A huge missed opportunity with Newspapers

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I was walking home from the grocery store and when I saw a newspaper box for the newspaper I used to work for and it got me thinking about newspapers and how they just can’t figure it out when it comes to Online Marketing and SEO.  When I was working for this Washington, D.C. newspaper I was already doing a ton of online marketing but they had hired me to do traditional Marketing and Cartography (Sales Maps based on demographics and zip codes), branding and messaging and although I love doing the traditional Marketing almost as much as online, I constantly told them about their missed opportunities.  Oddly enough the week I was leaving is the week they started to talk about it and asked me for help in building the department (not putting me in it) again they are always the last ones in with missed opportunities and ended up hiring a bunch of people who didn’t know anything and couldn’t do anything but throw around a bunch of buzzwords.  I did however get contacted by their two biggest competitors Gannet and the Washington Post to come help with their Marketing departments, both online and off, but at that point I wanted to leave Newspaper world and be back into online land and focus more of my time on Online Marketing.  Anyways, one of the things I always pushed for but they just never got or understood was the power of their greatest asset, their journalists and their content.

Not only did they have fresh content and tons of it coming in each day, but they had the resources to be able to apply it to the internet and their website.  One of the strongest things about sites like Wikipedia is their powerful internal linking structure which also helps boost their SEO relevance for generic terms and phrases.  This is something that newspapers have that most other companies don’t, the content and the writers.  The problem is that even though they know the value of content (i.e. why people read their paper in the first place) they don’t realize the online value and how they can leverage it to gain even more eyeballs.  Sure they put their articles on their websites but rarely do they ever actually use it to boost their own internal rankings and for SEO.

Think about it, they have active content contributors just like wikipedia or other information sites.  They have professional writers and fact checkers and they also have information that people are looking for.  Combined with their loyal readers (a lot less than previous years before people were actively reading online) they have one of the most powerful factual content engines available and since they have new articles and content coming out every day all they need is someone to figure out how to link it.  They also get tons of backlinks from local Bloggers referencing them.

Now take a basic person in the Marketing department who does nothing else but file papers or put together media kits.  Why not have them take a few hours each week or each day to go over articles or scan the site for keywords and start linking them through.  Take terms like newspaper and start linking the keyword back to the homepage or even news.  Take the words recipe or long tail terms like summer beach bbq recipes and start linking them to the food sections.   Not only are you feeding the Search Engines tons of free original and unique content, but you’ll also be encouraging them to crawl you more often, refind important pages and as they do they’ll also see that you are telling them certain parts of your site are the relevant pages for more vanity and general terms by properly tagging them.

You have to remember that newspapers make their money on eyeballs seeing their ads, not on conversions (although this is changing online since they are finally able to be measured with more than a unique phone number or coupons being brought into retail shops) so these general and vanity terms can really boost up their impressions and also enable them to look more solid to their Advertisers, not to mention increase their ad volume and ability to deliver volume.  Then again, not all advertisers are looking for an ROI, some want the branding aspect or just need to eat their budgets so by Newspapers using their original content and building an internal linking structure they are now setting themselves up to compete with the information giants like wikipedia and are able to start forming new streams of advertising revenue with their new found readerships and can begin to compete with online news sites.

I was just remembering recommending they start building an internal linking structure many years ago and if they would have listened to that advice as well as began saving their content instead of deleting it after a certain amount of time, they would be much better off than they are now.  Imagine all the content and references that would be made back to their site, especially because media outlets like papers are supposed to be factual.  Its kind of funny how some companies just don’t get it, but you also have to remember that if you don’t embrace certain technologies sometimes or listen when someone approaches you with what everyone else is doing to grow, then you sometimes miss out.  Newspapers and many other dinosaurs missed the boat for the most part and many still don’t get it.  It’s a shame for them because not only do they have what so many people want and need, content, but they don’t use it to their advantage.  Putting a twitter and social media button like AddThis.com or SocialTwist.com is a good start, but when you dig down into it, why not use the most valuable thing you have, your employees and their content.  Looking back it is almost comical, then again it is also sad that they passed on this.  Ohh well, I moved on and have helped many other companies grow, its a shame that they didn’t listen though.   I’m still amazed at how much room there is still to grow many companies and how much they resist these channels, mainly because they don’t understand them.  I guess that is also why smaller companies are able to start to claim their market share and grow.

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