Newspapers

In Defense of True Journalists

Posted on June 15, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Communications, Media, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

First, apologies. I promised this post would follow up the last with a system for online marketing. I’ll deliver that next post. Today, however, I attended an event that got me thinking about journalists and what they’re going through in the evolution of media and have some thoughts to share.

This afternoon I attended the annual meeting of the Fairfield County Public Relations Association, a PR professional organization founded in 1958. I proudly served as its president in the mid 1990’s.

Coming out of the PR profession, I’ve spent my career interacting with journalists, offering them story ideas, articles and sometimes just the camaraderie of people who make up two parts of an equation.

As much as the rise of the Internet has changed the lives of PR people, I believe it’s changed life more for journalists. I recognize that the web lets me take my clients’ stories directly to their constituents. I can bypass the media and go direct to our audiences with useful information that they will embrace.

I blog and write a monthly column for a business journal. I share with you my experience, expertise and take on what’s going on in the online marketing world. But I’m not a journalist and don’t pretend to be.

I truly hope the definition and characteristics of true journalism stay alive. Journalists are committed to reporting the facts. They vet their sources. They report on what’s going on more than they opine. They’re trained to have a nose for what’s newsworthy. So do PR people, but journalists are charged with digging to get both sides of an issue, rather than advocating for only one side of the story.

importance of Journalists

Journalists play a key role in our democratic society

The keynote speaker for today’s meeting was Julia Hood, president of the Arthur W. Page Society, a membership organization for senior PR and corporate communications executives. Julia pointed out that PR people are supposed to advocate for our clients, despite recent crises to the contrary (i.e. Facebook/Burson-Marsteller). It’s our charge to be truthful, but not necessarily impartial. That’s the role of journalists. Nonetheless, I’ve seen fabulous reporters dumped from newsrooms as daily newspapers struggle to evolve and figure out their role. Who will take up that slack?

The incoming president of FCPRA, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America pointed out rightly that, although corporate America has lagged behind, hyper-local is the current focus of people and the media that reflects their interests. Hyper local media is experimenting with combining professional and citizen journalism as a way to cover the local news, taking advantage of expanded digital platforms.

That’s interesting and it’s good that they’re employing some journalists, probably not at great pay levels. But I hope we don’t lose the desire to support the kind of skeptical, truth-seeking journalists I’ve discoursed and partnered with to get great stories out, negotiated and disagreed with over newsworthiness and whether something represented a trend, cursed out under my breath when they just didn’t get something I thought was important.

Many of these incredible pros have been riffed out of newsrooms because of downsizing. I spent time with a few today. PR leaders like Bob Dilenschneider have added some of these amazing – now former – journalists to his global PR consulting team. I am intrigued about what they in conjunction with an evolving PR profession will envision together for the future.

What they provide needs an ongoing place in our culture and our political system. It’s not melodramatic to say that they are at the heart of our democracy — moreso than any politician who claims that turf for him- or herself.

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Small Businesses: Beware of Online Marketing Offers from Your Local Paper

Posted on April 28, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Blogs, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is longer than most of my posts. But I’m really het up! Music-wise, no relevance. I just picked something that always makes me feel happy and relaxed – Flor de Lis by Djavan.

These days, when you’re convinced you should be advertising in your local paper, your newspaper ad rep will likely be trying to sell you an array of online services. Some – like Hearst Media CT — will even offer you a dollar for dollar match of print advertising for every dollar you spend in online advertising. Sounds great, right? Now my $10,000 budget just became worth $20,000. Yes, but by what metrics do you determine the value of this offer. Right off the bat, the offer implies that the print publications are worth zero.

I am all for effective integration of online/offline marketing. However I’m finding that as traditional media – especially newspapers – transition their businesses online, there are some big pitfalls for unwary advertisers.

Case in point: I recently launched a new medical practice that draws from a pretty local market. We built a website and carefully optimized it for organic search. We registered the site in the key local search directories – Google, Yahoo! And Bing and quickly began coming up #1 on page 1 for our important terms.

