N.Y. Times Gears Up to Monetize News Content

A little over a year ago, I shared some insights from former USA Today editor Ken Paulson about the future of journalism.

His remarks came at a New York Press Association conference where I was training reporters and editors.

Currently the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Paulson emphasized that the sky was not falling on newspapers.

Perhaps not, but clouds are continually hovering. One key ingredient in the industry’s future financial viability: finding a way to monetize news content on the Internet.

With that in mind, circle January 2011 on your calendar. That is when the New York Times will shift to an online-payment structure for visitors to their site, as Fast Company recently reported.

PR Aimed At Local Newspapers: Alive & Well

In yet another piece of News That Isn’t Really News comes a recent report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Pew asked more than 1,000 folks where they got “most of” their national and international news. In 2008, the Internet eclipsed print newspapers as their primary news source.

You can see more detail here in a New York Times blog.

Local news, however, is a different beast. For one thing, local publications don’t have a user-friendly (or even, in some cases, any) website. More significantly, however, local news is a much more intimate, day-to-day relevant resource than national and international news.

While the future of major newspapers is cloudy, I am most optimistic about the fortunes of local publications that do a solid job of covering their own communities. From a PR perspective, it is crucial to recognize how to tailor news releases and story suggestions with that specific smaller geographic focus in mind.

For example, if you have five people, from five different communities in the same metro region who have benefited from a given company’s service, then the same type of story can be pitched to at least five (and sometimes even more) distinct publications.

Increasingly, this has been a most fruitful approach for our clients at Inside Edge PR. We regularly secure multiple “media hits,” each one of which is targeted to an audience that is actually in a position to take action that benefits the client (for example, becoming a new patient of a given practitioner.)

Page 1 Ads Signal Tough Economic Times

About 12 years ago, while I was on the news staff at The Courier News in Elgin, Ill., the newspaper began placing advertisements on Page 1. For what felt like months on end, we hawked a chance to win a free Daewoo.

I didn’t like it at all. The “journalism purist” in me feared we had crossed the line and, by doing so, had diminished our credibility. In short, I felt we had “sold out.”

Today, as advertising is a commonplace sight on the front page and as I near the 10-year mark of self-employment, I have a more sympathetic take on things: my paper was simply trying to do what it could to make ends meet.

That’s certainly the case with no less an institution than the New York Times, which recently began offering Page 1 ads for $75,000 a pop and even more on weekends, according to the New York Post.

Desperate economic times call for desperate measures.

Seven Years Later: "Type Headline Here"

Unlike most Americans, I didn’t have a television on Sept. 11, 2001. So, unlike most Americans, I learned about the 9/11 attacks via another medium: e-mail alerts from the New York Times.

When I checked my e-mail that morning, this missive from the newspaper was my first inkling of the terrible events that had begun to unfold on that day:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 8:50 AM EST
Plane Crashes Into World Trade Center

A plane crashed into Manhattan’s World Trade Center this
morning, causing heavy damage and fire to several floors.

I envisioned a single-engine plane and a tragedy that was nowhere near the scope of what had occurred.

Then this e-mail arrived:

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — 9:04 AM EST
Type headline here

A second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center
towers, according to the Associated Press.

It may seem peculiar to some, but to me, the biggest tip-off of the horrible magnitude of events wasn’t that a second plane had crashed–after all, there’s still no detail about the size of either plane.

Instead, I couldn’t help but note that a Times editor had been so frantic that he or she failed to insert a headline before clicking “send.”

I have many memories from that traumatic day: breaking the news to my wife through a prayer at breakfast, visiting her grandparents, reporting for Time magazine (the collective story was called “Day of Bombing”) and talking to a college friend who was 100 yards away when the plane crashed into the Pentagon.

But my first memory from Sept. 11, 2001 is perhaps the eeriest:

When my eyes opened that morning, the digital alarm clock-radio read 7:47. “Like a 747 plane,” I thought, then drifted back to sleep for a few minutes longer.
As I later learned, Flight 11 had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center about a minute earlier.