Ron Rosenbaum

A Modest Proposal to Save Print Newspapers

Think of this as a modest proposal. It probably wouldn’t work, but it just might help. i have an idea for an ad campaign designed to save dying printed page newspapers.

I think it was inspired by watching my first episode of Mad Men the AMC hour long drama focussing on a 50’s ad agency trying to come up with new ways to promote Lucky Strike just as the cancer news turns really bad. And by the fact that I read blogs incessantly, write one too, but still love the feel of a newspaper in my hands, however inky.

I know, they’re probably dead anyway, that ‘s what everyone says. I myself shifted a column I’d been writing for The New York Observer a print weekly (though with website), to the all-digital Slate recently.

And if you read Romenesko’s Media News column it’s become like a slow motion funeral notice for the printed newspapers of America. Layoffs, losses on the hard-copy side, big investment in unfocussed digital plans.

And remarkably the newspaper industry seems to be going down without a fight. Hysterically flailing about trying to get hip with the 2.0 program when 2.0 is so 2001. Accepting without protest the superiority of the new, chasing trends rather than promoting its own virtues and heroes like all those brave war correspondents dead and alive.

Well here’s my idea. An ad campaign. About the sensuality of paper. the way the reading experience is enhanced when the sense of touch is engaged. the sexuality of textuality. Fondling the printed page as a turn on. A largely visual campaign showing men and women at various places they read papers, from Starbucks to bed enjoying the feel of it.

Okay there’s a little problem of inkiness and your hands getting dirty. But I can think of a way to turn that into a plus. A campaign with a slogan “the smartest way to get dirty”. OK, maybe that’s not going to fly.

But how about:”Paper: you can finger it.”

Alright, maybe a problem there too. Well I’m not a pro like the lead character in Mad Men who came up with the genius slogan for Lucky Strike tobacco: “It’s Toasted!” Yummy, right? (Please resist the snide response: “Newspapers: They’re Toast!”)

How about “Ink: An Aphrodisiac? Then Why Do We Read So Much in Bed”. With accompanying prurient scenarios of people getting busy or getting ready to, on a bed strewn with the Sunday papers, not uncommon I’m told.

Too risque? Not exactly a ‘modest” proposal in every sense of the word? I bet that some really brainy and creative ad people could come up with an ad campaign to make paper sexy, or at least sensually appealing. I think that’s its saving grace. Touching screens just ain’t sexy and don’t try to tell me you get off caressing your mouse, I don’t want to hear about it if you do. (although I have heard that you can download porn on the internet).

I’m open to suggestions from admen–or any readers–out there. I promise to pass on the best ones (with your permission of course) to the Newspaper Publishers Association.

Any takers?