Internet Marketing + Digital Business Strategy

← back to all blog posts

Online Marketing Best Practices for Newspapers

Thursday, May 20, 2010 | Posted by to Internet Marketing Strategy

I was at Northern Voice two weekends ago and I went to a great session with the CBC’s Lisa Johnson and the Vancouver Sun’s Kirk LaPointe, on how journalists use social media. At the session, LaPointe argued that there is no news problem or audience problem in the newspaper industry; the problem is, in fact, a business one.

This got me thinking about how newspapers are adapting their businesses to the online space in order to succeed in a digital world. What best practices can we find?

After gathering notes from the Northern Voice session as well as comments from The Globe and Mail and The Texas Tribune here’s a list of best practices for the industry:

Online Marketing Best Practices for Newspapers

  • Your online presence should be different from your print presence. They are different mediums with different strengths - adapt to each one separately. According to Kirk LaPointe, the Vancouver Sun spent the last 5 years getting their newspaper as close as possible to their website and now they are going spend the next 5 years moving the newspaper away from the website. They’ve realized that differentiation is key.

  • Twitter is a great tool to use as a social scanner. Both the CBC and The Globe and Mail use Twitter to stay on top of what is going on so that they can respond quickly if something arises.

  • Twitter should also be used to connect directly with your readers. Use Twitter to have conversations with your readers. They can be a resources for stories, too.

  • Email alerts are important. The Texas Tribune uses email alerts to stay on top of things. Set up alerts with story keywords and you’ll get story ideas and sources delivered to your inbox. 

  • The topic, not the headline, is the centerpiece. Online, people search by subject so your subject matter is more important than a catchy headline.

  • Engagement is not a frill. You need a strategy of engagement with your audience. For example, the New York Times doesn’t have just one twitter handle. Instead, they have subchannels that personalize the feeds - like @nytimesbooks and @nytimesart.

  • Create communities. By engaging their audience in personalized ways, the New York Times has created communities of readers. The Globe and Mail has experimented with Cover It Live to build community. Cover It Live is a live-blogging/discussion tool that provides a platform for hosting live blogs and is easily embedded in a story page. The Globe and Mail has used it for their coverage of the budget, the CRTC hearings, a subway shooting and the Obama inauguration.

  • Customize delivery. While The Texas Tribune points out the importance of using social media sites as secondary distribution channels, the messages should be customized for the medium. The same content that works on your website does not work on Facebook. The same content that works on Facebook does not work on Twitter.


    So how do you measure the success of your efforts? While most newspapers haven’t quite figured out how to make money online (LaPointe says that the Vancouver Sun dedicates 50% of their time to the web yet makes less than 5% of their revenue online) there are other factors to consider. The Texas Tribune recently looked back on what they’ve learned over the last 6 months and listed the important numbers for them. Namely, they are able to measure brand awareness, (number of unique visitors to their site and where they are coming from), loyalty (number of return visitors), and engagement (average length of time spent on the site).

    What do you measure as indicators of online success with your newspaper?


Crissy Campbell

Crissy has seen the sun rise on the Mekong River. See more posts by Crissy Campbell. You can also find her marketing tips on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Posted by
Filed under: Internet Marketing Strategy | Permalink

Add a Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
We work on a mix of online marketing projects for publishers, educators, cultural and mid-size organizations.
Talk to us about what you need.