The Three Elements of Online Newspaper Branding
Practically every newspaper in the United States is facing a crisis right now – paid print subscribers are bailing left and right, classified ad revenue is a thing of the past, and it’s proving harder than anyone thought possible to effectively make money from online advertising.
The truth is that in a world where information is plentiful and any random citizen can do journalism at any time for free, it is extremely important that newspapers maintain their brands online.
Here are the three basic principles of promoting your newspaper brand on the internet:
Leverage your community
Every existing newspaper has an existing community of readers and fans. They can be a powerful ally in your quest for online branding – give them the tools to easily share and evangelize your news.
This kind of action can take many forms: hire a community evangelist, make sure you have bookmarklets for popular aggregators like delicious or digg.
The bottom line is that you have an army of people ready to help with the legwork of extending your brand, you just have to reach out to them and encourage the right behavior.
Send out the troops
I know there are several newspapers that are scared of letting their employees loose. For a long time newspapers have had a really airtight grip on the activities of their reporters, deciding where they can write, whether or not they are free to profess their opinions, and owning any IP that they produce.
On the internet, newspapers need to learn to trust their reporters. Enthusiastic employees can be one of the best possible ways to grow your brand.
People make connections with other people, and having many human faces interacting with the community is going to lead not only to higher engagement and brand awareness, but better journalism as well.
Develop a personality
For many newspapers this is probably the most difficult thing to master – the internet demands a new outlook on the idea of “objectivity” in news coverage. Most journalists agree that there is no such thing as true objectivity, but strive for it anyway because that’s just “what you do.”
Unfortunately the general public has learned to mistrust the media, because most people know how hard it is to put bias aside when writing a story–it sneaks onto the page in innocent-sounding ways like fact selection.
The solution, oddly enough, is to develop a personality. There’s a reason FOX News does so well – people like to get a little opinion with their news. The real problem with FOX is not that it carries a conservative bias, but that it claims not to.