By Al Herskovitz
H & H Communications
BRADENTON, Fla. — Have you noticed lately how thin and anemic your daily newspaper has become? That is if you read a daily paper at all. New Orleans’ famous daily, the Times-Picayune, is reducing itself to three days a week starting this autumn. Incoming publisher Ricky Mathews says the move is necessitated by “upheaval in the newspaper industry.” There also will be staff reductions in this newspaper that’s been around for some 175 years. This is quite an admission and development.
And that’s not all! Three major papers in Alabama are going the same route: The Birmingham News; the Mobile Press-Register; and the Huntsville Times are also cutting back to three days. All of them will be publishing only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Why only these particular days? Because these are the days they carry the ad flyers and coupons.
How sad it is that the newspaper business has declined to the point of becoming just a coupon delivery system.
Newspapers cannot even depend on the classified ads for sustenance which were historically their bread and butter now that Craig’s List has eaten that portion of their lunch.
I can’t tell you how many times in recent years when I called on a local retailer to pitch him talk radio time that I was hit with, “I must have my newspaper ad before I can even consider radio at all.” Now is the time to go back in and see that retailer.
Where is the print ad dollar going? Certainly not to TV. It’s too expensive for most. At least on the small retail level – the arena that remains so important to the average local radio station. Indeed, there has been quite a bit of flight to digital media but the local consumer segment of advertising in the digital realm is a work in progress and the evolving and uncertain models there can make spending too much money on digital marketing risky for a small business trying to get by.
And here we are in a medium that has been declared dead three times over the years by so-called “media experts,” only to roar back with a vengeance to the point where AM radio talk show hosts have become national figures – and national figures have chosen to become radio talk show hosts!
Immediately there are a couple of ways that talk radio sales folks can take advantage of this turn of events. First, talk radio’s ability to drive traffic to the web is well documented. A radio campaign promoting some sort of digital destination gives a nice “digital halo” to it for those clients overly enamored with all things internet. Keep in mind, the papers I’ve listed above now can only try to do this three days a week and there are sure to be other newspapers joining these in dropping editions over the coming months, even further diminishing their advertising muscle. Our medium has always been and remains free to listeners and is portable…over the air, through web streaming, and via hand-held devices…and it “publishes” with a frequency of 24/7.
Historically, daily newspapers have been so successful because of their near monopoly status and their reach. In many markets there haven’t been competing dailies in many years and, until recently, a majority of households in a market subscribed to home delivery of the local paper. But, as we were reminded recently by the publication of the Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism study commissioned by Katz Radio Group, talk radio especially has the monopoly of personalities it can use to sell blue chip advertisers endorsement ads. Your local talk show hosts are unique and their ability to craft brilliant commercial messages for goods and services in which they believe is like the philosopher’s stone on the hands of a good sales executive. (Read advice about how to better handle endorsement campaigns from Houston-based talk host Michael Berry here.)
In the meantime, financial wizard Warren Buffett says that he believes all newspapers need to quit offering their product free online. His company already owns a number of dailies and is reported to be out to buy more, particularly community-oriented, small-to-mid-size papers. Mr. Buffet is a very smart and successful man and he probably sees something that I don’t. But I do view this bit of news as a spur to stations that already cover their markets with local news and local talk well before a community newspaper can be home delivered. And commercial time within this arena is becoming more and more valuable and saleable.
Al Herskovitz is president of H&H Communications, a Bradenton, Florida-based national radio syndication and advertising company. He can be phoned at 941-708-6520 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.