Visiting the city of Cape Town I was surprised to see its afternoon newspaper transformed into a tabloid after packaging itself for 155 years in broadsheet format.
The maiden editorial shouted “Here’s the future” with loud protestations that the newspaper would not become a frothy “tabloid” but a sober “compact”.
Yet you had to thumb through a feature lead story on the front page and several more feature pages until you came across a few news bites tucked deep inside the middle.
Mainstream, traditional media are in a frenzy to innovate because they are bleeding from online media. Today’s wired generation has a short attention span and is addicted to social media. Even companies are battling to know their shareholders, who buy online and are shareholders for as little as 24 hours.
Why is all this important to small business people? How does it relate to the business? I’ll come to that in a moment.
Magazine circulations, looking at the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) quarterly figures, tanked except for a few categories such as health, home and travel. But these categories are grown largely because of new entrance with “controlled” circulation, which means readers are not paid subscribers or newsstand purchasers. The big category of women’s interest has remained stable. Business-to-business magazine’s overall have dropped.
What is a successful publication? One that is profitable. An obvious reply but an honest answer. Newspapers or magazines must be wanted. And that depends on the editorial product — a unique and highly creative task — that appeals to whatever target audience or market a publisher is after.
That’s requiring a new entrepreneurial spirit of innovation. In 2011 new start-ups included online directories, multiple-platform consumer websites, online auctions, niche market online publications with special apps, and even – believe it or not – locally focused print magazines with the perceived quality of national magazine standards.
Today’s audience can get free elsewhere what newspapers and magazines charge for. Online readers can source hard news, gossip and opinion from any number of websites and blogs. Subject-specific blogs are available on everything from advertising to zoology. For special interest audiences in niche markets newsletters and e-mails carry excellent content monthly, weekly and some even daily.
The online world opens new opportunities for small-and medium-sized business owners who want to attract prospective customers or establish and build relationships with them. A combination of print advertising and online is working for many businesses.
Check your local paper. Notice how many ads are referring prospective buyers to their websites. These business owners make sure that their websites feature the information and advice customers will need in addition to their products and services. They make it easy to subscribe to their e-mail and newsletters and even lure subscribers with free special reports, e-books, podcasts and videos.
E-mails and newsletters are compiled by specialist suppliers who know how to inform and entertain subscribers and when to sell. If you’re too corporate and don’t come across as a trusted, valued friend, you will quickly lose your audience.
Pumping out hard-sell e-mails all the time to subscribers will merely result in “unsubscribes”. Business owners who use e-mail marketing successfully know how to provide value to their subscribers, when to make compelling offers and so become the guy or woman to go to for advice in their chosen niche market.
To thrive in their niche small business owners and solo business people are learning how to innovate their marketing using selected traditional print media with online media to bring in a flood of new business. Interrupt-based marketing where advertisers slap something in your face or at your years on the radio, television or in print is being supplemented with online relationships and conversations with prospects and customers.
To win over customers and keep them in highly competitive, ever-fragmenting niche markets, business owners are giving their customers more value through free information, personal conversations and stories and are more attentive to their interests, needs, wants and desires.