Archive | May, 2009

The defense of newspapers

25 May

It was a matter of time, I suppose.  The newspaper industry has finally woken up and realized it needs to defend itself. It is as if the newspapers industry decided to say to the world, much like  Mark Twain did, the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Today (which is Memorial Day), buried in the Style section of the Washington Post (which makes me wonder) is a half-page ad entitled: The Reality About Newspapers, paid for by the Arlington, VA-based Newspaper Association of America.  The ad attempts to defend the viability of newspapers. It proposes to set the record straight about the following “myths:”

  1. No one reads newspapers (they say more than 104 million people read every day –in the US? Worldwide?)
  2. Young people don’t read newspapers (they say 61 percent of 18-24 year olds read a paper or visit a newspaper website)
  3. Newspaper readership is tanking (They say newspaper readership declined a “mere 1.8% compared to 10% decline in prime time TV viewership)
  4. Many newspapers are going out of business (they say newspapers remain profitable????)
  5. Newspaper advertising doesn’t work (Google research says 56% of consumers researched product that they saw in a newspaper)
  6. No creative options in newspapers (says who?)
  7. If newspapers close, you will still be able to get news from other sources (newspapers are the premiere source of journalism–no quibble there)

The ad concludes with the idea that the newspaper industry is transforming itself, and invites you to visit www.newspapermedia.com.

I am not sure that these are all  “myths,” or that they are widely held, and I am not sure the ad did a good job of refuting them. The facts don’t all add up and they don’t clarify who is reading newspapers and where. Additionally, the placement day and place within the newspaper makes it highly unlikely that many people will see this. Besides, isn’t printing an ad about defending newspapers in the newspaper preaching to the choir?

It was time to hear the newspaper side of the story. But the facts are there:  several newspapers have closed their doors in the past few months and many are seeing falling ad revenues and decreasing readership.  If the Newspaper Association wants to salvage its industry it must do a better, more clever job of getting its message across. This may be one of the lamest ads I have ever read, and I read a newspaper every day!!!!

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Marketing professional associations

20 May

There are hundreds of professional associations, representing every imaginable industry and career path. There is even an association for associations (or at least for association executives): ASAE. The ASAE has been advertising itself on TV lately, something I have never seen before. It is doing it mostly on Sunday morning talk shows, and the campaign is called the Power of A.

Associations, like other donor or member-based organizations, have to work to maintain the number of donors or members. A drop is serious, as it means a cut in income. At the same time, these associations or organizations have to work extra hard to entice people to join.

In the last few weeks, several associations I could be a member of because of my profession, have been having membership drives. They are offering one or more of the following:

  • Reduced membership costs
  • Gifts with membership
  • Waived application fees

Do these enticements work? I think the one that works the best is reduced membership costs, IF there is sufficient benefit to joining. And therein lies the problem. Often, these associations have events that are open to the public. Non-members pay more than members.  If you like what you see, and you want to go to more events, perhaps membership is worth it, in pure cash value. However, you can still go when you want even if you aren’t a member. But what else does membership offer? What exclusive, member-only benefits does the association offer? What can you get nowhere else?

In some cases, people want the “cachet” of being a member. Or they want the opportunity to network, or raise their leadership profile by serving on committees and boards. All these are valid reasons to join.  Being an association member shows that you are really  interested in/committed to the field.

Another issue is that there may be several associations representing your field. Which do you choose? In my case, I could be in the American Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America, International Association of Business Communicators, the Association for Women in Communications, and so forth. For me, the problem is the cost of joining is not subsidized by an employer, since I work for myself.  I have to choose carefully. And yes, the money incentive works. Making it more affordable to join is an incentive.

Bottom line is memberships have to do with cost and value.  Providing sufficient value for members makes membership worthwhile.

What makes you join an association? Is it worth it?

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Blogs, comments and marketing

13 May

OK, not quite as sexy as Sex, Lies and Videotape…

Lately, I have been reading/hearing a lot about comments on blogs. Most people seem to favor comments. One of the ways we know that people are responding or finding what we write interesting and worthwhile is when we get comments. It is also a way to know what our audience is thinking.  Others are not so keen on allowing comments because there might be some negative or disparaging statements, and opening up you/your organization to what the public thinks.

Clearly, some organizations are more likely to want to know how the audience thinks and some are not so inclined. I would counsel those who want to remain hermetic not to have a blog. A blog, almost by definition, is a forum (it can be internal, but nevertheless it is about exchange of ideas).

