The Times, It Is A-Marketing

With its circulation and advertising revenues flagging, Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation New York Times' (NYSE: NYT  ) namesake newspaper is expanding its marketing efforts. With a program whose tagline is "The times demand the Times," the company is trying to convince potential readers that in today's complex world, The New York Times' content is virtually indispensable for a complete understanding of the issues.

One 60-second TV spot, debuting today, features a newspaper edition being made in reverse. It begins with a man reading a story on his office computer as his workday comes to a close, and concludes with a tight shot of a reporter and her notebook. Sandwiched in between is a montage of shots depicting an interview, a meeting of reporters and editors, a reporter writing a story online, and printed papers rolling off the press. Contrasting these scenes contrast a second set of vignettes from the reader's day, also shown in reverse.

While all of these scenes progress, a voiceover describes the paper's expanded distribution, its rapid presses, and its ongoing story updates. At the end of the spot, the voiceover concludes, "It's about the quality of the journalism, period. End of story." The spot, which also will air in a 30-second version, will run through April. The marketing effort will also include a dedicated website that profiles Times reporters and columnists also featured in the spot, and lets users subscribe to the paper.

The paper has been silent about its expenditures for the program, although it generally spends about $20 million annually for marketing efforts. The campaign actually kicked off last September; it's previously attempted to emphasize its staff's diversity and dedication with profiles of reporters such as Robin Toner and David Gonzalez.

Times, like other newspaper companies, including Tribune (NYSE: TRB  ) , McClatchy (NYSE: MNI  ) , Gannett (NYSE: GCI  ) , and Belo (NYSE: BLC  ) , has been hit especially hard during the past couple of years. Readers have steadily abandoned both daily newspapers and broadcast news in favor of the timeliness -- and perhaps the more politically partisan outlook -- of Internet news content. In addition to an obvious trimming of circulation figures, readers have been steadily followed by advertisers in their departure from these more traditional forms of media.

As for the Times' new marketing effort, I believe that its success will depend on the parent organization's ability to expand upon the overall importance of its online activities. For now, I'd guess that the campaign won't change New York Times' fortunes much. As I've counseled Fools in the past, there are better places to make media investments than in today's atrophying world of daily newspapers.

For related Foolishness:

New York Times is a dividend-paying Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Discover our entire stable of dividend dynamos with a free 30-day trial subscription.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments.


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