The partners in the practice wanted to launch with some local traditional advertising as well. We canvassed the local media for print and online ad rates. In our area – Fairfield County, Connecticut — Hearst Media now owns four daily papers in all but one of the biggest cities and a time-honored chain of weeklies that covers some of the key smaller towns.

Hearst said to us: Whatever your ad spend online and in a targeted bi-monthly health/lifestyle magazine, we’ll give you a 100%, dollar for dollar match in print advertising in our other publications.

Here’s the rub. What is the online ad spend really worth. The promise is that there’s lots of analytic data to evaluate the online ROI, but the reports are a real disappointment. We bought visibility on three daily paper websites with geo-targeting to three local weeklies. The problem is that Hearst can’t break out the geo-targeting.

The rates are based on CPM – how many impressions – not click throughs. Unfortunately the sales staff is not well-informed and the analytics not precise enough to offer any advice on placement, aggregate analysis of what constitutes a good CTR, or anything that can be helpful to a marketer trying to get value for a client.

Then there are deceptive ‘SEO’ programs that are sold as collaborations with Google and other search engines to get you to come up higher in search rankings. No one at Hearst could really explain the program to us. The best we got was that you get a landing page on the back end of their site. Does it have a backlink to our site? I asked. Yes I think so.

Here’s what the SEO program turned out to be.

Hearst set up a landing page optimized with the same search terms we used on our site. They grabbed copy from our website, cobbled it together, wrote and added some factually incorrect copy that they never submitted for approval. They established a tracking phone number that pointed to the client’s phone number. The tracking number’s reason for existence was to prove to us that Hearst had pointed calls to us from this landing page. A visitor who was interested but not ready to call might write this number down and if they called it two months later when we were no longer advertising with Hearst, they would certainly think we were no longer in business.

The more agregious thing that Hearst did was to steal our entire website code and recreate the site under a new url – the same as my client’s but with a 1 added to it. They changed the phone number on every page of that site to their tracking number. The bogus site was optimized with the same search terms as our original site to drive traffic for our terms to the Hearst websites. So basically, they put us in competition with ourselves in organic search. They took the video we supplied them for the landing page and uploaded it to a YouTube account that used the client’s name and again pointed those who clicked to their site – not ours.

Worse yet they were charging us to put us in a situation where Google could demote our legitimate search engine rankings for duplicate content.

Who are they designing this for? Maybe if you’re a very small local business and you have no website or web presence, Hearst and others providing similar products – the other daily in our area The Hour has something similar – might help you establish some online reach that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But if you’re a small business that has invested in your own website, SEO and online reach – do not, I repeat DO NOT buy such a service. Take the money and create a blog, hire a good, local SEO consultant to optimize your site. (BTW – you can’t come up on page one for $35 per month for any really meaningful search terms.)

Maybe you’d be better off buying a banner ad on the newspaper’s site with a link to your site or see if you can get them to give you a direct back link from their site via some content you provide – which could be worth a lot to you. But in my experience you can’t really get meaningful reporting to help justify the investment in these programs. These new newspaper offerings are not malicious, just part of an evolution in marketing. But they are potentially damaging, nonetheless. Get yourself up to speed and be part of moving media toward truly mutually beneficial solutions.

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How the Worm is Turning for Newspapers

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Content, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

This post is about the continuing – and increasing pace of – the evolution of print newspapers into online entities. The musical post is not directly related. It’s a tribute to Joe Morello, the iconic drummer of the 1950s and ‘60s Dave Brubeck Quartet whose solo on Take Five is a jazz classic. We lost Joe this past week.

Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck Quartet

If there’s a thematic connection, it’s in the idea of evolution. Joe Morello helped evolve the way we think about rhythm. Listen to his killer technique on Far More Drums (in 5/4 time) from the album Time Further Out. Other personnel are Brubeck, piano, Paul Desmond, sax, Eugene Wright, bass.

