Congratulations for the Gannett corporate staff for selecting after more than three years of deliberations an e-mail publishing vendor for USA Today and for all Gannett newspapers and TV stations in North America.
Gannett’s ‘quick’ selection is significant for two reasons:
First, it means that now almost all major U.S. newspaper chains have finally begun e-mail publishing operations. Gannett is the largest U.S. chain and the last to do so. Knight Ridder, Advance Publications, Tribune, New York Times, Post-Newsweek, Media News Group, and Media General already have such operations underway. This leaves Hearst and Cox as the only chains among the top 20 not to have started concerted e-mail publishing operations vendor, although a few of their newspaper sites have individually done so.
The early adopters (and I use that term relatively here) of e-mail publishing are doing indeed quite well with it:
Second, Gannett’s ‘quick’ decision was typical of most other newspaper chains, which have come to e-mail publishing late or else without much effort at generating revenues.. At the roots of this are two unfortunate characteristics of most online newspapers: minickry and department factionalism.
Most Editorial and Advertising departments’ staffs who run U.S. newspaper Web sites have no clue what their newspapers’ Circulation staff do. Let me now enlighten them: Circulation staff make sure that more people read an edition each and every day. According to the Newspaper Association of America, 84 percent of print circulation of the average U.S. newspaper comes from direct daily delivery to homes and offices. Only some 16 percent comes from consumers remembering, and taking time, to visit sites where they can access a printed copy, despite those sites being all over town.
If U.S. newspapers depended upon consumers remembering, and taking time, to access a printed copy daily, most of the average newspaper’s circulation would evaporate. Yet the Editorial and Advertising deparments’ staff or alumni who nowadays shovel printed content online have built their business model on that basis.
Look at the results: the average users of a U.S. newspaper Web site visits it less than five times per month. By the way, what percentage is five days in a 31-day month? Sixteen percent. By relying solely upon consumers remembering, and taking time, to visit their newspapers’ Web sites, rather than directly delivering content daily to those online consumers, the Editorial and Advertising deparments’ staff and alumni who run those sites have achieved the same results they would have with newsprint editions if they didn’t directly deliver daily. Consumer behavior is similar on-line as off-line.
Newspapers (and magazines and broadcasters, anyone who publishes periodically) need e-mail publishing for direct daily delivery of their online content. Moreover, periodicals need to learn much more about how to use e-mail publishing successfully. Most online periodicals are five years behind the advertising & marketing industry in general on that topic.
However, newspapers won’t really learn all that much about e-mail publishing at NAA, IFRA, or Editor & Publisher magazine events. At those events, they’ll learn only what other newspapers have done. Yet, those newspapers that are doing it learned it from studying how the the advertising & marketing industry in general has used e-mail publishing an industry that, as I said, is years ahead of the newspaper industry at this. That’s where periodical publishers need to be with these technologies: ahead of competitors, not behind.
Newspapers need to attend E-Mail marketing conferences (such as the Direct Marketing Assocation’s Comprehensive E-mail Marketing Strategies conference next month or Jupitermedia’s E-Mail Strategies Conferences in the springtime), where they can learn from the national & local advertising professionals how legitimate (non-spam, double opt-in) e-mail marketing a billion dollar annual industry in the U.S.
[Disclaimer: I’ve been attending those DMA and Jupitermedia events for years; been a speaker at Jupitermedia E-Mail Strategies conferences; taught the Masters Classes in e-mail publishing at the Content Summits in Zürich during the late 1990s; and was the opening keynote speaker at De Eerste Nationale Email Marketing Conferentie in Amsterdam during 2002. I’ll be publishing a research report later this year about the world’s most successful uses of e-mail publishing by newspapers and magazines. So you could say that I have a vested interest in emphasizing the importance of e-mail publishing for periodical publishing. Nevertheless, the points I’ve made above stand by themselves, despite any vested interest.]