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How Do I Expect My Newspaper to Ensure My Loyalty?

"We missed you..." read the SMS I received from my bank. No, they did not miss me at the branch where I maintain my account, but on their online channel. "Wow! Here is someone who values my loyalty. I wonder if the folks in media are equally sensitive about the loyalty of their consumers?"

"We missed you..." read the SMS I received from my bank. No, they did not miss me at the branch where I maintain my account, but on their online channel. "Wow! Here is someone who values my loyalty. I wonder if the folks in media are equally sensitive about the loyalty of their consumers?"

Each time I consume traditional media, I leave marks behind, but I don't always get a "miss you" message from the owners.  Then again, why would I hold terrestrial radio, television channel or newspapers responsible?  I don't login to them... How would they even know that I was there given the absence of a LOGIN?

The point is they do know I was there, because even without a login, I do leave marks behind.

For example, my newspaper gets delivered to my doorstep every morning. Instead of a paper copy, I can also browse its online version without ever logging in to the site. How will the publisher know that I have been consuming their content?

The answer is not as complex as it might appear. There is still a way for them to figure out I was there. The newspaper carries a weekly business quiz. Readers can submit entries by registering their responses online, provide their name/address/phone/e-mail, click the submit button, and voila they have left their mark!

Although I am one of potentially thousands of others who have periodically interacted with the publication over time, it's safe to say that none of us have been ever "missed" by the publisher. At the same time, one can argue why it matters as long as the readership surveys corroborate a healthy readership.

Yes, I agree, I do not expect the owner/editor, to interact with every reader one-on-one simply because we participate in a weekly quiz!

But, what if I have moved out of the publication's market area, will they even know?  My paper is delivered by a distributor.  It's likely that the publisher doesn't have my or other readers' home or email addresses or phone numbers. What if together we represent a critical mass that shows up in the readership survey numbers, how can the loss be arrested?  Two options come to mind.

The first option is a marketing blitz to acquire new and possibly lost readers.  The second would be to increase the number of touch points from a single channel (print) to multiple channels such as online and mobile.

It's likely that most publishers would agree that option two is a necessity in today's connected world, whereas the same group might view option one, a marketing blitzk, as being too expensive.  However, such an approach could be downsized given an ongoing effort to engage with both current and past readers, i.e., those who moved away.   Remember, they left their marks!

I would be happy to receive a miss you note from my newspaper publisher reminding me about the upcoming weekly quiz, its theme, and how I can catch up on the past editions.  I might even be more responsive to an invitation to submit quiz questions that might be featured in future editions along with my name and photo.

Similarly, there might be readers who once wrote regularly to the editor, commented on the news stories on the site, or actively participated on the social media presence of the publication, but have since stopped. They might enjoy receiving miss you notes from the publication in which they once invested their time.

Given that the former readers left their marks behind, such an outreach effort is certainly doable. Data aggregation and analysis tools make it possible to organize and take advantage of customer "marks" regardless of the medium or media used.  Unified dashboards enable media marketers to track valuable key performance indicators.

In spite of the widespread availability of these and similar customer tracking and interaction tools, however, I still await that miss you note from my newspaper publisher.  I have stopped responding to the quiz and have placed a bet with myself that they don't care a dime about my participation. Let's see who wins! On whom you'll place your bet?



Hey Himanshu,

Good thought. It actually made me think about this whole scene and was wondering whether newspapers ever thought this way?
In real world, newspaper agencies/publications really don't care much on loyalty rather their efforts are more focussed on volumes. Well, it could be subjective if volumes also have flavor of loyalty nevertheless a fresh thinking in this direction could be a game changer.
Nice read again.

Good thought Himangshu.

Google is integrating small surveys in Online newspaper sites for access of Premium contents. This serves the dual purpose of saving the customer from becoming a subscriber but also helps the provider with valuable customer data to target marketing campaigns.

Interesting article Himanshu. Rather enjoyed it.

