WENZEL: Don’t listen to radio ad; newspaper doing greatTraditionally, newspapers aren’t great at marketing themselves. That’s a wonderful irony, and not one unique to Mitchell, S.D.
By: Korrie Wenzel, The Daily Republic
Traditionally, newspapers aren’t great at marketing themselves. That’s a wonderful irony, and not one unique to Mitchell, S.D.
Back in the 1980s, a marketing guru told USA Today that “your product is better than the competition’s, but you’re not communicating that to the advertiser. The truth is, your advertising (stinks).”
It took guts to say that to a venture backed by Al Neuharth, the media bigwig, founder of USA Today and subject of the biographical book “Confessions of an S.O.B.”
Neuharth knows a thing or two about marketing. He grew up in my home county (Jerauld County) and worked for the weekly newspaper in Alpena. He also spent time one summer working here at The Daily Republic.
Famously, he also started SoDak Sports, a South Dakota-focused sports weekly, in the 1950s. Despite his heavy marketing with SoDak Sports, he couldn’t make it work. I suppose a statewide newspaper with such a narrow focus was ahead of its time; before the advent of the Internet and interstate highways, it must have been difficult to produce and therefore destined to fail.
Neuharth left South Dakota, took a job in Florida and was instrumental in founding Florida Today, a newspaper that vowed to cover all of Florida, and especially the 1960s U.S. space program. “Today will be different,” was the newspaper’s motto. Again, great marketing.
He then went on to found USA Today, dubbed “McPaper” by those in the industry.
I’ve been reading the book “The Making of McPaper,” so Neuharth is on my mind lately. And although he has deep ties in the Gannett Company — I’m a dedicated Forum Communications man — Neuharth has been a bit of a hero of mine, due to his ties to my home county and this newspaper, and also because of a personal note he sent to me upon my promotion to publisher.
He wrote to congratulate me and called Mitchell “a great city.”
“But,” he continued, “I don’t like your hometown of Wessington Springs because you always beat my hometown of Alpena in basketball games.”
As I learn more about Neuharth, I appreciate his flair for promotion and his unwavering belief in the publications he oversaw.
Marketing your own product, one that is critiqued daily by thousands, isn’t for the timid. We aren’t perfect, nor do we pretend to be.
But really, The Daily Republic has a lot going for it, despite some ads to the contrary that have run recently on a local radio station.
Perhaps you’ve heard them. Something about the “newspaper guy” spinning supposed yarns about newspapers still being viable or whatnot. The commercial ends with something about “and you know where newspapers are usually read.”
I don’t listen to Q107, the station that has aired it regularly in recent months. I did hear it once while getting my receding hairline trimmed. Since it started running, word has gotten back to me about it.
I figure it’s just a desperate attempt to disparage my profession; an attempt by a station that, I bet, is getting creamed in the local listener ratings. In fact, I challenge Q107 to show me its ratings compared to the local KMIT stations, which I suspect are beating Q107/KORN two to one.
When I do listen to the radio — sports, music, etc. — it’s the KMIT group. I truly don’t listen to Q107/KORN, but in an interesting twist, I know for certain that Q107/KORN subscribes to The Daily Republic. So does station manager John Koons, at his home.
Well, at least they were subscribers yesterday.
So much for newspapers losing touch with readers. Even the radio folks who knock us buy it each day.
But I suspect you don’t hear any of these facts in their toilet-referencing commercial that knocks “the guy at the newspaper.”
A few facts about The Daily Republic:
• Yes, we’ve lost a few subscribers, but not many. We’ve had some ups and downs in recent years and especially since 2005. But the fact is that since 2000, we’ve seen a decline in daily paid circulation from 11,790 to 11,699. That’s a loss of 91 subscribers in 11 years. This is an audited fact. And those numbers don’t take into account true readership, which obviously is higher than circulation.
• Meanwhile, our Internet readership has skyrocketed. Throughout the past year, the average monthly number of unique visitors (meaning nobody was counted twice) was 47,054. That has grown considerably and, in one recent 30-day period, we had 86,000 unique visitors to mitchellrepublic.com.
So as our circulation has fallen slightly, our total readership is huge compared to our historical numbers. Translation: We’ve never had more readers.
• Speaking of our website, our reach has never been greater. Thanks to a growing network within Forum Communications (more than 1 million web readers), we can sell advertisers spots either in our own market or throughout our chain’s vast territory, which includes North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other states. The more I learn about this, the more I am flabbergasted at the potential for people who desire to get their word out. If you want to reach customers, ask us about the explosive potential behind our companywide website.
• The Advisor Advantage, our free shopper, has grown in circulation from 17,500 in January to more than 22,000 today. That’s a 26 percent rise in just six months, which has absolutely increased our footprint in this region.
• The Daily Republic has won more than 150 news-writing awards in the past six years. And five times in the past eight, we have been voted the best newspaper in South Dakota in our circulation category.
• Another fact: Our bylined story count is very high. By “bylines,” I mean stories that actually have a Daily Republic-paid reporter’s name at the top. In March, Daily Republic-paid writers filed 275 stories in 27 editions; in April, the number was 238; and in May, it was 248. Again, that doesn’t include Associated Press or any other wire copy, nor does it include local “briefs” or short “notebook” pieces.
No other news organization anywhere can come close to us in Mitchell-area coverage.
So there you have it. If you’d like to hear more, stop me on the street and I’ll market the heck out of The Daily Republic, the Advisor Advantage and mitchellrepublic.com. Usually, I don’t use these pages to knock competing products — unless, of course, someone opts to lob that first grenade. History shows that when that happens, a response follows forthwith.
Thank you, Al Neuharth, for reminding me that marketing is vital in this industry.
And also that sometimes, you have to be an S.O.B.