Monday, March 23, 2009

How Much Would You Pay to “Learn to Pitch Big [Failing] Newspapers”

If you’re in SF next week, and you don’t mind paying $15-20 for the privilege, you can come hear some people from the SF Chronicle and NY Times talk about how to pitch your (probably tech) company to them.

So they’ll write a glowing and informed article about you.

Wait, wait, wait … this is all wrong.

First, these are “reputable” newspapers, meaning they won’t necessarily write anything good about you. At most, they’ll theoretically assemble a balanced story, interviewing your competitors, talking to customers, maybe even your employees … or ex-employees.

Oh, wait, I’ve got this wrong again.

They aren’t going to anything like that … unless, maybe, you were already a big news-section story already. Else they will write something that’s like a watered-down blog post, without any specific expertise or authority, but with a couple of quotes. Newspapers like to quote because they can’t link. They’ll also mention twitter in the story, they can’t help themselves.

These papers do have a big circulation though, maybe that’s the appeal.

But it’s hard to tell their attention reach, or the “effective circulation” of your story buried in the tech or lifestyle section. How many people really read that? Are they influencers? Customers? Relevant at all to you?

It’s hard to tell. I can tell you that the people who are really interested might find the story … when it comes to them through the backdoor via some RSS feed or Google alert. But if they care enough to do the RSS thing and find you, then they’ll also have all the other, better, material about you that comes from all of the experts in your field who blog about you and also turn up in RSS and Google alerts. Ironic.

Next, these two newspapers are in dire financial straits. At this point, $20 probably keeps the Chron publishing for another couple of days. And why are they in trouble? Not just because people can read their content online for free – rather, it’s because in most areas of reporting, the big organs have no specific interest, capability, or credibility, and so no one cares what they write. The one thing they can do is send a foreign correspondent to Iraq or the White House, and maybe the correspondent has some credibility…

Wait, there I go again, the Times sold out on Iraq years ago, by their own admission, and so did most of the rest of the traditional press.

Ok, I give up.

I’m going to sponsor a meetup where newspapers can send people, who will each pay me $15-20, buying my attention long enough to tell me why I should care.

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