Three things came to my attention this week that magnify the rapid move of newspapers away from a print platform. Two of them were widely reported.
• The L.A. times reported results of a study that show for the first time that online readership surpassed print readership by 46% to 40%.
• The New York Times announced it will erect its online subscription paywall on March 28.

I learned of the third thing as I worked with a client launching a new kind of medical practice who wanted to do some local print advertising here in the Fairfield County, Connecticut market. Over the past few years, Hearst Media has acquired all but one of the major dailies in the county, as well as a well-read chain of weekly community papers. I asked our sales rep for her help in putting together a three-month advertising plan in three of their community weeklies.

She proceeded to explain that for every dollar my client spent advertising online – which would include visibility on three major dailies and geo-targeting to the weeklies – and in a health and fitness-related magazine title, Hearst would match the spend 100% – dollar for dollar — in newspaper print advertising. That meant that a $10,000 budget, for example, would have a $20,000 equivalency.

It was a no-brainer for the client to cover both traditional and online bases for its original budget. And it made an enormous statement about the value being placed on print newspapers by the publisher. Even though the online advertising might be a bit pricey, we’ll know if it’s worth it when we get the traffic, page view and click-thru reports. There was no contract required so opting out is no problem.

A newspaper publisher giving away print to build online ad spends. Time was – til recently – that it was the other way around. The worm is most definitely turning!!

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My NY Times Electronic Edition: Ending a Moral Dilemma

Posted on December 31, 2010. Filed under: Content, Jazz, Media, Newspapers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? While you read my last post of the year, enjoy saxophonist Houston Person and friends asking that question in their swingin’, jazzy way.

In addition to writing one last post, I decided to end 2010 by finally changing my New York Times paper subscription to the Electronic Edition – a day ahead of the Times’ new pay policy for online-only readers. I’ve been working my way to this moment gradually.Paper Boy by leslieblissphoto CC

A while back I downsized from daily to the ‘Weekender’ subscription. Most of my papers were going into the recycling bin unopened. I had lost the luxury of time to sit and read the paper leisurely over coffee and instead began grabbing the Times news headlines and my favorite features online.

Even with the weekend-only change, I still ended up tossing out most of my papers unread and decided to go to the online only subscription. Now it’s interesting to know that the Times will allow us to change our home delivery subscriptions online. But if you want to ditch paper in favor of bytes, it’s not so easy. It requires a phone call. And voice mail hell offers every option but switching to an online-only subscription.

When I finally got a ‘customer service’ rep on the line, she practically begged me not to go all-electronic but to just try a Sunday-only home delivery subscription and she would give me a special promotional price to keep receiving the print paper. I would continue to get full online access as a print subscriber for free. The promotional price and the almost desperate appeal got me to relent and, until now, I’ve been receiving the Sunday paper. Same thing. It still often goes unopened, while I read the Times daily on my computer or smart phone.

I am happy to pay for the New York Times’ content in whatever format. It’s worth it. It costs a lot of money to hire the best reporters, editors and columnists, build an online future and whatever else is required to keep high quality news coverage coming. We shouldn’t expect it for free.

As I struggled with the waste of paper that my subscription continued to represent, I also thought about the guy who delivers it daily and the fact that I’m contributing to his having a job. Same with the paper mill workers and the printing plant employees. We have to reckon with the fact that the gains of evolving technologically into the future usually mean losses for older platforms.

That said, I decided to make a statement about the importance to me of my ‘newspaper of record’ by standing up and saying, “Of course I’ll pay for this; even before I have to.” So I braved the Times’ subscription phone lines once again to switch to the Electronic Edition. Once again the rep tried to sell me on another Sunday-only promotional price to keep me getting the paper.

“Why?” I asked. “My current subscription costs me $4.90 a week and the online subscription will be $20 a month. So you’re not losing any revenue on my switch – and, in fact, The Times is gaining margin. And, while we’re talking, why can’t I make this switch to online – online?”