An interesting development could be in the personalisation of news media. Instead of getting a 'we missed you' message you could constantly get a 'Good Morning Himanshu' greeting from traditional news sources on your IPad or Tablet. While this isn't possible in mass printed publications newspapers could take a leaf out of news collation apps such as 'Pulse' and have their publications structured not by Editors preferences but by the end users interests and priorities. Just a thought.

well these marks have often helped the publications to garner more advertisement revenue. But now I wonder if loyalty through multi-channel reach-out program can be leveraged as next targeted advertisement platform.

Your post has surely given a direction to ponder further.

Jagmeet, thanks for the kind comments. I am sure, the publishers would have given it a thought. But as you have rightly put it, it’s all about volumes now. But, investments have to made to make those volumes sticky and sustainable.

Rai, thanks for the kind comments.

David, thanks for the kind comments. You have made a very interesting point. You’ve hinted towards the future of the print media, it would be something interesting to watch as this unfolds.

Sachin, thanks for the kind comments. Yes, you are right. To take your thought further, the miss you message is a publisher’s messenger which:

- delivers increased value to the sponsor of the quiz.

- helps the publisher negotiate higher sponsorship for the quiz (in this specific instance) since it delivers a sticky and engaged audience.

- enhances the opportunity to see the sponsor’s impression, each time a newspaper sends a miss you note.

- makes it difficult for someone like me, to ditch the quiz and consequently the publisher, as I am on their radar and they make me feel emotionally invested in their product by way of miss you notes and periodic innovations.

Good points about loyalty. But I think you are are mixing up personalisation and aggregated analytics. Online versions of news papers have a lot of ways to identify you without you logging in explicitly. Facebook open share is one of them and there is the old way of browser cookies too. News sites are not doing a good job of using this information and its more a cultural issue than a technological limitation. Traditionally these companies have thought of customers as a collective and haven't got used to the new way of dealing with them as individuals.

Great post. As publications struggle to monetize, customer awareness seems like a must have. Oddly enough, lots of the major publications still have internal battles between online/offline customer awareness. Plus the user experience can always be improved per digital reading usability.

Could not agree more. I think it is about time print media starts thinking in this direction. There was an interesting ad on TV that caught my attention. The ad caustically refers to how a rather elaborate ecosystem is needed "only to deliver yesterdays' news today!" It is imperative that the print media takes note of this stark reality and work on rediscovering themselves to continue to stay relevant to the increasing base of digital natives.

Nilesh, thanks for the kind comments. You have hit the nail on the head, 'these companies have thought of customers as a collective and haven't got used to the new way of dealing with them as individuals', one cannot agree more with this statement. I always maintain that there are three sets required to solve a business problem, Mindset, Skillset and Toolset, and it's not necessarily the lack of Skillset or Toolset for unsolved business problems.

Scott, thanks for the kind comments. Your comment alludes to lack of harmonization amongst people, processes and technology for effecting a successful change. Unless, the internal battles are resolved, one cannot expect to win a war.

Vikas, thanks for the kind comments. You have made a very interesting remark. There are still markets where print media is witnessing positive growth. These publications are fortunate to have a window of opportunity to brace themselves for a better connect with ‘digital natives’.

Himanshu, good article with an interesting discussion on personalized newspapers through multiple channels! However, how would advertisements work? Newspapers can customize by region/circulation region and bundle a variety of ads which includes things I may not explicitly have interest in. I've never associated similar trust to ads over online media and mostly found them a menace or irrelevant.

Hi Praveen, thanks for the kind comments. I’ll start backwards. There is absolutely no doubt that print or for that matter other traditional media, radio and television, are great media vehicles from the point of view of showcasing brands and above all lending a lot of credibility to the message.

You are also right in your observation about print publications organizing around city editions and within city editions further organizing by supplements targeted at sub-urbs.

In the present instance, as a reader of this business daily, I have already provided the publishers with one level of filter viz. my socio economic class. Also, when I left the ‘marks’, I provided certain additional data points about my demographic profile. My choice of regular interaction with the business quiz segment of the publication provides additional insights about my likes. All this leads to some interesting raw data gathered by the publication which they never solicited!

