Ed Driscoll

Red Queen's Race--The Advertising Campaign!

AP reports that “Newspapers start $75 million campaign to fight image of decline“. Gee, whatever led to that impression?

The newspaper industry this week announced a $75 million marketing campaign to declare its relevance in the Internet age as advertising revenues were flat, buffeted by major mergers and a wounded domestic auto industry.

It’s the second year in a row that the Newspaper Association of America has advertised directly to its advertisers, trying to change the perception that the industry is on the decline, executives said.

“I am sick and tired of all the doom and gloom reports out there about the death of this industry,” said Earl Cox, chief strategic officer of The Martin Agency, the marketing group in charge of the campaign. The perception is “inaccurate and it’s unfair and it’s unacceptable.” [If you say so–Ed]

Ad revenue at its member papers in the third quarter of last year declined 1.5 percent from a year earlier to $11.79 billion, according to the NAA. Traditional print ads fell 2.6 percent to about $11.2 billion while online ads rose 23 percent to $638 million. Total ad revenues were slightly up for the first two quarters of the year.

The campaign attempts to attack the notion that newspapers are being left behind in the battle to attract consumer “eyeballs.”

One campaign slogan reads: “The Internet is the best thing to happen to newspapers since the paper boy.”

As James Lileks told Hugh Hewitt yesterday:

That’s great–you want to reduce the greatest technological achievement of our age down to some seven year old urchin from the orphanage shouting “Wuxtry! Wuxtry!” on the corner. You know, there aren’t any paper boys anymore, and the things are being delivered by 45-year old guys who are now delivering the newspaper because they’ve lost their jobs at the newspaper!

Personally, I think Lileks contributed a far better–or at least far hipper–slogan in 2005:

The Newspaper. A Viable Alternative to Staring Into Space.

When jet aviation took off (so to speak) in the mid-1950s, railroads began numerous ad campaigns to remind all those former rail passengers that train travel was still around, and still equally viable, until Congress created Amtrak in 1972 to stop the hemorrhaging–or at least pass it off from the shareholder to the taxpayer. Perhaps a half century prior, advertising extolled the leisurely pace of horse and buggies over that new-fangled horseless carriage. Of course, like the railroads themselves, that doesn’t mean that any of the legacy information sources are going away anytime soon.

In theory though, they could be morphing into something new. As I wrote about another media once declared past its prime last fall in a profile of David Sarnoff:

After a century that has seen the rise of motion pictures, radio, television, the Internet, and other media, we now know that no media fully destroys another. While most believed that the one-two punch of first television and then FM radio would bulldoze AM into obsolescence, it didn