I recently had the honor of speaking at the University of Tampa Business Network Symposium. I shared the stage with two local media executives: Paul Tash, CEO and Editor of Times Publishing and Mike Pumo, General Manager, WFLA TV.
The three of us were seated on a stage facing the audience of more than 230 local business executives in the Vaughn Center building on the beautiful UT campus in downtown Tampa.
I spoke first opening with a summary of my favorite video on YouTube. It is a parody of the gap that exists between sellers and buyers. In the video, the buyer (the consumer) informs the seller (the advertiser) she wants a divorce. She tells him how they don’t talk anymore, he doesn’t know her, they don’t have a relationship. The seller counters by rattling off all the marketing campaigns recently conducted and demographics he knows about her. She rolls her eyes implying that he just doesn’t get it and she says “I’m outa here” and walks out.
I spoke about the importance of sellers engaging their buyers through inbound marketing with great content with the intent to build relationships by being human, by informing, by educating and by entertaining. I emphasized how most traditional outbound marketing tactics that produce 2% response rates are becoming less effective due in part to all the filters available to buyers to filter out seller’s marketing tactics. Worse yet, buyers don’t want to be engaged that way. In the past, buyers didn’t have any choice.
Today’s, buyers (consumers) have many more choices in part due to the many platforms on the web. Buyers are increasingly talking with each other in social networks about companies, about products, about people and about anything of interest. The collective power of this word of mouth is at an all time high. Sellers who continue to sell the old way are seeing less results. Sellers who engage with their community and build relationships and offer them great content through their website, articles, blogs, e-books, newsletters, white papers, podcasts, videos, photos, etc. are enjoying more loyalty and sales results.
When the other two executives spoke I was struck by their contrast. Paul Tash runs Times Publishing, comprised of the St. Petersburg Times newspaper and TBT (Tampa Bay Times), as well as 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Politifact.com. Mr. Tash acknowledged the difficult time which all newspapers are currently experiencing. In attempt to imply that the glass is half full, he compared the economic struggles in Florida to those of Michigan. He said that our struggles are not nearly as hard as theirs due to the decline of the U.S. auto industry. He pointed out that many print newspaper advertisers have historically been auto dealers and real estate companies, both of which are not advertising much at this time. The general message I got from his speech is that this is a “season” which will pass…
Mike Pumo runs the WFLA television station which is an NBC affiliate. WFLA is also aligned with the other local print newspaper; the Tampa Tribune, and also runs TBO.com (Tampa Bay Online). I was VERY impressed with his story. Mike spoke of a meeting they had about a year ago. The executives locked themselves in a room and reinvented their business emerging with a multi-media mix of advertising solutions. The response by advertisers has been very positive. Now, they offer advertisers the ability to reach consumers in any combination of television, print, online and mobile. They also have a pilot program underway for television delivery on mobile devices. It’s clear to me that WFLA is adapting to changing buyer behaviors and delivering marketing products and services to advertisers that can deliver results according to their needs across multiple media channels.
However, I’m afraid for Times Publishing though. It appears to me they don’t get it. During the Q&A one member of the audience asked if print news is going to die or survive. Mr. Tash pointed out that TBT serves a very narrow niche and does very well. He shares the same positive sentiment toward the general print newspaper. He believes they will weather the storm and be ok in the long run.
I couldn’t disagree more. I think it’s just a matter of time before the print news as we know it today is dead. Just look at the Seattle Post Intelligencer. They stopped publishing print after 146 years and committed 100% to online news. News is very personal to most of us. We can already subscribe to news online through RSS. It won’t be long before video news on our mobile devices is mainstream. And, it won’t be long before Internet-based content is available on our televisions through our local cable or satellite providers. Today’s teenager doesn’t read the newspaper. Do we expect them to read the newspaper in the future? No! Will advertisers pay to advertise to a shrinking audience? No!
I must disclose that I subscribe to the St. Petersburg Times newspaper with home delivery 7 days a week. It is a fine newspaper. But, I only read certain sections. Since I already subscribe to RSS-enabled content, at some point when mobile and television based content give me and my family all the news we need, I won’t need a newspaper delivered to my home.
What about commuters who like to read the paper on a bus or train? Eventually, they will die or retire or buy an iPhone and get everything they need on their mobile device.
What say you about the role of new media as it pertains to meeting the needs of advertisers who want to reach consumers in productive ways that justify advertising budgets?
I’m most curious to observe if people from Times Publishing will engage in this online conversation.