A major metro newsroom these days produces far more than a newspaper. My employer, for example, publishes three magazines, more than 100 blogs and a Web site that offers a large number of pages devoted to relatively narrow reader interests. (From neighborhood happenings to sports teams to specific forms of entertainment.)
The trick is to leverage that diversity of outlets on the advertising side, maximizing revenue potential. Now, I don't believe that advertising will continue to carry the lion's share of the weight when it comes to media revenue in the future. (See my previous post about instituting a pay model, and subsequent ones are in the works on other revenue sources.) But advertising will be -- and needs to be -- part of the business-model solution.
What we need to do is become much more sophisticated about our outlets, and the demographic/ethnographic profile of our customers who frequent each. Offer advertisers what they want -- an opportunity to make their sales pitches to specific slices of the reading/viewing/listening audience. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we increasingly have to offer a la carte solutions to advertisers.
So, for example, an advertiser might have specific income, gender, geographic or other criteria in mind for its target market. "I run a fly fishing shop and I'd like to reach men over the age of 35 who make more than $75,000 a year and like to spend time in the outdoors." We could work with that shop owner to identify the eight platforms we provide that cater to that audience, and price the shop's advertising accordingly. Those eight places might include a weekly outdoors column that runs in the sports page, of course. But it would also include the outdoors blog, hiking blog and fishing blog we write and the news Web site we maintain for that shop's neighborhood. And probably a section in one of our monthly magazines that caters to that demographic.
Slice the newspaper and magazines into narrow pieces, and do the marketing research required to know who reads each section/column/feature. Use that information, along with the dozens of blogs and news pages online, to offer advertisers exactly what they want in terms of audience. To do that of course, we first have to understand our audience very well.
This isn't rocket science, of course. It's just one more thing we need to consider as we remake this old-school industry.