For many decades, the business model for newspapers was the same: publish stories and photos in print, and sell advertising to go around it. Simple.
Then the internet came along and the news industry tried to apply the same model there: publish stories and photos (and videos and audio) online, and sell advertising to go around it. Not as simple — or as successful.
The reader experience online is quite different than the one in print. People spend less time on each “page” online than they do in print, for one thing. Readers move through the web at a different pace and with a different purpose. Banner and display ads alone, while an important tool for advertisers, will never provide the same impact as print ads once did.
We recognized that to truly succeed as a business in this current landscape, we must give advertisers a variety of options to get their messages out. So we set out to create a dedicated team to help local businesses navigate through all the many choices.
Several months ago, we launched Big Surf Media, a small marketing division of The Press, with a focus on digital. We wanted our approach, both internally and externally, to be different than the way newspapers traditionally work. One of the first differences is that the marketing team consists of people from both the advertising department and the newsroom.
In the past, newsroom and advertising folks would cross the street to avoid talking to each other. Not that many years ago, The Press was housed in two separate buildings and people HAD to cross the street to talk to each other. Some of this culture was understandable: One of the tenets of our business is the idea that our news coverage is not influenced by advertising. So staff did whatever they could to keep that “separation of church and state.”
We won’t let our marketing efforts influence our news coverage, and to reassure readers we will list our clients on BigSurfMedia.com (coming soon!).
Advertising doesn’t affect news coverage, but it has influenced what’s happened to our industry. The decline in print advertising revenue has led to staff reductions at newspapers around the country, including this one. As more readers migrate to getting news on a digital platform, both the news operation and advertisers have to find better ways to connect with them.
While not a pioneering idea (plenty of other media companies run marketing agencies through their newspaper operations), this is a new approach for The Press. But the mission for Big Surf Media isn’t so different from what newspapers have always done best. In both news and advertising, we are a public service business, first and foremost. Our goal is to inform the public about both the news and commercial options in their communities and beyond.
Rather than simply selling a print or web ad, this agency offers clients an array of services, including social media management, web design and maintenance, video and audio production, even developing graphics for print and web, and more.
“One of the best things Big Surf Media can offer an advertiser is help developing a whole marketing strategy for their business,” said Michelle Rice, vice president of sales and marketing, and director of Big Surf Media (along with yours truly). “Every plan we develop is custom-made specifically for each client.”
As media organizations move forward into the great digital future, we need to continue to seek innovative ways to provide old-fashioned public service.
Kris Worrell is executive editor and vice president, news.