Thursday, April 19, 2012

Editors are best marketers of a news organization

Versión en español aquí. 

Many editors cringe when asked to be involved with sales and marketing. They feel it betrays ethical and editorial values to make a buck. 

But editors have product knowledge useful in sales, and they have a passion for their work that can inspire sponsors and advertisers to spend money on the site.

Today editors have to be involved in sales and marketing because of the competition from digital media. The question is how to do it without compromising editorial integrity. 

Digital provides audience data

It used to be that editors in large news organizations had little contact with the audience unless someone called to complain or wrote a letter to the editor. 

They had no way of knowing how many people read a specific article, how much time they spent with it or whether they recommended it to their friends. Now editors can and should know all those things. They have the data and they need to study it. 

The goal of studying traffic data is not to pander to the audience by feeding them more news about celebrities' love lives. The goal is for the editor to make the core product as attractive to the target audience as possible by studying the impact of headlines, design, story placement, time of day, geography and story tags on the website's traffic.

An editor should be the chief marketer of the newspaper, where "marketer" means the person charged with knowing the publication's target audience and developing products designed to capture that audience. 

Competition forces change

The old business model in which editorial could be walled off from advertising and marketing does not work in the competitive environment of digital journalism. Hordes of online competitors are studying user data so they can steal the audience and advertisers of traditional media.

Editorial has to be in sync with marketing and sales to help the enterprise compete. All parties have to have intimate knowledge of what the other is doing and have to cooperate on a daily basis. 

How the editor can help sales

The best salespeople can tell stories about how their product benefits the customer, and the editor is in the best position to tell the story of the news organization. 

The editor is recognized in the community and is in effect a celebrity spokesman for the product. A potential client will avoid a salesperson but will make time to meet the editor. 

So how do you get the editor involved in sales without compromising editorial integrity?

Meet-the-editor events are a great way to pull in new potential advertisers and sponsors. The publication can advertise the event to the public at large or just invite a few key executives. The editor can speak about the news products, some recent scoops, local and national economic trends, the audience of the publication, etc. without ever uttering a word about sales. The editor can refer questions about sales to the sales manager, who should be present.  

I have seen this technique work for business publications and think it can work for other types of publications as well. The editor has to feel comfortable doing it, and a way to ensure that comfort is to not ask the editor to cross the line. 

Digital media competition is breaking down the Chinese wall. That doesn't have to mean the barbarians are invading the newsroom. It can mean that peace now reigns between two formerly antagonistic camps: editorial and marketing/sales. 


1 comment:

  1. Next time you're home, let's have lunch and I'll tell you how I took this column to heart and the results. --- J.H. Tidyman, editor, DD 214 Chronicle