A Quick Snapshot of Old vs. New Media

In late October, I got a first hand glimpse into how the web is taking on traditional newspapers.  While in Dallas for Forrester’s Consumer Forum, I was grateful to be invited to drop in at the offices of the Dallas Morning News to talk about how retailers are using Facebook.

A Somber Scene

At first glance, the floor where most of the reporters sit is very much like the stereotypical movie sets.  I expected Perry White (Jackie Cooper, in my head, anyways) to come screaming out of his office at any moment.  The major differences:  PCs everywhere instead of typewriters, and most of the desks were empty.  I visited them on a Monday – the prior Friday they had been through a series of layoffs, and the mood was somber.  As the paper takes on challenges brought on by Web 2.0 and the shift of advertising online, ironically a blog solely for former employeers of the paper cropped up and has some very passionate people engaged. 

Challenges for Traditional Newspapers

Three major challenges for the paper are apparent.  First, the cost of advertising.  Simply put, ads cost a lot less and are far more measurable online.  This directly competes with ad revenue for the paper, and was a deciding factor in the recent Chapter 11 filing at the holding company that owns the Chicago Tribune and LA Times.

The second challenge is the proliferation of other media sources.  I heard the phrases “reading blogs” and “did you see the blog post” several times.  The lines between traditional media and new media are blurring and anyone who can publish a story could conceivably trump a reporter at a paper.  Clearly reporters are paying attention.  The lines are blurring between official reporters and passionate folks who like to write.

A third challenge for newspapers is really understanding the digital channel.  I’ve seen recent discussion on Twitter with Bryan Person and Aaron Strout around how newspapers don’t understand search engine optimization (SEO).  Both have pointed out examples of articles in Boston papers where the authors failed to include links in the online version of the story to either personal blogs or corporate web sites.  “Sharing the link love” is a key piece of making the digital channel successful and accessible through search. 

Understanding a Slice of New Media

The main purpose of my visit was to discuss my agency’s recent study on retailers using Facebook.  Several big name retailers, including J.C. Penney, are in the Dallas area, and the retail reporter for DMN was trying to get a better understanding of Facebook and other tools.  I spent a couple of hours with her explaining how Facebook works and gave her a demo of Twitter (thanks to many connections there for helping out).  It was clearly an eye opening experience for her, and we reviewed what several local-based retailers were doing with Facebook fan pages.  The net result, including much of her hard work looking at viral marketing, interviewing a variety of sources and adding insight to what the companies are doing, is this well-written piece published Tuesday called, “Retailers find Facebook friends in hopes of finding sales.”  No doubt the folks who are reporters are talented in their research and writing – she did an excellent job tying in the recent viral successes of J.C. Penney and Victoria Secret’s Pink brand to our discussion on retailers using Facebook pages.

Clearly the Dallas Morning News is getting the digital channel – the page where my article lives had (as of my last view) advertisements for Ford, Cars.com and Netflix.  The article also had the ability to share via social bookmarking sites and allowed comments.  Unfortunately the article had no link here or to our agency’s site, Rosetta.com.  But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad right?

In the end this was a real world microcosm example of how the old media industry needs to adapt in order to thrive.  Thanks again DMN for including me in the article and I hope we both continue to learn from the experience.

Photo via IMDB.com

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  • Adam,

    First of all, great post. I like that you took a constructive vs. destructive angle in trying to explain why traditional newspapers are broken but then when on to suggest ways they could fix what they’re doing. To me, I’m amazed that traditional newspapers have done so little and continue to plod along almost as if they’ve resigned themselves to dying.

    Second, thanks for the link love. The topic of links in online newspapers is something I picked up from Steve Garfield and Bryan Person. Steve is constantly railing against the newspapers and their shortsightedness for not including links (both from an experiential perspective but also from an SEO perspective as you point out in your post above).

    Thanks again for delivering the value!

    Best,
    Aaron | @astrout

  • Adam,

    First of all, great post. I like that you took a constructive vs. destructive angle in trying to explain why traditional newspapers are broken but then when on to suggest ways they could fix what they’re doing. To me, I’m amazed that traditional newspapers have done so little and continue to plod along almost as if they’ve resigned themselves to dying.

    Second, thanks for the link love. The topic of links in online newspapers is something I picked up from Steve Garfield and Bryan Person. Steve is constantly railing against the newspapers and their shortsightedness for not including links (both from an experiential perspective but also from an SEO perspective as you point out in your post above).

    Thanks again for delivering the value!

    Best,
    Aaron | @astrout

  • I don’t know anything about Dallas, but one of the first newspapers to understand the internet scene (and still leading the cause) is the Detroit Free Press, despite their noisy front page.

    I’m about to contact some local newspapers around here to set up some editorial meetings and/or presentations why they are behind the curve.

  • I don’t know anything about Dallas, but one of the first newspapers to understand the internet scene (and still leading the cause) is the Detroit Free Press, despite their noisy front page.

    I’m about to contact some local newspapers around here to set up some editorial meetings and/or presentations why they are behind the curve.

  • Great content, as usual, Adam. I told someone the other day that traditional media isn’t dead, it’s just between gigs. It’s next gig needs to include the elements you included above, as well as making its content portable in the form of video (some local papers are getting this, but not enough are using video) and looking at ways to be hyper-local. The readership for large dailies can be as diverse as the restaurant scenes in the town. Covering the news and even the concept of news means something much different today than it did just a few years ago. Dailies have a huge advantage over other media in this respect. And, finally, mobile should be a driver for all of this. GPS capabilities play into the concept of hyper local. Local, relevant information for me is the realm of the information flow that local media can own. I think they will eventually. But not before a lot of good, talented people go through some rough times and even turn from the industry altogether. And, I can’t believe you were in Dallas and we didn’t connect. Next time, for sure.

  • Great content, as usual, Adam. I told someone the other day that traditional media isn’t dead, it’s just between gigs. It’s next gig needs to include the elements you included above, as well as making its content portable in the form of video (some local papers are getting this, but not enough are using video) and looking at ways to be hyper-local. The readership for large dailies can be as diverse as the restaurant scenes in the town. Covering the news and even the concept of news means something much different today than it did just a few years ago. Dailies have a huge advantage over other media in this respect. And, finally, mobile should be a driver for all of this. GPS capabilities play into the concept of hyper local. Local, relevant information for me is the realm of the information flow that local media can own. I think they will eventually. But not before a lot of good, talented people go through some rough times and even turn from the industry altogether. And, I can’t believe you were in Dallas and we didn’t connect. Next time, for sure.