The one-world, 24/7 environment of the Internet, social media and mobile technology in the 21st century has made me wonder something.
Is news (the “breaking, film at 11, read it while it’s hot” kind) another form of marketing? And if not, should it be thought of that way?
Let’s look at one definition of “news”, via the famililar wikipedia.org. An excerpt: “News is packaged information about new events happening somewhere else; or, alternatively, news is that which the news industry sells.”
Now, a definition of “marketing”, again via wikipedia. An excerpt: “Marketing is communicating the value of a product, service or brand to customers, for the purpose of promoting or selling that product, service, or brand.”
Notice something in common? Both definitions emphasize the word “sell”, or a derivative. Simply, news is not news if it is not something that gets people to buy. And marketing is not marketing if it does not promote or sell a “brand.”
A bit more wordplay is in order. “Brand” is a broad term, but some familiar ones would be Walmart, General Motors or Disney — the nameplate that a particular business or conglomerate uses to identify itself.
In the world of “news”, that would include such businesses as CNN, The New York Times, and USA TODAY.
Now, we come to the reality of the modern marketplace — the smartphone screen. Businesses of all kinds are elbowing for space on those small screens, and for the daily time that a smartphone owner has to interact with that screen.
These interactions are done via app. And to many smartphone users, the app for a news organization is no different than the app for weather, or a dinner reservation, or calling a roadside emergency service when the car breaks down. It’s very simple: Does the app offer what you need at that time?
I’m among those who think that news — whether it be an article about a sports event, an oil spill, or a concert — has become a way for a media organization to push its nameplate.
Consider the recent news that The New York Times, a global media organization, has started publishing on Facebook-owned WhatsApp. This mobile-only platform has about 800 million monthly active users, and therefore cannot be ignored. And unlike ubiquitous social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, WhatsApp is designed for messaging, not sharing.
And it already has been noted that CNN and ESPN, both of which have a robust digital platforms, have been publishing content on messaging service Snapchat. Again, Snapchat’s massive user base is the lure.
These types of approaches are admittedly new and experimental. But they are clearly part of a trend by media to attract — aka “market to” — reader eyeballs, rather than rely primarily on advertising revenue. For a couple of years, the Times has gotten more revenue from readers — who enjoy the convenience and updated nature of digital — than from advertisers, who are not yet as comfortable online. Revenue, of course, is how a company pays its bills.
So it’s clear that to media organizations, “news” has become their way of getting their logo in front of readers. That means “news” will be changing — but hasn’t it always?
— What’s your take on news, advertising, and the mobile marketplace? Leave a comment below.