Measuring newspapers’ footprints

Newspaper footprint

Nearly 4 in 5 adults are touched by the “footprint” of newspapers, according to a report issued by the Newspaper Association of America, using data from Scarborough.

The report (PDF here) emphasizes a few key points:

  • Newspapers and newspaper Web sites (the newspaper footprint) reach 77% of adults in a given week.
  • The newspaper footprint reaches 65% of young adults (18-24) in a given week.
  • In a given week, the newspaper footprint reaches 66% of adults who have been in their home less than a year.
  • The newspaper footprint reaches 76% of food shoppers with long recipts($150+) in a given week.
  • The newspaper footprint reaches 81% of consumers planning to spend $35,000+ on a new vehicle in the next 12 months.
  • The newspaper footprint reaches 82% of adults who have made any Internet purchase in the last 12 months.

In the market for a new car…

I find the statistic on vehicles interesting. Here at Medill, where our Integrated Marketing Communications department harps on targeted, relevant advertising, we often discuss the inefficiency of car and real estate advertising in newspapers.

Traditionally, newspapers provided the only blanket coverage of a particularly geographic area. On the other hand, however, not many people are in the market for a car or a home at any given time.

On its face, that statistic affirms the traditional wisdom: if you want to reach someone in the market for a car, the newspaper will probably achieve that for you. On the other hand, you’ll be reaching a whole lot of people not in the market for a car. Not terribly efficient. And this report doesn’t seem to speak to that concern.

What happens when that number slips to 70 percent, then 60 percent? Of the population of people in the market for a car in the next 12 months, I wonder how many of them can be reached through ads on

Christian Century opens up site to independent bloggers

A big move for an old magazine
An editor over at U.S. Catholic, where I worked this past summer, informed me that the Christian Century, a Christian magazine with more than one hundred years of history opened up its site to independent bloggers. (Founded in 1884, it was renamed the Christian Century in anticipation of the 20th century!)

Christian Century logoFirst off, I wanted to point it out and give kudos to the staff over at Christian Century for making the move.

Secondly, apparently the way it all started was one writer, Real Live Preacher, taking it upon himself to come up with the idea and recruit all bloggers to make it happen. This fact illustrates an important facet of opening up your site, or your platform as a more traditional or mainstream news and information site. The mantra, “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t work.

There needs to be someone, whether it is a writer on staff or a community outreach coordinator or advocate, reaching out to bloggers to convince them to contribute. They can write anywhere. You have to convince them it is better to do so on your site.

Or you may have to do more…
This past spring I worked with a dozen other graduate students in the spring on the Medill Media Management project. In the course of our research into hyperlocal community news sites, we spoke with some editors at the Rocky Mountain News. When they launched YourHub, a community news site reliant heavily on user generated content, they stressed the importance of soliciting content from the community. Actively. One editor told us that if you have to go door to door and explain to people what a blog is and how it works, then that’s what it takes.

Now not all of us have the resources of the Rocky Mountain News, but to be in conversation with the community (or audience, or readership, or viewership, or whatever), you need to truly be in conversation with the community.

Medill School of Journalism trains journo-bloggers

I’ve read a couple of articles recently describing blogs as the next prime internet real estate that main stream media companies are gobbling up.

Media companies, in other words, are buying up audiences. This is one way they can compete in the new Web 2.0 arena.

Black Medill LogoHere at Medill, Rich Gordon, who directs New Media studies, has revamped the New Media Storytelling class. Whas was once a crash course in HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and even a bit of Flash, now involves identifying an audience, setting up a WordPress blog, installing Google analytics and posting daily. They are embracing, it seems, the importance for young journalists to build their own audiences and establish their own brands.

Does anyone else know of other J-schools embarking down the same road?

Here’s a link to the class blog and below are a few of my favorites from the course, which (in full disclosure) I am not enrolled. It appears the class site, as well as the individual student’s blogs, are just getting underway. But definitely interesting.

The Sidewalk – a blog on urban development by Ki Mae Huessner.

Sprockets & Cogs – a “tech-ish” blog by Amy Lee.

My Fare Chicago – a food blog by Kelsey Blackwell (which I’ve always thought was a great idea. You’ve got three posts idea easy, and that’s before snacking!)

