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Publishers Should Do More to Empower Brand Stewards
Newspapers are not doing enough to take advantage of the social power of their readers, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc. Analysts said that newspapers are faced with declining circulations, falling offline and online revenue, and competition from digital sources, but are failing to capitalize on their biggest supporters, their readers.
"In the wake of the economic challenges facing the U.S. newspaper industry, publishers are losing focus on the crucial imperative of how to capitalize on those consumers who remain loyal, engaged online and print readers," said Allen Weiner, research vice president at Gartner. "Brand-loyal news consumers need to be turned into brand stewards who can wield their influence to two parts of their social graph — those who know them personally, and those who regard the brand stewards as tastemakers with similar points of view."
In November and December of 2008, Gartner surveyed 989 Internet users in the U.S., U.K., and Italy to understand how consumers discover and share different types of content. The survey looked at the main influences on media consumption, the main factors that prompt people to look for content, the main tools people use to search, what they do when they find interesting content and whether they share this content.
Findings from the Gartner survey suggest that newspapers are not providing brand stewards with the necessary tools they need to optimize their role as influencers. This starts with a failure to optimize the search experiences at their Web sites and then carries on to a lack of integration between content and social media functionality.
Key findings from the survey include:
- Approximately 49 percent of respondents use general search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) once a week or more to find content, but only 20 percent use search tools built into a newspaper or magazine site.
- Only 24 percent of those surveyed share good content "finds" with friends or others via personal communications — such as e-mail and instant messaging (IM), and a mere 7 percent said they usually or often share content via embedding into social network sites.
- Although many newspapers list their staffers who are on Twitter, an influential microblogging social network, few offer Twitter users the ability to "tweet" stories from their Web sites.
- When asked what they do when they find interesting content online, more than half of respondents (52 percent) said that they usually read it immediately. Only 9 percent said that they bookmark it to read later.
"Although it's easy to criticize the newspaper companies for falling behind the digital curve and not thinking innovatively about their future, some of the industry's current failures fall under the category of looking past the basics," Mr. Weiner said. "One of those basics is turning those who are fans of your product or service into your best and lowest-cost marketing channel. Even simple social media tools not only allow sharing and recommendations, but also provide a level of identity and reputation management to give others a snapshot of a content curator's credentials."
Mr. Weiner said that while the newspapers have incorporated social media content, they just haven't taken the step of integrating social media tools into their content management "ecosystem" to provide pervasive deployment of important social features. The task at hand is now to prioritize the integration of social media into a current or future content management system.
Additional information is available in the Gartner report "Newspaper Publishers Must Do More to Empower Brand Stewards." The report is available on Gartner's Website at http://www.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=g_search&id=911415&subref=simplesearch.
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