Digital marketing and the press

News is a product. How do you sell it online?


DIGITAL platforms have revolutionized the way news organizations produce and deliver content. They have turned news into everyone’s commodity as they allowed easier and faster access to it.

News is no longer something you only read as you drink your morning coffee, watch while slumped on a couch or listen to as you cook dinner. With your smartphone, tablet or ultrabook in hand, you take the news with you – in the toilet, in bed, in transit, to the office, while jogging, in a boring family reunion.

But as more news outlets turn digital, the internet gets congested. For traditional media still trying to find their place online, the community press included, selling journalism is tough when there are a million other news websites to compete with. They need a smart digital marketing strategy to reinforce their brand, reach more audience and sustain public trust.

Panay News sought ideas from two Ilonggo digital marketing professionals on how the local press could stand out and better sell the news and their brand of journalism online.

Iloilo is a “slow-deciding” market in terms of promoting products and brands on the internet, what with many businesses – several news organizations included – still unable to fully grasp the strategy, said Jenille Cristy Lozada, a digital marketing manager and consultant.

Digital marketing is “not just a ‘trend,’ it’s the future,” said Lozada, who previously worked in a local web solutions firm and taught internet marketing and e-commerce at the University of Iloilo.

Ken Lerona went as far as saying that digital marketing is the “new world order.” With more than a decade of work in strategic marketing, including digital campaigns, he believes the internet’s power must be harnessed “to our full advantage.”

What is digital marketing, and what benefits does it generally give organizations and establishments?

Jenille Cristy Lozada (JCL): Digital marketing is an umbrella term for all of your online marketing efforts. As it works primarily online, it offers a leveled playing field for big brands and small businesses.

Among its benefits are giving the establishment the ability to target its audience, local or international, and better integrate data and campaigns with real-time results, which can be used to pivot marketing decisions to where the money is.

Ken Lerona (KL): It basically means marketing using the power of the internet. It is more pervasive – and, to a point, more intrusive – easily capturing attention and interest of highly targeted markets. Businesses and brands can choose to reach as wide as the global market or as specific as a particular district, particular age group, gender, or consumption behavior. It is also more affordable, more efficient, more flexible, and more scalable.

Why should the local press invest in it?

JCL: Content creation is an essential digital marketing strategy but I know, being a Journalism graduate, that the local press – the press in general – has a cause deeper than just creating content.

Implementing content strategies for the internet-savvy generation will allow the local press to be relatable and reach audiences that newspapers or local radio stations can’t. If the local press won’t take advantage of the digital platform, people would rely on unreliable sources for their news/media consumption.

KL: The community press must evolve with technology and market preference. This is a matter of supply and demand. Sure, there are still some who prefer to read their physical morning paper but how much of the total market do that?

Local news organizations must be present online. More than 60 percent of the Filipino population are online and internet penetration grows 1.5 times annually. Imagine that potential reach.

What aspect of digital marketing should they focus on?

JCL: It depends on the goals. Since it is marketing, it could benefit the press’ business side and its overall mission to spread reliable news. But for a start, it could be having an optimized website and an updated social media account.

KL: The core competency of local news organizations are news gathering and editorial credibility. They have to deliver local stories fast, first and right. This must be the focus. And with the proliferation of “fake news” and “alternative truths,” legitimate news organizations must be the beacon of truth.

How would you describe the way the local press currently project their brands online?

JCL: On social media, newspapers are quite uptight and radio can sometimes be a bit sensationalized. As for their websites, they could use a lot of improvements, like stricter guidelines in the use of fonts, colors, poster designs, etc. Digital marketing is not just about getting online; IT IS marketing. You want to look good, you want your audience to access your content easily.

KL: Radio stations are leading the game online. They are very active on social media, their presence via streaming platforms is strong. My only contention is that, sometimes, radio stations go overboard in their quest for reactions and reach. They can go smutty and trashy, and these may degrade the quality of public service they provide the public. I suggest they regulate this practice.

While local publications’ strengths are on news and commentary, they may also explore culture and arts, as well as social events and lifestyle. This is where they can actually work closely with advertisers and sponsors.

From your point of view as a digital marketing professional, how could the local press sell the news better in their digital platforms?

JCL: “Content is king” but very varied online – it could be videos, infographics, images, e-books, digital whitepapers, and so on. It would be beneficial if the local press could invest in creating varied types of content but continuously promote the “tradition” of consuming their original content.

KL: If you want to win the market, you have to stand out, you have to capture your target audience, and make them stay to consume your product or take action. Online consumers are impatient. They want to read stories fast, they want to consume information on bite-sized pieces. Flash reports are important. Regular bulletins are necessary. Stories need to be visual, better if they go with video.

The public must be informed immediately – not later, not tomorrow when the ink dries.

How do you see the future of digital marketing among the local press?

JCL: I haven’t yet seen a local news brand with a cohesive digital presence but I think it’s budding and there will come a time when the local press would really vie for audiences online.

KL: I know there is a strong desire to be serious on digital platforms among the local press. While print remains relevant, it is important that local publications must be present where the readers and consumers are.

Advertisers get attracted when they see that local publications serve the needs of the local market, when they engage with Ilonggos locally or globally. They know Ilonggos have a strong purchasing power so they need a partner in our local publications to reach this rich audience./PN


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