The Tribune Company is struggling to pull itself out of bankruptcy proceedings but it continues to try to move its business forward by becoming the latest publishing company to turn agency. This type of move by larger publishers is becoming more commonplace these days as they scramble to re-invent themselves in light of the digital ‘revolution’ that has kicked many in the tail pretty hard.
With ad dollars for magazines and newspapers continuing to shrink, publishers like Meredith and Gannett have expanded the purview of their digital ad sales teams to include digital marketing services offerings outside of the content they produce. Tribune Company is the latest entrant into the interactive marketing space. The publisher, still struggling through its interminable bankruptcy proceedings, has formed a new interactive marketing consultancy called 435 Digital Services. Named for Tribune’s Chicago street address, the project will shift a small number of current ad sales staffers into the new 10-person unit, as well as making a few new hires, according to a piece in Crain’s Chicago Business.
Newspapers are under attack from all fronts which include the general move to online consumption of content, the rise of classified ad killer Craigslist and the challenge of smaller, more nimble hyperlocal blogs.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine how these companies including Meredith and Hearst (who purchased iCrossing recently) are going to pull this off. Even traditional advertising agencies were slow to truly pick up on digital offerings and are playing catch up. Add to the fact that everyone knows the troubles that the newspaper industry is having and it’s tough to see how even a small to medium business, or SMB, would trust their marketing to a newspaper entity.
Of course, what companies think they can charge the SMB for such services will play a very large role in their level of success. No matter what the politicians say, the economy for the smaller players is still very bad and the fears of getting worse are getting more play these days. As a result, SMB’s won’t pay top dollar for services that many tell them they can do by themselves. Whether that is good advice to the SMB is irrelevant because many use it as a shield to keep service providers at bay.
So this move to be all things to all businesses is interesting. Interesting in a way that it could very well be too little too late. It also looks like a move born more out of desperation rather than something that was part of a bigger business plan to succeed in the online space. Heck, if any of these companies had been actually planning for the new digital world order they wouldn’t be where they are now anyway.
So would you trust your marketing services to a newspaper or magazine publisher who just put on another hat to attract your business?