Once a week they arrive on driveways, in letterboxes and if the wind is blowing, they’re spread over an area the size of Wales. Chris Moerdyk believes South African newspapers could learn some lessons from freesheets.
We never asked for them. They just arrive filled with half a dozen pages of community news and a ton of advertising inserts that look like they used up at least half of what’s left of the Amazon rain forest.
We think we hate them. But actually, we don’t.
A simple analysis of retail sales among those brands responsible for the inserts shows that commercial community newspapers represent one of the most efficient forms of advertising in the print industry.
Consumers do read them, because the news content is specific to their community. Advertising is specific to their community. In fact, every bit of content is specific to their community.
This is print advertising at its best. And because of its identifiable distribution footprint, advertising is measureable enough to be able to present a fairly accurate return on investment.
I have no doubt that those big daily and weekly newspapers that depend on people buying them and that cover areas twice the size of Wales wish they could offer the same sort of return on advertising investment the baby brothers manage to achieve.
Well of course, it would be impractical for the big dailies or weeklies to scrap their cover prices and simply distribute their products for free.
Equally, it would be impractical to them to print hundreds of different community specific editions.
But, what the big newspapers could do is look towards their digital offerings in terms of taking advantage of the consumer preference of community information.
It is a lot easier to provide community specific digital platforms and advertising although it will need a fairly big investment in content providers (formerly known as journalists)
Already the retail industry is showing how it’s done, albeit in a very small way. Those retail outlets that have a good brick and mortar spread across the country find they are easily able to offer faster and often free delivery of online purchases simply because they have a store close to where the consumer lives.
I recently had a free delivery from Dion Wired arrive on the same day I ordered it online simply because it could be sourced from an outlet close to where I live.
The digital space is ideal for mainstream newspapers to take advantage of some of the important benefits enjoyed by the community proses.
Regrettably, many of them still mindlessly use their online presence, as a duplication of what they produce in print – except for the fact that content is largely free.
And they wonder why their sales over the past 10 years have fallen dramatically.
I find it quite remarkable how so many newspapers still operate as though the internet was nothing more than a passing fad.
I believe newspapers are still relevant both in print and digital form. But the mind-set behind the production of content and particularly advertising needs to drag itself out of the dark ages and start producing what consumers want and not what editors and managers think they want.
Follow Chris Moerdyk on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
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