By: Lucia Moses
When the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) hired former Coca-Cola marketing guru Sergio Zyman three years ago, it created high hopes that the dynamic salesman would do for flagging newspaper readership what he did for Coke sales. Zyman’s charge: to develop a customized marketing tool for an industry with a history of doing little work in that area.
The first results of that effort, however, haven’t exactly been The Real Thing.
The Newspaper Marketing Tool, introduced last spring, has attracted roughly 50 papers — fewer than the 200 or so users that Zyman’s consultancy, the Atlanta-based Zyman Marketing Group, had hoped for.
The tool stresses long-term planning and circulation growth, which seemed more appropriate in 1999 when development began. Since then, the sharp falloff in advertising revenue has had newspapers aching for a quick fix.
“It’s kind of like taking vitamins,” said John E. Kimball, NAA’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Long-term planning is absolutely essential, but, as Sergio said, when you’ve got a headache, you want an aspirin.”
A successor tool now being developed intends to provide that relief. “It is more advertising-focused and less focused on the long-term strategic planning,” Kimball said.
Users also told Zyman Marketing that the tool requires too many steps, the cost — $1,000 a user per year — is too high to have multiple users, and it requires going online.
One user, Jim Fogler, market-development director for the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, N.Y., said that, while the tool has some good points, it is cumbersome and doesn’t take into account varying subscription prices.
Another user, Floyd Spencer, marketing manager for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, gave the tool points for encouraging systematic thinking. “It’ll give people who haven’t done a formal marketing plan before to organize their thoughts and come up with an action plan in an organized manner,” he said.
For the next version, which will be called the Sales and Marketing Desktop, Zyman Marketing will cut several steps, let users access it from their desktops, and probably come with various pricing options, said David N. Cross, managing consultant for Zyman Marketing.
Testing is expected to begin in the next several weeks, with a spring launch planned. Kimball hopes the changes will gain more converts than its predecessor: “I would like to think we could penetrate maybe 20% of the industry in the first year.”
The tool is accessible at http://www.zmarketing.com/naa.