Those who are OK with audience interaction should probably have guidelines to govern the comments. In fact, you don’t HAVE to publish each and every comment if you don’t want. Right here on Caffeinated we’ve received some fairly self-serving comments along with some out of left field observations that we have decided to let live in the netherworld.

Courtland Milloy, a columnist at the Washington Post, has a piece in today’s paper about nasty/ignorant/vicious comments. He wants readers to tone down the invective. I agree with him–I have followed some comment streams on opinion pieces and people give wind to the most disagreeable thoughts.  And Milloy argues that even though these commenters are counted as visitors to the site, some advertisers may not want to be associated with them.  Is this true? I am not sure that advertisers/marketers look at comments other than as a numbers game. We all know that there are some kooky people out there who are bored/irritated/deranged and take it out on comments boards. What we endorse as marketers is the content on the site, not the comments.

As marcomm folks, what we need to worry about is our policy for comments.  I don’t think you should discourage comments, but you should make clear that not everything is fair play and that not every utterance will see the light of the blogosphere. You may want to set this out in a terms and conditions somewhere on your blog.

David Griner, in his blog, The Social Path, has had a series of articles on comments. It is worthwhile to read this one, about whether you are LEGALLY liable for comments made on your blog. As I point out above, this type of concern should be part of the policies that govern your site, and something you must consider if you do have a blog.

Your thoughts? Comment, but please no racist, slanderous, sexist remarks!

Copyright 2009 Deborah Brody All Rights Reserved

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Words are Key

6 May

Keywords. They are the mantra of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) people.  Some websites are written in a weird, keyword heavy format to make them seem like candy for the search engines.  Websites also have metatags and alt-text and other areas for keywords. Search engines read text, which is why content is king on the Internet. Search engines do not read images, unless they are labeled or tagged.

Some companies set up blogs just to increase their likelihood of being found. And SEO people think you should have keywords there too.

If you ever doubted that keywords are important, then do a little experiment on Twitter. Use a keyword like marketing, writing, or golf (if that is your thing) and see how many people start following you. Yesterday, I re-tweeted a story about the Christian Science Monitor getting rid of its religion reporter (fairly ironic, and that is why I shared it). Guess what, no less than three people of a heavy Christian persuasion started following me. Even though none of my posts and my bio say anything about Christianity. These people were simply keyword surfing and leeched on to the word Christian in Christian Science Monitor.

So, how do you create a list of keywords? Easy.  Start with your industry and work from there. Say you are a civil engineer. You would have the following: engineering, civil engineering, building, and so on. The important thing is to think of variations and related words. If you are in advertising, you would naturally choose marketing, and perhaps sales.  You may also want to include location (city, state, country) and specialties. You may want to use the names of your principals. Just ask yourself: what would people ask if they needed to find me or someone that does what I do?

Final thought: a popular word on this blog has been Twitter. In fact, I am sure if I tagged this article with the word Twitter, I will get plenty of search engine hits. 

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Communicating with GenY

4 May

UPDATE: A GenY blogger, Josh Groth made some great comments. (His blog is http://echodemic.blogspot.com/) Please read them in the comment section. But some stuff he pointed out is that GenY uses email for business communications and Facebook for personal use. They look stuff up on Wikipedia when they don’t understand something. And they subscribe to magazines. I would love more input from anybody else out there who is a GenY person.

Full disclosure: I am a member of Generation X.  I have been “fortunate” to meet many members of GenY and have come across some universal behavior that impact communications with this young group of people.

GenY loves to text. In fact, if you want a GenYer to respond to you, you should send a text first. Do not call and do not email.

GenY loves Facebook. Well, so do many other people, but GenY is the first generation to adopt Facebook, and it could be argued, it was designed for them.

GenY does not read printed materials as in a daily newspaper. Online baby! Yes, they read the Washington Post/NY Times/LA Times, but ONLINE only. I would venture to guess that the subscription level among this group for printed newspaper hovers near 0%.

Other things to bear in mind when communicating with a 20-something:

Frame of reference. They are not historically minded and will not get a reference to Ronald Reagan or LP records or anything that happened prior to 1990.

They tend to be conflict-averse. GenY has been brought up to get along well with others (thanks to Rodney King and other influencers). If they don’t like you (your product, your service) they won’t argue or discuss, they will IGNORE.  You probably won’t get much feedback unless you ask them nicely. Via text.

Their social mores are more fluid than previous generations. They aren’t easily shocked.

Any other tips for communicating with GenY? Please comment.

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