Why newspapers buy communities

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Good Old Trend

In my last post, Jonas Sandberg left a comment with so many questions that when I started to answer them, it turned into a post of it’s own. So here we go: why I think newspapers are buying communities.

As I see it, there are two major factors that can be found:

1. Reaching young adults with targeted advertising.

2. Creating brand awareness in the target group, and acting as a bridge over to other media channels and brands that they own.

In an online world, the traditional newspaper (web site) can’t appeal to everyone. The site portfolio that you, as a newspaper, should be offering your advertisers must therefore be considerably broader. Ownership of all these sites is not necessarily required, but there should be a significant financial interest there. Look at Washington Post that co-hosts an ad-network for local bloggers, for instance.

The ongoing discussion of trying to make the newspaper “younger” or more “hip” (that has been active at the places where I’ve worked at least) really addresses a completely different problem. Yes, a newspaper must renew itself in order to stay alive, but no – this will not solve all it’s troubles. This is mainly an editorial issue, not a an advertising issue.

The days where people had one source of information are gone. You might have read one paper, but who reads one web site? Still, you can become the one source within the niche you intend to cover. The challenge now is to have many of these niche channels and then offer them to your advertisers.

With the argument above, it makes more sense to try to acquire the sites where the young adults are right now, rather than trying to make them visit the main newspaper site. Synergies occur as they can use the newspapers current sales force to sell in this new channel, broadening their offer to include a wider demographic. This works specifically well in the case of Apberget.se as this is a local community that would suit the VK sales force well.

The second point is one that few young people want to admit: one day, when you’re older, you’re going to slow down and start caring more about your local community. It’s the way it has always been. When you have kids, you care about schools. When your parents are old, suddenly care for the elderly is important. And with an increasing local focus of national tabloids like Aftonbladet and Expressen, brand awareness for local papers is more important than ever.

In my opinion, the only way for a newspaper to stay important and active is to follow their readers through all stages of life – with different channels, products and approaches. And a coherent strategy is the glue to shift the readers seamlessly from one product to another. And at the moment, a local community is a good first step in young adults ever-changing media consumption.

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