NAA Conference Comes to Dallas, Giving a Wake-Up Call

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By: Jennifer Saba

Monday?s opening session for NAA?s “Newspapers ’05 Conference” served as a wake-up call — though one heard repeatedly before — on the disappearing mass-ness of the mass media, the fracturing of the market, and what newspaper companies can do to change with the already changed times.

The conference this year combines Nexpo, Connections, and the NAA’s Marketing Conference (including classifieds), in a Texas-sized jamboree, all at the Dallas Convention Center.

Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, played host, opening the meeting with various stats on his home town. For example, Dallas has the largest fresh-water aquarium tank in the country. It?s also home to more aviation museums than anywhere else, it has the largest equestrian statue in the world, and, no surprise here, the city is the top consumer of hot sauce.

Moroney quickly moved on — after plugging several Belo products — to introduce the session?s two keynote speakers, customer relationship/marketing gurus Don Peppers and Martha Rogers.

For the most part, Peppers and Rogers stressed that change should be embraced, not feared. The main change: customers should be viewed as individuals rather than a mass group. Marketing is a two-way street — a customer wants something from you as much as you want something in return, they said.

Peppers and Rogers, known for their concept of one-to-one marketing, spoke mostly on how to have a relationship with valued customers. Though somewhat interesting, they mostly pulled examples from other industries, leaving it to the audience to extrapolate the information and apply it to newspapers. By way of example, they mentioned one credit card company that’s equipped to offer 2 million variations on its products to meet the needs of different types of consumers. It was tough to see how it would be cost-effective for a paper to graft that concept to its print product.

But the duo did occasionally speak about newspapers and when they did, they offered some compelling ideas.

Simple things like online newspaper registration could become more efficient and, in essence, also give something back to the reader, they said. With Google News, people can get several links from a variety of newspapers on one subject. However, most newspapers require a user to register to access the sites. That process often requires a reader to come up with a user name and password– thus a person could have many different passwords for different sites. Peppers suggested that the NAA create a standard online newspaper database so people can access several different papers using one password.

Peppers and Rogers also stressed that newspapers should not only treat their readers in an individualized way, but advertisers as well. Online news sites should follow in the footsteps of Yahoo, Google, and MSN, sites that use contextual ads. Online newspapers can glean information about what people are reading, enabling an advertisers to target specific ads about specific subjects.

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