The answer to the latter question is that it’s to be sure that it’s really me requesting the change. Given the process I had to go through to switch – it also appears that there are two separate subscription systems for print and online readers. Not very tech-forward.

“But,” I asked further, “If the reason I have to do this on the phone is security, and you’re not losing me as a customer, nor are you losing revenue, why the big push to keep me as a print customer.”

Her answer was bemusing: “Lots of people are switching to the Electronic Edition, and we’re trying to keep the paper in circulation.”

As far as I can tell, whether its content is in digital or print format, the Times remains in circulation. In fact, digital has the potential to circulate the stories far beyond a print run. Maybe the paper needs to make a further conceptual shift that what it has of value to sell is content, regardless of the delivery system.

The evolution of media is a fascinating topic to me. It would be great to hear more from someone at The Times about what its online transition strategy involves. In my effort to go paperless, I felt somewhat manipulated and I’d really like to know why the Times thinks that’s necessary.

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Survey Results: Media Seek More Outside Video Content for Online Viewing

Posted on March 14, 2010. Filed under: Content, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

After a weekend of horrific rain and high winds here in the NY metro, I decided to blog to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s lilting Waters of March – sung by Jobim himself and the legendary Elis Regina. Hit play and enjoy — or subscribe by RSS and listen at your leisure.

Last week I had the opportunity to hang out with and hear a presentation by video producer and video blogger Doug Simon of D S Simon Productions Inc and vlogviews.com. He was launching his 2010 Web Influencers Survey, a second annual poll of the use of outside video content by influential media online.

Doug surveyed nearly 300 media sites – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, online only and blogs. The results should get everyone who wants to earn media coverage scrambling for their Flip or other digital video cam – or calling on a trusted professional video production studio.

With his permission, here are a few highlights and a couple of tips.

  • Newspapers and TV showed the highest rate of increase in use of online video content 76% and 96% respectively – up from 53% and 79% the previous year.
  • Though no TV stations said that they use scripted video pieces, 33% said they use embed codes. An embed code is an HTML code that allows you to post a video on a website or blog as easily as posting a photo. Ironically, if a TV outlet uses your video embed code, they are, indeed, posting a scripted piece in its entirety!
  • If you get your video content on a media site, the reach doesn’t stop there. All of the media surveyed share their online video content in varying percentages – from 13% to 47%.

Doug’s top tip for producing and sharing video content with media?

  • Be informative and produce your video in an authentic style. Think news item – not infomercial. No hard sell!! You must be fully transparent to meet FTC guidelines.
  • Another important tip…As with all web content, make sure that your video is social media ready so that it can be easily shared and tracked.

A few months ago, I wrote here about the Exaflood – a huge increase in online video. Doug’s study most definitely supports the information in that post. To get more results from the 2010 Web Influencers Survey and to learn much more about how to use online video visit Doug Simon at www.vlogviews.com. Thanks to Doug for sharing this great information and his expertise.

BTW…Although Waters of March sounds like it keeps repeating the same musical phrase, except for the refrain, each phrase is slightly different – like water cascading over rocks in a streambed. The sheet music goes on for pages!

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How Social Media (probably) Got a Small Hotel into the NY Times

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

No other tune could accompany this post as well as Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of There’s a Small Hotel from the album The Rodgers and Hart Songbook Volume 2. Check out the rarely-heard verse! Hit the play button below, or if you’re getting this by email, visit the blog to listen.

Today my RSS feed coughed up a New York Times article by Susan Dominus about the joys of www.foursquare.com. Read the article or go on the website to learn about Foursquare. That’s not the point of this post.

Susan Dominus met one of her sources for the article at the Roger Smith Hotel on Lexington Ave between 47th and 48th. From my experience, the choice of venue might be no coincidence. And it represents the power of social media.

