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By Thomas Baekdal - October 2011

You Are Not Smart, According To The Newspapers

A couple of days ago I wrote about Condé Nast's and HP's new business plan. They want to sell you a copy of their printed magazine, which you then have to print out yourself on your home printer.

In that article I wrote: "Condé Nast has a complete blind spot for the web and act as if it was never invented. The result being that every single thing they do is 15 years out of date."

But Condé Nast is far from alone, this morning I was pointed towards a new advertising campaign from the Newspaper Association of America. They have created three ads under the common message "Smart is the new sexy."

Here is one of them:

A part from the QR code (which, by the way, leads to a desktop version of their website), you would think this is an advert from the 1960s. It even looks that way with the retro paper effect.

It is a print format, and the product they sell is access to information. They are bringers of news, because (apparently) nobody else can bring it to you.

It's hard to keep up with everything going on in the world today, including the part that's right around you.

What? Hard? Have they tried this thing called Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Have they seen Tumblr or Pinterest?

It is mind-boggling easy to keep up with everything in today socially connected world. And newspapers are only covering a tiny fraction of it.

Can you find amazing recipes to gluten free food in the New York Times? No, but you can find it on Pinterest.

Can you find the answer to why another product hasn't disrupted Craigslist in the Guardian? No, but you can on Quora (I simply by asking your social followers.)

This advert is from a world in which the newspaper where the gateways to knowledge. They where the bringer of news. If you didn't buy a newspaper, you would not know anything would not be smart.

Hence this add "Smart is the new sexy."

Yes, we know smart is sexy. That's why most people don't buy newspaper. They are already smart! Most newspapers are not delivering a product that makes them smarter.

The two other ads are not much better:

Why would anyone visit the Washington Post to find a map of Iran? I tried it. I went to the Washington Post and searched for "map Iran" and I found six articles, one of which was "Mother's vigil for son in Libya ends."

Libya? I was searching for maps of Iran! How is this smart?

If I want a map of Iran I will go to Google Maps (or maybe Bing Maps.) I would never go to a newspaper. Same with a recipe for "icebox peanut butter pie." Why would I go to a newspaper to find that? I would go to one of the many recipe sites (or apps.)

And the final one, well...

The newspaper is where businesses go to connect with savvy shoppers

Have they never heard of Groupon or one of the many other sites like it? Or if I want to connect with Asos, I would just follow them directly.

Why would people go to a newspaper?

I'm writing much more about this in my book: "The Shift: From Print to Digital...and Beyond." But the point is this.

The reason why people are leaving the newspapers behind is simple. It is not because of lack of exposure. People already know you exist and they already know what you do. You do not have an exposure problem.

Advertisements like these will just waste money and further alienate you from your audience. We already have everything. We do not need bringers of news in the socially connected world.

The problem that newspapers have is that people are asking "why?" Why should I pay for something I already have?

In the past, what made newspapers valuable was that they could bring you news from places that you could not go. Now we can do that without the newspapers, and we do.

What can you do today (in a world where we already have everything) that makes you valuable? That is the question you need to answer.

BTW: The answer is in my book ;)


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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