I’m at the Newspaper Association of America’s annual Marketing Conference in Las Vegas this week, where there have been lots of interesting sessions that I’ll break down in individual blog posts later. Most of the sessions were breakouts involving five different tracks, which presented the always-tough trade-off between the benefits of variety, and the reality that you can’t be in two or three concurrent sessions of interest at the same time.
I haven’t been to many past NAA shows, nor have I covered the newspaper industry long enough to have perspective on the changing industry attitudes this type of gathering can exemplify year after year (I will defer to Peter Krasilovsky on that one). But the attitude throughout the conference grounds and sessions seems to have an air of industry change, and a recognition of the need to adapt to the online models that have threatened longstanding core product models. Of course this isn’t entirely new, and recognition and execution are two different things.
During an afternoon classified session, Tom Hite, classified ad manager of OPUBCO Communications Group, gave many examples of the creative models that are working for some classified Web sites. His ultimate takeaway was that there is no one-size-fits-all model in these quickly changing times for classifieds. To be responsive to your particular market dynamics and to design and build Web site models that take those unique elements into consideration are key (but easier said than done). Newspapers to date largely haven’t had the technical chops to pull this off. And again, many examples were given, so these weren’t just generalities and empty aspirations. I’ll get into some of those examples and a deeper analysis of this session in a later post and in next week’s Local Media Journal.
There was also a very interesting social networking panel that looked at the opportunities to integrate social networking into newspaper Web sites. The thinking goes that news is very conducive to opinion and user feedback, as are many community assets held by newspapers such as classifieds and hyper-local content (recently the subject of much discussion in the newspaper world).
One of the key takeaways was that social networking components of any online newspaper can do more than attract users and raise session lengths (MySpace session lengths can be more than two hours, according to Dan Strauss, VP and GM of Fox Interactive Media, who sat on the panel). Something often ignored is social networking’s ability to generate and facilitate community interaction and compete with other media such as television. This can get readers engaged in local and national subjects that are core competencies of newspapers. There are direct and (equally important) indirect benefits to social networking for online newspapers in other words. This session also deserves its own post more in-depth than this overview post can offer so stay tuned.