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You and the NY Times, bucking for change of another kind

From the Oct 28, 2008 issue of the New York Times, an excerpt from the column “The Media Equation”:

Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paperâ??s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.

Things change. In every business.

Businesses faced with such situations typically have two choices: Adjust or lose the opportunity to do so.

Oh, I guess there might be a third: denial.

The NY Times figured this out a while back. Even the denial part.

To their credit, they’re still changing and adjusting how they provide content – a process of change they’d better get used to.

One example: They created the NY Times Reader, a nice Windows-based program that was created to display the Times in its original format on your screen, complete with high quality font display, 7 days of issues available to read with no requirement to be connected to the net once the news is initially downloaded.

But not all things are bright and shiny in the Land of Change: Another quote from the same column illustrates a collision of new and old thinking, and a teaspoon of Dont-Quite-Get-It-Yet:

More than 90 percent of the newspaper industryâ??s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day. A single newspaper ad might cost many thousands of dollars while an online ad might only bring in $20 for each 1,000 customers who see it.

Is that just the slightest hint that they are still in a bit of denial about the price of newspaper print advertising out of whack with the value provided?

It’s NOT about how many people see the ad

It’s about who sees it, and further, who responds to it. That’s what advertisers should be paying for. One price to display to just the right audience. Another price if they respond.

Why another price if they respond? A great ad in front of the right audience at the right time will elicit a good response and generate more than enough revenue to make the ad worthwhile.

If this isn’t clear, consider this: If I see a feminine hygiene commercial 42 times (or 42,000 times), is it likely that I will ever respond? Ladies, you could easily find a parallel from the male world that you’d never respond to.

So why bother displaying the ad?

Why doesn’t the NY Times offer the option to never see ads, in exchange for paying more to read it? Or maybe I just don’t have time for ads on weekdays, so the Sunday Times still shows ads to me. Different fee.

It’s 2008. My paper should react to me and my needs. I might not mind ads if they were targeted at my needs, based on demographics and psychographics, among other things.

These ideas are troublesome for a print publication. Revolutionary to the newspaper business perhaps, but easy for a digital publication to deliver.

With all that in mind…

What kind of information should you be looking at for improved delivery? Sales info. Customer support info. How to info. Company news. Info for employees. Info for business partners. Training.

How are you and your business prepared – and continuing to prepare – for the speed that information delivery is changing?

Two choices. Adjust, or become the next $1 magazine like TV Guide. Not a $1 for one issue – $1 for the entire magazine.