First let me say that, in my opinion, the Roger Smith is one of the coolest unsung spots in NY City. Its president is talented Connecticut sculptor James Knowles. The property is maybe the last remaining property of his wife’s family’s hotel holdings. The couple has lovingly embraced the Roger Smith, renovated it and given it one of the most delightful personalities in all NY hotel-dom.

I first met Jim Knowles in the early 1990s through a client Joe Scott, founder of upscale Connecticut landscape design firm Glen Gate, who engaged Jim to create an award for his most creative designers. At the time, Jim hosted Monday evening starving artist dinners in the penthouse of the Roger Smith. They were unspeakably charming and so supportive of the New York arts community.

Over time, I’d stop in there to view the artwork on display and noticed that the hotel was succeeding in attracting international visitors. But I will go out on a limb and say that it has become uber-popular with home town folk since social media guru Chris Brogan has made it his official NY stopover.

Chris tweets about the Roger Smith to his almost 125,000 Twitter followers – including me — and frequently mentions the hotel in blog and newsletter posts. So when a New York Times reporter doing a story on the website Foursquare.com hooks up with interviewee “Damien Basile, a 29-year-old social media consultant, and several of his Foursquare-happy friends” at the Roger Smith, it stands to reason that this person likely learned about the place from a Chris Brogan post and might well be wanting to establish Foursquare mayor-dom and badges at Chris’ NY hotel of choice. (Again check out Foursquare or the Times article to interpret the aforegoing.)

Makes sense to me. But more important, and what I’d share with clients, is that recognition in the social media realm has real dollars and cents value. The fact that Chris has established authority and endorses the Roger Smith likely makes it a destination for social media types and probably led to the NY Times recognition. Chris…you’ve proved it before, and if I’m not all wet here, this proves it again.

Obviously, I’m connecting the dots, but if somehow Damien Basile sees this post, please let me know if I’m right or paddling in the wrong pond. Or if Chris Brogan learned about the Roger Smith from Damien or other NY social media folk I’ll reverse, of course. But it was one of those tasty moments that seemed more than coincidence. And Chris’ endorsement of the Roger Smith certainly can’t hurt – regardless of who learned about it from whom.

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dLife: A How-To For Information & Social Media Monetization

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Advertising, Inbound Marketing, Internet Traffic, Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today I was in the midst of my usual early morning multi-tasking, reading email, a few favorite blogs and the New York Times online, drinking coffee and eating breakfast while listening to local news and weather on the tube in the background.

 Eating in earshot of the TV has become a real crapshoot in terms of whether you’ll be able to finish without a pharma commercial ruining the meal with a nauseating list of potential side effects of some miracle drug. This morning I didn’t get lucky.

 As I got into a NY Times story that caught my attention, Adding Fees and Fences on Media Sites by Richard Perez-Pena and Tim Arango, a drug commercial came on, sending me running to preserve enjoyment of my yogurt and fruit. As I exiled myself from the room with the offending commercial, I couldn’t help but think for the umpteenth time that this couldn’t possibly be the result that pharma marketers are looking for.

 Particularly in light of the Times article, which focuses on how news media companies are trying to monetize their content, I thought – also for the umpteenth time – about the visionary ideas behind dLife – a multi-media effort focused on helping people living with diabetes to better manage their chronic condition. I had the good fortune to work on the launch of that venture back in 2004. And it can provide a road map for both media companies and advertisers trying to find new ways to succeed.

The genius behind the dLife concept is its founder, veteran marketer Howard Steinberg, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10. Recognizing that successfully managing diabetes represents a lifestyle – a very different view of disease management – he created a multi-media diabetes network that would provide the diabetes community with a new approach to living well with a life-threatening chronic illness — while building a hugely targeted audience for pharmas and other providers of products and services for diabetes.

dLife has a web portal at its hub plus spokes that include the first lifestyle cable TV show about a chronic illness, a radio ‘tip’ segment and a newsletter. dLife.com is now one of the top diabetes/healthcare sites on the web. Its TV content is consistently award winning. You can follow the company on Twitter — @dLife. dLife members (sign-up is free) get unlimited access to its content, as well as product discounts and online purchase opportunities.

