In-Print Web Site Promotion Is Lacking in UK

By: Steve Outing

An issue I've written about before -- indeed, it's a pet peeve of mine -- is newspapers' lack of in-print promotion for their online operations. While some newspapers make a concerted effort to guide their print readers to the papers' Web offerings -- through printing URLs, e-mail addresses, and running promotional ads -- most fall far short of doing even an adequate job. With many newspapers, you can read the whole publication and may not even notice references to their Web sites, because they are so infrequent.

It's a shame that more newspapers don't leverage the power of their print products to help their Web services succeed -- and better fight off the increasingly serious competitive threats posed by new (electronic) entrants into the local markets that newspapers no longer have to themselves.

This week, I heard from British colleague Colin Brannigan, a fellow interactive media consultant who watches over the UK press and its online activities. Spurred by my earlier column about how U.S. newspapers are weak in this area, he did a survey of major national and regional British papers. The results can be found in his monthly Brannigan's Newsletter, in the December issue.

In my earlier column, I called U.S. newspapers' in-print Web promotion efforts "pathetic." In the UK, Brannigan reports, it's even worse.


On the day he checked the Liverpool Daily Post, the newspaper was leading with the Louise Woodward story (the British nanny convicted in Massachusetts of killing an American baby in her care), and encouraging readers to show their support at a "Day of Unity" event at the school where she was a student. "Not a single mention anywhere in the paper of their Web site," reports Brannigan. "One e-mail address on page 2. And that was it!" The Daily Post on its Web site has a link to the Louise Woodward Campaign for Justice, and it has an online petition. Yet there was no mention of this in the printed newspaper. What a lost opportunity -- to serve the public, and to promote usage of its Web site.

The Liverpool Echo was even worse. Brannigan points out the irony of Echo columnist Barrie Mills writing about the Microsoft Experience Roadshow running in town, and offering as prizes to readers sample versions of some Microsoft releases. Mills asked that entries be submitted on a postcard or the back of a sealed envelope. Comments Brannigan: "You would fall over laughing if it weren't so serious. Just to be sure Liverpool's two newspapers do still have Web sites, I thought I'd better check. Yes, they're still there. Someone needs to remind the editors!"

Bad to worse

Ignoring a newspaper's Web site seems to be common among UK print editors. At the London Evening Standard, Brannigan found only two references to the Web site in an entire issue of the paper. Its advertisers do understand the power of the Web, however; 28 Web references were included in ads.

At the Cambridge Evening News, the only online references were an e-mail address on the letters page, a footer giving the URL of the paper's Web site on two inside pages, and an e-mail address on a business page. "Hardly what you'd call promotion," Brannigan comments.

A little better

Finally, one regional paper does have its promotion act together somewhat. The East Anglian Daily Times included in one of its recent print editions e-mail addresses for various departments, letters to the editor, ad sales, etc., plus the Web address on page 2. It also included a 15-inch by 2-column promotional ad for Eastern Counties Network, the regional newspaper company's Web site. That's still a weak promotional effort, but it's better than what other UK papers that Brannigan reviewed were doing.

(Brannigan's survey, like my own, was informal, unscientific, and omitted some major papers in the UK that do a better job of promoting the Web in print. While discouraging, we can't damn the whole UK press; some newspapers, such as the Guardian, do a better job of referring to their Web sites within their print editions.)

A long way to go

It doesn't come as a great surprise to hear that the situation in the UK is even worse than in the U.S. I have to wonder what it will take for newspaper publishers -- on either side of the Atlantic -- to begin better leveraging their print products on behalf of their online ventures.

After my first column on this topic, I received a lot of mail supportive of my call for publishers to increase their print promotion of Web sites, regularly run URLs in print referring to content online, and publish e-mail addresses for reporters and editors. That column struck a chord with frustrated newspaper new media managers who can't get the support they need from the print side of their companies.

Here's a check list of what your newspaper should be doing to promote the success of its Web site. Failure to do so plays into the hands of new online competitors in the local information marketplace, who are able to more easily compete with the dominant information provider (the local newspaper) because the paper is operating online with one hand tied behind its back.

Run the URL of your Web site throughout the newspaper, ideally on every page header or footer, on the front page, and on section fronts. This implies that the newspaper and Web site operate as a unit, not as distinct entities. And it reinforces your URL into readers' minds. Run a regular box in the front of the newspaper (most likely, page 2) with information about the Web site. This serves as a quick reference to print readers about what's available on the site. Include Web links to supplemental editorial content within print stories, whenever appropriate. A URL at the end of a story can point to online-only content for readers who want more than the story published in print. You want to get your print readers in the habit of using your Web site as though it's just another part of the newspaper. Run regular "house ads" throughout the paper promoting your Web site. Change the ad content regularly, so that they have impact. Don't run the same ad in the same spot every day, which will be ignored. When running URLs in the paper, don't just promote the site itself; promote specific content. A URL published on the sports section front should link to a top sports headline Web page, or a specific feature, for example. Promote online specials, such as contests, database access and interactive polls. Encourage reader feedback and comments sent in by e-mail, by publishing e-mail addresses for letters, or by putting up a Web page form that readers can fill out and submit by just clicking a button. Publish e-mail addresses with all bylined stories. This not only facilitates better reader-reporter communication, but also indicates that you take the online component of your business seriously. Publish a URL (either on page 2 or your editorial page) that links to a directory of staff, including e-mail and phone contacts for all writers and editors. Develop an integrated print/online classifieds strategy, so that your online classifieds are not just a shovelware version of your print classifieds. Plan for the day when online classifieds may be more important than printed classifieds. Foremost, get out of the mindset that your Web site is somehow apart from the newspaper. To best compete in the online local information market, a publication must leverage what it's already got in combination with new innovations. Notice that most of these suggestions don't cost a newspaper much money to implement. Yet they give a newspaper's Web site a head start over others entering the local information race. To not take these steps to better compete is to cede your principal competitive advantage.

It's curious that so many newspapers fail to do the obvious.

Thanksgiving break

There will be no "Stop The Presses!" on Friday, due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. The column will resume on Monday, December 1.


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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