August 30, 2007

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I didnt have so much competition? That was the question I was whining about in my head as I began working on a business plan for the proposed launch of the newspapers redesigned website.

Our staff has been working on a new look for the papers internet presence at www.memphisdemocrat.com. Designer, Britta Burrus, has put together a whole new look for the site that will hopefully bring us more up to date both aesthetically as well as on the functionality front.

The upgrade was spurred in part by the recent postal price hikes. I know when we announce the new subscription rates later this month that we may lose a few readers. Faced with a 25% postage hike, predominantly for newspapers mailed out of the area, I suspect some of those buyers may balk at a higher rate, particularly if they are not receiving timely delivery anyway.

Thats where the website will hopefully come in. Plans are underway to eventually put the entire newspaper online, allowing these folks to subscribe to the website, and have access to the newspaper the day it comes out, not a week to 10 days later. Obviously without having to pay postage, this service could be more affordable to the reader as well.

I realize this wont impact a lot of folks. Most of us still prefer to have that bundle of newsprint that we can fold under our arm for reading material when and where we want it. Plus you cant underestimate the value of the after product for birdcage liner, wrapping paper or cookie cooling sheets.

Where does the competition come into this picture? Well, in order to make the website work, it has to be just like the newspaper, offsetting the cost of providing the service by selling advertising.

As I worked on the plan to attract advertisers, I was amazed at the millions of ways that retailers have to get their information out to consumers. I think our website will be a good opportunity for local advertisers, but I must admit there are some other mediums out there that really get your attention as well.

One in particular caught my attention in a press release last week.

You Drink & Drive. You Lose. is the theme of Missouris annual, end-of-summer campaign aimed at stopping impaired drivers. The release states this years campaign organizers and partners have added a distinctive twist to their outreach efforts by utilizing talking urinal cakes to help target the most common offenders, males ages 21-34.

The devices, distributed strategically in Missouri establishments where alcohol is served, will greet male patrons with the following message from a female voice:

Hey big guy, going out tonight? Having a few drinks? Make sure if youre drinking, you find a sober driver. Because if you drink and drive, the next urinal you use could be in jail. Remember, your future is in your hands.

Yup, thats right, we now have advertising on urinal cakes.

I must admit, the Memphis Democrat newspaper probably wont reach this niche market, unless it is one of those posh establishments that has the flat screen TVs mounted in the wall at eye level above the urinals. These have replaced the standard media boards that held newspapers, and now show media websites.

I personally havent seen this new advertising medium, but I must confess I was concerned that we wouldnt be reaching the ladies. So Im in the process of designing some talking toilet paper that will offer the message

Hey hot mama, having a fun time tonight? If you drank enough that you are sitting here, make sure you dont flush away your life by getting behind the wheel and driving drunk.

Okay, that idea stinks. I guess Ill have to stick to coming up with ideas for advertising on our new improved website that is coming soon to a computer in your home, and not a public restroom.

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