 Who pays for all of this? Advertisers do! Gladly! dLife delivers a large community that is almost 100% guaranteed to be interested in advertiser offerings. And, instead of buying expensive national advertising to reach a relatively small fraction of the US population, they can reach dLifers via much less expensive cable, online and radio advertising.

Media companies and advertisers can take a lesson from dLife. Maybe the New York Times, for example, should begin to break down its reader base into affinity groups and build segmented communities that are interested in certain areas of its coverage and would be interested in particular ad categories. The Times seems to be moving in that direction with its Weekender subscriptions and ad campaign that explores what sections people are ‘fluent in’ – read ‘interested in’. It could then offer targeted packages to advertisers – particularly multi-media offerings with built in cross marketing. Like 24/7/365 special advertising sections.

The technology exists online to provide personally segmented advertising. That’s how to get ads to where they’ll actually be appreciated – and effective. In fact, the process could be interactive. I know I would consider self-selecting for relevant ads to keep desirable news content coming – particularly if I could get irrelevant and disgusting pharma commercials out of my life!

I’d love to hear some of your creative ideas for new content/pay models for traditional media.

In honor of Howard Steinberg’s vision, today’s music is the tune Miles Ahead by the visionary jazz man Miles Davis with the Gil Evans Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones, live at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. Ironically, Davis is listed as a musician who lived with diabetes on the dLife website.

Enjoy! See you soon!

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Sorcerer’s Apprentice Part Two: Remembering John R. Walsh

Posted on November 1, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

John Walsh & Sonia Henie

OK. Here’s what really got me thinking about mentors when I wrote a post about my inbound marketing teachers earlier today. On November 1, 2007 – hard to believe it’s two years ago — my own, dear personal mentor died. His name was John R. Walsh and he was one of the unsung giants of PR. He led small New York PR agencies with and without partners that broke a lot of new ground from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s.

John created amazing PR programs for major brands. These included Colgate Palmolive’s women’s golf events – the Colgate-Dinah Shore and the Triple Crown match play tournament, precursors to what we now call sports marketing. When Dinah died and AP stories pictured her on the 18th tee of Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, home of the tournament, former Colgate CEO David Foster wrote John a personal note pointing out that the tournament continued to shine a positive spotlight on the company years after it ended.

He turned the staid nautical marketing image of Cutty Sark Scots Whisky on its ear when he convinced its distributor to give him ‘one billboard’s worth of budget’ to sponsor a star-studded men’s fashion awards event in collaboration with the Men’s Fashion Association. The Cutty Sark Menswear Awards were nominated and voted by the fashion press, ran for years and boosted the careers of designers like Gianni Versace, Alexander Julian, Jhane Barnes and many others. It also sold a lot of scotch.

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild became John’s friend as well as client when he handled the Smithsonian-sponsored US tour of the original art work for the Mouton Rothschild vintage wine labels. These are only a few examples of his brilliant campaign creation.

 He was a commanding presence who had Fortune 500 CEO’s, Hollywood stars, the press and other influential personae falling in line with his ideas. He was a great producer of shows, played a mean piano (in the key of ‘C’ only) and composed some terrific songs (also in ‘C’). He thrilled at hearing the overture to a Broadway show – which is why the music you’re listening to here is the overture from the original cast album of Mack & Mabel – one of his favorites – starring Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters.

John recognized that writing was a natural talent of mine and convinced me of it too by giving me heavy-duty writing assignments when I was just a kid really. He taught me to see the relationships among seemingly un-related dots – and then to connect them. When I decided to start my own PR consultancy he assured me that it was a no-brainer and that I’d certainly succeed.

 The proudest media success of my career was the role I played in writing his obit and placing it in the New York Times. The archives somehow detached the accompanying photo of John skating with Olympic gold medalist and movie star Sonja Henie so I’ve posted it for you to see. I forgot to mention that he was her partner in her touring ice show.  Other details of his life and career – including the fact that in an interesting turn he became my stepfather – are in the press coverage.

