack that trend, it is trying to convert occasional readers — especially those between 20 and 45 years old — into newshounds who can’t get enough of the paper.

The Readership Institute at Northwestern University’s Media Management Center is a joint effort by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). It first conducted a survey of who reads newspapers, as well as how much, how often, and which parts.

Now the institute is collecting data on specific changes papers can make to attract new customers.

Light readers make up 51% of the market. But they tend to feel drowned in news (“plagued” as one anonymous interviewee put it), see newspapers as depressing, and feel they already know key developments from other sources, Lavine told ASNE’s annual convention.

The institute’s research has shown that improving customer service, adjusting content, making advertising more attractive, and even overhauling corporate culture are key to changing that impression.

Building “brand loyalty” to the local newspaper also is crucial — but is lacking at most of the nation’s dailies, Lavine said.

To create better name identification, Lavine suggested permanent fixtures that can make the paper seem more relevant by making readers’ choices of what to read easier. Those that worked with focus groups included a daily front-page guide to a consistent set of ongoing top stories; a logo to call attention to stories which debate issues rather than describe developments; and guides to events and other sources of information. “I don’t think we can walk away from it,” Lavine said.

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