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August 24, 2006 / Toby Dayton

An Idea For The Daily Newspapers

I’m David Manaster, CEO of ERE Media, the leading trade publisher for recruiting professionals. Toby is generously hosting this guest post on his blog as part of the Recruiting Blog Swap.

It’s a tough time to be in the daily newspaper business. Even as advertising online is booming, the dailies are seeing at best slow growth in print, the former cash cow print classified business has been commoditized to the point where superior products are being offered online for free, free dailies and weeklies are popping up in major metro areas, and thousands of employees are being laid off.

In February, I attended the Newspaper Association of America’s Marketing Conference. Coming away from the event, I was left with the impression that the newspaper executives were well aware of the monumental challenges facing them, but don’t have a lot of good ideas about how to deal with them.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I heard one such idea from Bob Etheridge, the VP of Marketing at GetTheJob.com.

Bob and I go way back to when I was just starting ERE, and he was pushing job fairs at TechExpo. Since then, he has been one of the principals at Jobcircle.com, before their eventual merger with JobNet.com. He’s also worked at BostonWorks, the recruitment division of the Boston Globe. This is a guy who gets our business.

Bob’s idea is simple – newspapers should all be providing wireless internet access to their local communities.

I can see the newspaper execs rolling their eyes already – “David, we are not in the technology business – we are media companies!” And they are right – to a point.

Editorial missions (both real and imagined) aside, the business of most newspapers is to aggregate the largest number of eyeballs in their local areas and then sell them to advertisers. Traditionally, they collect those eyeballs with editorial content and then sell ads with their extensive sales force and network of local merchants. Selling ads is the business, and it is what allows the nobler journalistic mission to continue (look no further than all of the recent layoffs of journalists for proof.)

When you core business attack is under attack, you need to think about how you can leverage your existing strengths. And in the case of the papers, their local advertising sales force is a huge asset.

So they should outsource the actual technology. They should partner, or simply engage the services of an Internet provider to handle the online access, and just focus on their strength – selling those ads.

Imagine if everyone with a laptop in Chicago were able to log from anywhere in the city, in return for viewing a few ads from the Tribune. Do you think that might help them sell a few more ads? Boost the bottom line?

In a perfect world, with the newspapers’ local content and a true local online community built around the wireless access home page, they could add tremendous value to their real life communities. It could even help them reestablish the position they once enjoyed as the default information providers of their respective communities.

Even better for the newspapers, they could use their existing strength in local advertising to make this model highly profitable.

Keep an eye on The Pilot, who recently launched the beginnings of a free wireless service in Moore County, North Carolina. They are working with a great idea, and one that every newspaper should be considering.

[Tags]ERE Media, Idea For Newspapers, Metro WI-FI, Free WI-FI Access, The Pilot[/tags]

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