Lukewarm Print News Sections Need Heating Up
At least 10 years ago, it became apparent that B2B print media news sections were growing more tepid every day. Some clients admitted to me that they intended to eliminate their news coverage entirely. In many cases, the news department’s focus was being directed to online coverage. Surviving print news sections, such as they were, increasingly amounted to a collection of warmed over PR announcements.
On the bright side, sharp editorial managers converted print news formats into in-depth, exclusive reporting. On the dark side, print news became a faint echo of online coverage. With so many of today’s publishing pundits trumpeting the cause of increased editorial vitality, one would think an immediate cure would be sought for lethargic news.
Have you successfully turned that corner? Answering the following eight questions objectively—ideally in comparison with your opposition’s print news—will clarify whether or not your news section requires immediate attention.
- Of all the items appearing in your regular print news section, what percentage is press release rehash?
- Has your news section been the prime casualty of an editorial page cutback?
- Is your news section featured in the front of the publication or buried in the back?
- Do you make provision for a full page to open your news section? When you look at the page, does it just seem to be a batch of type that’s run down one column and up the next? Are all headlines the same tiny size, or do varying type sizes and styles convey a sense of excitement?
- Is there at least one exclusive news story concerning a critical issue that’s based on reader feedback?
- Do convention preview stories indicate what’s important at the coming event, or do they just report the usual ho-hum stuff like show dates, expected number of attendees, the social events agenda, endless exhibitor lists, and the exhibit hall bus schedule?
- Do you find too many minor items receiving major-league treatment? Or is there provision for a “digest” section where minor news developments can be summarized in one or two lines?
- Do your editors conduct a regular “scoop analysis” of their news section versus the competition to see who’s breaking the most important stories first?
In my book, Get Serious About Competitive Editorial Analysis, a chapter devoted to scoring news performance lists nine barriers to better coverage. Several points mentioned there also are addressed in the above eight-point summary. And by way of a parting gift, here are a few other news-section oversights worth mentioning: (a) prime reader group is rarely quoted; (b) there are too many all-type pages; (c) the staff’s total workload inhibits exclusivity; (d) headline skills need honing.
So if you find your print news section is not the hot commodity you want it to be and need some help heating it back up, let us know.