Thinking of you, John. I miss you and love you.

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Philly vs New York! Future of Newspapers — Part 2

Posted on October 20, 2009. Filed under: Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not offering wishful thinking about the World Series pairing  – although I’m partial to a back-to-back Series win for my hometown team. What I’m amazed to tell you is that my native Philadelphia Inquirer is up there with my adopted New York Times in the race for major dailies to figure out how to leverage print content – and monetize it – online.

In fact, this is shaping up as a week of focus on forward-thinking print media strategies. Yesterday’s post was about the new weekly paper concept of the Westchester Eye. Today I get an email from the Inquirer, subject line: Think Green – Get the eInquirer Online.

Aside from my first sarcastic thought that online would be the obvious place to get an e-paper, I was immediately curious as to how the eInquirer might differ from the online content currently available on Philly.com, the existing Inquirer/Daily News website. So I clicked.

Well here it is folks. For those who can’t bear to give up the look of the print paper — including me to a degree, the eInquirer delivers an identical on-screen facsimile — complete with ads. As my impatient mind raced forward I asked myself, “Looks good, nice try. But people don’t access content online the same way they do in print.”

Nonetheless, I decided to click on the free two-week no obligation trial. A demo popped up and it didn’t take long til I began to think, “Maybe they’re onto something here!” What you can do is flip through the ‘paper’ as though you were perusing the print version. But as you cursor over stories additional info, including story rank, pops up. If you wish, you can click on a story to opt for a couple of different online-friendly reading formats.

You can also clip, organize and save articles. From the tool bar you can access drop-down menus, email and share stories via social media networks, subscribe to condensed RSS feeds, view all photos in the paper in a gallery, access breaking news, go back to prior issues and archives and take advantage of a variety of search and other nifty options – including downloads and a mobile version.

The price? $2.25 per week delivered to your inbox. I checked to see how this compares to the print subscription price and was offered eight weeks for $48.64 — creative pricing 😉 – or $6.08 per week. In my estimation, I think that a tad more than a third of the cost of print for an online version that gives convenience, flexibility and far more functionality is an attractive deal. Plus you get to save some trees. But I’m interested to know what you all think.

The question I have is, will people gravitate to the $2.25-per-week replica – even with bells and whistles — when they can still go to the robust Philly.com and get news, commentary, entertainment calendars and more for free. I’ll let you know how I like my trial e-subscription and will get more info about how or whether the Inquirer plans to migrate to an all-paid model and ditch its free content.

The New York Times also offers an electronic edition for $9.99 per month for Monday through Friday delivery ($87.95 for a one-year sign-up) and $14.99 per month for seven days ($174.95 for a one-year sign-up). As far as recall the Times has never marketed this option to me, though I’m a subscriber.

Recently I reduced my seven-day print subscription to the Times’ ‘Weekender’ delivery option — Friday through Sunday. It runs about $26 per month vs $48, and the rest of the time I get my news online. That might explain why the electronic version is buried in a link low on the left-hand sidebar of NYTimes.com.  But if, as its copy says, “The future of the digital newspaper has arrived!,” maybe the Times ought to give it a bigger shout out and see what happens. As I think of throwing out the weekend papers I didn’t read because I was away, from here I’m going to sign up for my NYTimes seven-day free trial of a full week of the electronic version. 

Anyhow – Go Philly! Go Phils!! My hometown – which, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog sometimes has a bit of an inferiority complex vs NYC —  can be proud of its championship baseball team and of its paper as it innovates to survive in a digital world.

In honor of Philadelphia, you’re listening to native son Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B-3 organ (an instrument that drives me wild!) as well as trumpet. He’s playing Naima, a rare gentle tune by legendary jazz tenor sax player John Coltrane, another Philly native. It’s from Joey’s album Reboppin’.

 Enjoy! See you soon!

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