Newspaper Association of American report on video in the newsroom

So I’m conducting research for the NAA on the present usage of videos on American newspaper’s Web sites.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for stories, posts, studies and reports on the phenomenon.

One personal anecdote/prediction before I embark:

Born and raised a lover of print, I’ve always held a particularly disdain for the “cold” medium of broadcast. I want to be in control of my media consumption, not a passive recipient of it. In thinking of newspapers creating video for the Web, I lament that newspapers haven’t gotten there sooner. It’s the one online arena where they’ve got nothing to lose!

Big Broadcast and Television are beginning to figure out online video. As newspapers migrate more into that space as well, I just hope they didn’t miss the opportunity to beat broadcast to the punch.

Newspaper companies create content, not newspapers

Here’s another tidbit I took away from an interesting conversation at the Inland Press Association: to survive (and thrive) in a new media landscape, newspapers must undergo a shift in thinking. They must conceive of themselves as creators of content, not producers of newspapers.

During our question and answer session, I repeatedly emphasized the importance for newspapers to use the Web as a platform rather than a medium; a place upon which to empower communities with tools to build, share and interact with the news.

In thinking of the Web as a platform, however, newspapers must first realize that their job is not to produce a physical product, but to create content.

The connection between those two points is so important because it affects newspapers in a very fundamental way, right down to the content management system they use to produce their end product.

The gentleman who brought this to my attention pointed out that many newspapers are (tragically) focusing on how to most quickly and efficiently repurpose their individual newspaper articles for the Web site. They’ve got it backwards. They ought to be focusing on the news first, then the newspaper.

Just a thought…

Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago – recap

As I posted earlier, I spoke today at the Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago on the expectations of young journalists, along with David Nelson, Kelly Mahoney and Jon Rubin. I’ll post more later, but for those young journalists, here’s a list of the pressing concerns on the minds of your future employers (necessarily paraphrased):

If you were editor-in-chief of newspaper with 50,000 circulation and 50 reporters, and you had one year to turn the paper around in a new media landscape, how would you do so from an organizational standpoint? Would you train your reporters? Would you hire new ones?

What is your dream job?

Do you believe that younger readers react differently to advertising as compared with an older generation?

In term of getting to know your audience, how would you go about that if you were writing for a small newspaper in a rural, homogenous, geographically dispersed community?

From small, community newspapers that struggle with high turnover, what characteristics would influence us to stick with smaller papers rather than move on?

What role should journalists play in the shaping of the end product?

Are wire services impractical investments for newspapers?

Here’s a headline from an article from the International Herlad Tribune that appeared in the Boston Globe today:

“Merkel aloof as public questions troop presence in Afghanistan” (I think it was originally “Merkel aloof as public wavers on Afghanistan” when I saw it in print, but they must have tweaked it for the Web.)

I majored in German in college, so when I saw the headline while reading the Globe this morning, I recognized the German chancellor’s name and dove right in. Then I asked myself, “Is Angela Merkel a household name to the average reader of the Boston Globe?” (Note: I’m not asking if her name “should be,” I’m simply asking if she is). I plan on polling a few of the people I’m staying with out here in Boston, a group of students getting their master’s of education at Boston College, and see what they say. But I think not.

And that brings me to the question.

Are wire services simply impractical for the paper version of the newspaper?

The article in question was wire copy from the International Herald Tribune. It’s a good piece of news, and actually quite interesting if you follow German politics and foreign policy. But I don’t think it serves the average citizen of Boston much, if at all. For one thing, it’s word for word the same article the IHT ran. Now, I’m not saying that is remarkable. Far from it, it has become standard for a paper to plug its pages with wire copy to fill its paper, without having the time or resources to position it locally by making an extra phone call.

And I’m not saying the news is unimportant. If anything, I think it is incumbent on the United States and its citizens to analyze the foreign policy of our European neighbors.

But – and here’s the thing – is it relevant to the reader?

I’d say no.

From the reader’s point of view, no where in the article am I told why this is important to me. The story hasn’t even been localized to the United States, let alone the Boston area. For those who herald the future of newspapers as excelling at local coverage, this ain’t it.

Anyone else have a different take on this? Anyone from the Globe want to weigh in on the editorial decision to run it without additional reporting? Or are the foreign policy issues of Germany that important to the Boston area?