Though not a comprehensive set, but these data points definitely help the publication in their outreach efforts to an engaged reader base. In an earlier response to Sachin’s comment, I mentioned, to start with, how the publication and the sponsor of the business quiz segment, benefits from this outreach effort.

I hope I have addressed your comment to your satisfaction.

Good thought, you have shown good command on the subject. I think publishers will adapt this approach in future as we are already seeing news going all digital. Example last week Newsweek gone all digital.

Narayana, thanks for the kind comments.

This is a brilliant new insight. Publishers can indeed make a difference by interacting with the readers. I was delighted when I received a Christmas gift & a customized note from Reader’s Digest years after I had unsubscribed. The gift was a discount subscription card which made an RD subscriber for one more year. However, I wouldn’t have been moved this way, if I had received this greeting as part of the bulk email list from their online portal.

What a well written blog!Very good points indeed.Its the age of digitisation.Perhaps its about time the publishers get it right.

Hi Jose, thanks for the kind comments. It is a very relevant experience that you have shared with the readers of this post. Instances such as these tie us to a specific publisher, thus creating win-win opportunities for both, publisher and the reader.

Hi Nisrine, thanks for the kind comments.

Very good thought. It would do good for the print industry to reach out to their subscribers otherwise they will loose the readers soon to the digital world.

Great write-up Himanshu! We are in digital era; each and every move of an individual is stalked by online media. As you mentioned in the article, the readers land up leaving a trace of mark knowingly or unknowingly. And this will be recorded somewhere in the system. I’m sure that this thought would have been passed in one or the other publishers mind; if not and if any publishers happen to read this article might help them in materializing the thought process to implementation to receive “We miss you…” message.Of course, we all would love to be missed by somebody (if not, at least by the publishers):)

Pravin Sir! thanks for the kind comments. You have made a very valid point and it echoes the example cited by Narayana. Thanks again.

Rakesh, thanks for the kind comments. When you said "we all would love to be missed by somebody", you summed up the post. Many thanks.

Well written Himanshu. For some one like me, who tends to be reading through online news, but still has an identity while browsing through them, makes a lot of difference if my activities are being acknowledged.

Hope to see many more such view points coming out...

Hey Vilas, thanks for the kind comments. As Vikas pointed out in his comment, you surely are a digital native :)

It is a good Idea to track the readers and knock their doors when they stopped visiting you for several days/weeks/months in a row. Here is a question though, is the reader being tracked only based on getting on to home page of the Newspaper or on further details such as which topic he/she reads , which quiz he/she participate? If there is a detailed tracking then, as per me, it’s getting too much into your reader’s skin. I am up for my newspaper calling me back if I stopped visiting its website for some time but I don’t want to get reminded about what kind of topic I have stopped reading or what kind of quiz game I have stopped playing. When you graduate on some topic or quiz game and don’t find anything challenging in there you move on. That’s the way of life…so don’t pull your reader on specifics, just be in touch with him/her as a loyal friend.

Very thoughtful article which is extremely relevant with the ever growing digital / social media!

Very soon digital service providers will start tracking and rewarding e-loyalty.

Many traditional businesses have paid enough attention to maintain a customer loyalty by providing various incentives but hardly any organisation/ service provider has thought of e-loyalty till date. With the rising trend in social media and digitisation of the news papers/ magazines and books, the digital advertising has become key revenue source for many organisations where they earn the profit based on the number of customers visited the sites and very soon service providers will start tracking and rewarding e-loyalty!

Interesting article! I like the points you have put across..

more as an FYI - Mint newspaper started carrying QR codes beside each and every article. So that you can scan it and read the relevant news more in detail. This could be a way to leave your imprint, right?

Hey Himanshu,
interesting perspective on electronic media such as newspapers - I wonder will it be as sucessful for magazines? My observation is that there is also a cultural aspect to the uptake. For example on the West Coast of the US with cafe culture they are more likely to read on line than say London where paper copies for communters are still the most popular.
Best Regards

Hey Nitin, thanks for the incisive comment. I am completely in agreement with you. Once you are in the realm of digital, it’s like being an inmate in Bigg Boss’s house! Each click gets registered. But as you rightly pointed out, stalking the inmates…oops the readers, based on each and every data point is a spooky business. But yes, each business has its own set of rules and engagement guidelines for digital realm, which does not make it spooky, either for the business or its consumer. Thanks again for the kind comment.

