Mobile News Great For That Morning Commute

Today the Chicago-based media company Tribune–which own papers like the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and TV stations nationwide–made a rather dull announcement about promotions within its Interactive division. Well, dull until you distill the fluffy comments to a key phrase by one promotee. Said new vice president of product development Shawn Gannon, “We have a strong …   Read More

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Mobile News Great For That Morning CommuteToday the Chicago-based media company Tribune–which own papers like the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, and TV stations nationwide–made a rather dull announcement about promotions within its Interactive division. Well, dull until you distill the fluffy comments to a key phrase by one promotee. Said new vice president of product development Shawn Gannon, “We have a strong group in place to lead the digital and mobile charge towards innovative offerings and services not only to our current partners and users, but also to new businesses and audiences.”

This piqued my interest because I’ve long said that the news industry–my own former industry–needed to seriously look at digital distribution, as well as understand exactly what their value is, and how to monetize it. There are a few types of mobile offerings that I’d like to see Tribune, or any news media corporation, create.

It boils down to that beloved news (and tabloid) phrase: Exclusives. Local newspapers have unique content, with coverage of people, events, and issues that no one else is writing about. This is the space where hometown papers don’t have to compete with large news companies for eyeballs. So denizens are going to be extremely interested in–and, moreover, willing to pay for–these stories. With the mobile platform, news organizations can distribute paid-for information in a variety of ways.

Premium SMS, in which phone users are charged per-message to receive, kind of like a reverse American Idol vote. These can be drilled down to types of stories which the consumer chooses to receive: “Nightlife information,” “local politics,” “crime reports,” etc. This way, the reader is ensured of getting the information most valuable, and most relevant, to him or her. It also helps foster the sense of relationship and intimacy between the brand and the consumer.

Mobile-optimized websites that only paying subscribers can access. Yes, I know the New York Times did away with paid online subscriptions after the experiment was a financial flop. But exclusive, relevant, local news on a phone is a much smaller niche, and consumers interested in it are going to be more willing to pay than, say, the casual online surfer who came across a NYT online story by Googling some general term.

Free text-message alerts, for which denizens sign up through a double opt-in process, are a way to drive readership back to the printed page. Say there’s a big feature story, on a local celebrity or a big city hall issue, that’s scheduled to run tomorrow. A free text-message alert lets the reader know to grab a paper in the morning. (Or to check out the story on the premium mobile website.) These alerts can also be used with advertising partners, to promotion sales specials or coupons, either in print or sent to consumers as a mobile bar code.

Milk the multi-channel. Newspapers already own a print medium! So they should use it to their advantage. Most papers reserve a few column inches in which they run “house ads” promoting the publication. So they should use these to promote the shortcode to which they must text in order to subscribe to news and coupon alerts. Mobile marketers in all kinds of other industries know the effectiveness of a multi-channel campaign. Newspapers are sitting on a gold mine.

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