Ethnic media's four-step model for the news industry's future

Disclaimer: While the following post describes the many things ethnic media are doing “right,” by no means am I implying that they don’t face the same problems plaguing the mainstream media.  In today’s market, all media organizations must find viable models to stay in business.

Recently, I was asked to gather expert interviews on the future of advertising for a University of Georgia journalism class that is taking part in the University Partnership Program.       

Diverse types of industry experts were interviewed who ranged from techie gurus to journalists-turned-marketers. While opinions varied on what the future holds, the majority of experts agreed that newspapers needed to focus on both niche marketing and community building techniques to be successful.  This automatically reminded me that ethnic media outlets, in many ways, have been doing these things for years. Obviously, while they still face the same challenges as their mainstream cousins, it seems as though they can provide valuable guidance and wisdom on certain philosophies that mainstream newspapers will have to adapt to be successful.           

Forget the Numbers. Who is your Audience?   

Historically, ethnic newspapers have been less concerned with numbers than thoroughly reaching a specific audience, whether it be a Colombian community in Queens, or a growing Asian population in Central Florida. They have been successful in becoming both liaisons and voices for their targeted population, so much so that they are regularly targeted by both national and international entities seeking to interact with their specific community.       

Why should mainstream models follow suit?       

“The CPM model is a broken and dangerous model to have…. The internet was never set up to be a gross impression mass media delivery vehicle. It was set up to be a very targeted, focused, direct vehicle,” states Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano.  “You now have niche and micro targeted media. It’s not how many people read the story, or see the newscast, or hear the broadcast. It’s about who is reading, who is watching, and who is listening.”       

David Kissel, partner of Zocalo Group and the man behind McDonald’s ‘I’m Loving it Campaign,’ adds, “What newspapers have to come to grips with is that the day has changed forever where it’s a one size fits all model…. If you try to be everything to everybody, all of a sudden you are relevant to no one. At some point newspapers have to decide ‘who you are going to target, who is your market’ because it can’t be everybody over the age of 19.”               

Become the Nexus of Your Community   

Ethnic newspapers usually serve as an important community nexus, making it a priority to interact with and help their community.  It is not uncommon, for example, to see newspaper representatives establishing strong relationships with a gamut of local business owners and community leaders, while at the same time serving as ‘networking’ facilitators and community knowledge purveyors. Most importantly, however, journalists and other newspaper representatives are generally seen as approachable, and take the time to celebrate, socialize and engage their community in a variety of ways.  In essence, they are seen as a part of the integral core of the community.           

Why should mainstream models follow suit?       

“(The future of advertising) is very much a two-way conversation. It is about engagement, it is not about the brand saying ‘hey, this is who we are’. It’s about the brand being friends with the consumer…. It’s about cultivating that relationship through experiences throughout time, and it’s also about providing experiences that ‘my friend’ actually wants to engage with,” states Gunter, CEO of Stuzo, one of Facebook’s exclusive development partners.         

“It’s not about selling ads…. If you look at an organization like Sacramento Press…they are doing a lot more than selling banner ads …they are working with the local merchants to help them understand how to establish an online presence. They are putting on local events, and they are engaged with the local community at a much higher level…. Hyper-local means working with the local farmers…. It’s identifying a group of merchants that still exist as artisans and craftsmen…. There is this whole missed audience of people who want to do business and need a vehicle to elevate their presence…. Sacramento Press is doing just that,” states Abramson.           

Understand your Community’s Interest  

Ethnic newspapers generally have a very clear understanding of what their specific audience wants to read. Journalists and editors actively interact with their community and find out what stories are ‘in demand.’ Additionally, there seems to be more flexibility in regard to format and types of content that are published.       

Most importantly, however, they provide opportunities for citizens from different socioeconomic strata to voice their opinions and engage the community.            

Why should mainstream models follow suit?       

“Journalists need to understand that content creation is no longer a one-way street; the story is the spark that creates a firepit the readers congregate around. The ensuing conversation and commentary are often what readers appreciate most, especially when the author participates actively. This presents opportunities, not only for content providers, but also the advertisers that illustrate their endorsements through advertising…. Consumers want more than the short-lived vicarious dream a print ad facilitates. They want true brand interaction and engagement that makes them feel special. It goes to the core of the human condition,” states DJ Edgerton, CEO of Zemoga.         
Think Local   

While ethnic newspapers may habitually publish news about their community’s homeland or region, most newspapers focus solely on community news. They may not be as exciting or as sophisticated as newspapers such as the New York Times, but this ensures that published news is extremely relevant to the majority of their readership. In other words, the main focus is the community itself.       

“Sell your audience. Sell them unconventionally. Leverage local. Local is the new global. Local is what matters and resonates,” states Marian Salzman, president of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. “News and commerce need to be linked more completely to fund credible independent news. Also it is a matter of knowing your readers. Newspapers can sell audiences at a premium if they know them thoroughly and completely and can mobilize them for a cause or a product launch.           

To view a complete list of the Future of Advertising interview series, visit,com_sectionex/Itemid,200076/id,8/view,category/#catid141. For more  information on the University Partnership Program, contact Sandra Ordonez at [email protected]

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