Hey Kiran, thanks for the kind comments. I believe that as we become increasingly conscious about environmental conservation, news print will be an ancient idea. It’s derived from a natural resource, and becomes scarce with each passing year. Rising prices of newsprint every year like clockwork, bears this fact. Sipping your morning cuppa holding your newspaper would just conjure mental images from the past in future. Vikas’s comment citing a recent ad also bears this fact. Narayana too in his comment has indicated how traditional publishers are embracing digital only versions. As we know today, e-loyalty in publishing business has to go beyond subscription discounts and exclusive deals. They are passé!

Hey Vaibhav, thanks for the kind comments. You caught me! The newspaper that “gets delivered to my doorstep every morning” is the one you mentioned in your comment. To address the second part of your comment, I will probably question the objective behind placing the QR code beside each and every article. There are couple of thoughts which come to my mind. One, the QR (quick response) code acts as a bridge between the offline and online version of the publication and fulfills the objective of also driving the readership of the publication’s portal. Second, it indicates that a detailed / multimedia version of the story is also available, though online, for those who want to go beyond the key highlights of the story.

Did I leave a mark when I scanned the QR code, yes I did. But as Nilesh pointed out in his remark, this mark was registered as a collective or an aggregated data, it did not help the publisher to identify me individually. Contrast this to my effort for last couple of years, wherein I have consciously left my identifiable information and expressed my affinity towards the business quiz segment. Perhaps thousand others did the same. Did the publisher leverage this data? Perhaps not.

Dr Ian, thanks for the kind comments. You have bought a very interesting angle to the ongoing conversation, that of cultural aspect. And I completely agree with you on this. To quote from a 70’s ad of VW, “different volks for different folks”!

Hi Himanshu,
Interesting thought. Very well put. I think sooner or later this too will be figured out. They can't miss out on missing you if that is what is going to take you back to them or keep you with them. Keep writing.

Dear Himanshu,
Quite thought provoking stuff. As a journalist the simple motto I would like to follow is: Bring the latest news accurately at the fastest possible speed. Digital platforms do allow us this but the newspapers are struggling to see this. They are bound by the newsprint matrix which they do not want to break. Otherwise, a news engine serving various platforms, be they virtual or otherwise could serve you the news you want, as it happens , wherever it happens, .On time, everytime. I know i sound like a product tagline but the time to change is at hand for a new way to consume news. Waiting for it.
Take care.

Hi Nafay, thanks for the kind comments.

Raghu Sir, thanks for the kind comments. “Bound by the newsprint matrix which they do not want to break”, I am sure the industry will slowly but surely find its Neo’s to break the matrix :-). Your hint towards integrated newsrooms is an inescapable reality. However the bigger challenge is what will make the readers come back each day / hour, in a multi-platform environment, when every publisher is just a click away.

Good one

Yeah, Himanshu ...
Thought-provoking stuff. Personalised E-Newspaper or Something similar or whatever u call it, is going to reach you soon. The Digital guys are after it. Example :- You buy a Laptop and the laptop comes with a series of e-media where-in u don't hv to search for your favourite news always. Add to your favourites and it auto-pops for you. Though it is in the initial stage with INTEL - It is going to help Buzzers like you. I bet you are going to LOVE it.

read your piece.interesting take.

in fact, the print media urgently needs to step up their level of engagement, beyond the product they dish out.

unfortunately, besides the written word, most are yet to appreciate that their readers' are humans who have a life beyond reading the paper. we are governed by 3 essential facets of how we live; work; play.

and any brand, print or otherwise, who fail to engage us in these 3 will slowly disappear to
those who do.

with reference to your point about reading the online version... guardian has gone 'digital 1st', about a year or so ago. recently, newsweek announced they would be only digital henceforth.

irrespective, they still need to engage!

Hi Himanshu,

This is a very unique thought and a heads up to newspaper marketing teams to seriously consider loyalty!

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