Bespoken Management

Why Digital Newspapers are Getting it Wrong

Digital versions of every newspaper have launched as tablet use has grown. Currently, less than a quarter of the US population still reads printed newspapers, with the number declining each year. Alternatively, more than half of the population reads digital newspapers.  As readers switch from printed papers to online versions, newspaper companies – particularly smaller localized papers – are having difficulty retaining readership. But why are traditional news companies struggling? Is it the content that they are creating? The collaborative ads? The subscription or pay structures?

Studies suggest the varied business models for digital news distributors have become extremely segmented. Providers now attempt to gain readership using methods from free to premium content to high and low value.  One thing is certain – as Wikipedia and Facebook have taught us – creating a revenue stream for news, social interaction, or data is crucial to building your business. But it can also interfere with growth if not done at the right time or for the right reasons.

In the past few years, we have teamed up with many publishers. They provide digital versions of localized and widely disseminated publications. We typically focus on integrating sponsored content to build backlinks and expand the reach of articles we write for our clients. The articles are primarily educational pieces with a mix of varied calls-to-action or repurposed content.

One thing has become clear over the past few years. More and more digital newspapers are turning to interruption based marking tactics to gain readers (or subscriptions). 

What does this mean for sponsored content? Take a look at the next image.

This is what readers are likely to see when they have done the research to find the article and information that they need, which seems to create a bit of a conundrum. Readers are often prompted to subscribe before reading. That alone might make sense, but they are also prompted to fill out other information not necessarily relevant to the content they want to read. Readers must take extra steps just to read the content. This can lead to a decline in click-through-rates, lead generation, and readership. 

On the one hand, of course digital news companies are attempting to build their own readership. On the other, they are sacrificing service value to other customers. The solution? Instead of frustrating the customer with extra steps to get the content they desire, focus on taking an inbound approach. In other words, build a permission-based marketing strategy to build leads.  With an inbound marketing strategy, digital newspapers could still build readership by promoting their own leadership in the industry through content offerings or even sponsored content.

Notice we said offerings, not articles. The offering should be something that is relevant to the types of articles the reader is looking at. By teaming up with other reputable companies that are using sponsored content channels, newspapers could even leverage their customers’ expertise to gain readership and promote the client at the same time.

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