Media Executives Speak at University of Tampa

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.

Bernie Borges, Paul Tash, Mike Pumo at University of Tampa BNSThe 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.

Bernie Borges speaking at University of TampaI 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.

UT Business Network Symposium April 22, 2009Today’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 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 (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.

Bernie Borges

14 Comments to Media Executives Speak at University of Tampa

  1. by Andrew Davis April 24, 2009

    Great post and congrats on the speaking engagement at the University of Tampa! Nice work.
    As for the role of new media as it pertains to meeting the needs of advertisers, I don't believe the answer lies in straight advertising. As a quick example of what I think the future of product placement looking at things like where sponsors buy a spot on the show. Or (more mainstream) check out Tom Green's online show: Tom struck deals with Heineken and Bud Light for product placement in his show from his home on LA. That's real content integration.

    When we're talking about more mainstream platforms like Newspapers I don't think the model is very different. They generate valuable content and provide valuable insight. Let's take David Pogue for example. If the NY Times wants to make more money two times a week any technology company could PAY for an objective technology review from David Pogue. That's valuable. Of course if your product sucks you may get panned – but that's the chance you take.

    What do you think?

  2. by Andrew Davis April 24, 2009

    Oh – I forgot. We're actually starting a monthly series called Forward Thinking. Next month we're focusing on the Newspaper industry and its predicament.
    Just a shameless plug. 😉

  3. by Gary Ares April 24, 2009

    Well written, and well positioned. You couldn't have asked for a better mix of positions on the topic. It also sounds like you displayed your respect for all sides. I agree with you on the video – it's a keeper!

    Finally, you are definitely doing a great service to anyone who will listen to the reality and benefits of inbound marketing.

  4. by Joe Pulizzi April 24, 2009

    Thanks Bernie for the analysis. The one area I wanted to comment on was the print vs. online. Although we know that people are changing behavior and going more online, there are also many print trade magazines that are still very well read. The problem is not readership in those cases (I believe Lucky magazine is targeted to the under 30 crowd and is doing very well). When I talk to publishers, readership levels still score very high, not much difference than in the past. The difference is that advertisers aren't paying to support that business model.

    The issue is advertising. So, even though I really like your example of, they are still relying on advertising, be it online advertising. Display advertising on the web is on the downside. Less click-throughs, more people learning to ignore the ads.

    So, to your point, it comes down to businesses created valuable, relevant content to attract and retain customers. It's about them being the media.

    Online advertising spending growth is declining as an overall percentage…with that money going into video, content, websites, etc. Their own content.

    That strategy should be implemented in all media. There are some amazing custom print magazines (, that are doing amazing things, are very well read, and change/maintain behavior. Custom magazines have not declined much over the past few years. Many people still enjoy engaging in print.

    Hey, I'm all about online, just didn't want to see your great argument go into online versus print when your argument is advertising versus quality content.

    Thanks Bernie.

  5. by Steve Tingiris April 24, 2009

    I think Joe has an excellent point. Perhaps it’s not an online vs. offline debate but rather one about the value of content in the consumer‘s eye and the ability of the publisher to monetize content.

    There is no doubt that most print publications are struggling but most online publishers would be in the same boat if they had the same overhead costs as their offline counterparts.

    So, how do content publishers make money when all the advertisers have gone away? It’s costly to create great content and I assume most publishers would like to make some profit too. How do they do that without advertisers (as we know them today)? I think that’s the question they need to find an answer to. Anyone with the answer, please speak up.

    Great article BTW!

  6. by Bernie April 24, 2009

    I have the answer. I can't take any credit for it though. I'm just not that smart. Chris Anderson has the answer. Here it is:

    Newspapers need to read the blog post above from Chris Anderson and study those options. They should also read his book: "The Long Tail" for a lesson in niche marketing.

  7. by Andrew Davis May 6, 2009

    We started our series on the rebirth of the newspaper and I thought it might be relevant to this discussion. We've got some interesting thoughts coming next week to follow up on the set up here:

    Let me know what you think.

  8. by Bernie Borges May 29, 2009

    I still think there is a fundamental paradigm shift taking place among consumers of content. As Joe says there is a vibrant industry for custom content in niche markets. But, the general news market comprised of daily newspapers is quicksand. It's dying.

    I just returned from another business trip. I bought the USA Today to read on the plane. I had a middle seat and I hated the physical maneuvering required of the paper fold. Plus, newspapers have always made your hands dirty. I hate them.

    I can't wait for the day my handheld device gives me all the news I need.

    That day is already here.

    Newspapers are dying. It's not a matter of if, but when…

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