Newspapers have never had to bother much with marketing - until now.
After decades of little competition in the business of gathering and disseminating world national and local events, the daily paper never had to worry about selling itself.But, today's consumers can choose from a variety of sources - radio, television, computer data bases - to get their news. And as they become pressed for time, more and more people are choosing news sources that are more convenient and less time-consuming than newspapers.
The result has been an awakening knowledge in the newspaper industry that it isn't the only game in town. Papers across the country, including the Deseret News, are rethinking their role in the "information age" and making sweeping changes to stem an ongoing slide in subscriptions.
Last week marked the completion of the first phase of an aggressive marketing campaign by the Deseret News to let consumers know the state's oldest newspaper has made some changes.
Deseret News Publishing Co. spent about $150,000 on its first wave of television ads and direct mail pieces promoting itself as a newspaper "written in the interest of time - your time."
With statistics showing a drop in circulation and the usual turnover in readers, management conducted several surveys of the paper's market area and found the main reason for the decline was people said they had no time to read the paper.
Both spouses working and many Utahns taking on church obligations left little time to read the evening newspaper, surveys said. So, management and editors began making changes in the paper's content to make it easier to read and worth the subscriber's time.
After looking at what other newspapers across the country were doing to become more "reader friendly" and less cumbersome, the Deseret News employed indexes and story summaries to help readers quickly select what interests them.
"We want people to be able to thumb through the paper and at a glance decide whether or not they want to read a story," said managing editor LaVarr Webb.
Coinciding with the paper's new easy-to-read format would be a five-week marketing campaign promoting the Deseret News as Utah's convenient, readable newspaper. Television ads - purposefully aired during prime-time television newscasts - targeted a general audience, while a direct mail piece explaining the changes in the paper was sent to a selected 48,000 potential readers along the Wasatch Front.
In addition to editorial changes and the advertising, the paper enlisted the help of the Newspaper Agency Corp., which performs the advertising, printing and circulation functions of both Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune.
Circulation director Randy Koeppen said NAC has embarked on a three-year customer service program where 90 percent of newspaper deliveries will be on the front porch, instead of in the driveway or bushes.
"We want to make it as easy as possible to read the paper, and if it's at the door step on time, it gives readers one more reason to read it," Koeppen said.
This isn't the first advertising campaign Deseret News has tried to boost circulation. But it is the first program designed to capture long-term readers.
"We have follow-ups to avoid a quick fix," said marketing manager Steve Handy, referring to past campaigns that resulted in circulation going up, then down again.
To help gauge responses to the direct mail program, a coupon organizer was offered to subscribers. Responses haven't been counted yet, but Handy hopes for a 1-1.5 percent increase in new subscribers from this first phase of the campaign.
The campaign will restart in January with the same the television commercials and direct mail pieces. Then in early spring a new television ad will air. What the new commercial will say is still in the development stages, Handy said, noting it will be an emotional and educational appeal to take the paper.
Further developments and improvements will also take place in the Deseret News' content, Webb said.
"We are also looking at how we cover the news and we intend to become more consumer oriented and better address the everyday concerns and needs of our readers."