My view on cross-media communication for newspapers

Trends in the worldwide media industry have clearly shown that in order to guarantee long-term success with the audience in the future, it will be vital to change from a single product-oriented to a multimedia, content and user-oriented approach. Newspaper publishing houses will be most successful if they are in a position to distribute their content in a synchronised manner via different media and guide their audience from one medium to the next in order to generate brand loyalty. The co-ordinated and cross utilisation of print products, online and mobile services as well as the use of radio and TV technologies (such as podcasting and videostreaming) enable a newspaper publishing house to make contact with its audience in a comprehensive and cross-media way. As a result the newspaper publishing house will be able to satisfy their audience’s information and service requirements. For this, it is important that the individual media should mutually support one another, for example by cross-referencing. It is also important that content should not simply be copied and transferred to a different medium, but that they should complement each other and offer an additional use.

To realise this basic concept, major changes in the way of thinking in newspaper newsrooms are necessary. This starts with understanding of the print edition as part of a larger communication package that makes best possible use of the strengths of media with regard to speed, interactivity, local presence, individuality and storage capacity. Take, for example, mobile, online and print media. Here it is possible to describe a communication process that binds the audience to the brand of the print product and leads them from one medium to the next.

Obviously, mobile telephones are especially well suited for transmitting brief messages and contents to defined receivers (e.g. subscribers) directly and independent of their whereabouts. The possibility of the receiver to react equally quickly and send a message to the newspaper (voting, queries, a photo, etc.), can be the beginning of communication in the sense of a mutual exchange of information. The nature of the printed newspaper means it is less suited for this type of communication mainly because of a lack of speed and interactivity.

On the other hand the online medium has strengths in relation to speed and interactivity. Although at present the flexibility of location does not, as yet, match that of mobile phones, online is destined to change rapidly with the development of mobile receivers. One significant advantage compared to mobile phones is the available storage capacity that is almost unlimited. Also, the transmission of multimedia contents, such as audio files and above all video files, is technically simpler due to the available transmission bandwidths, at least for as long as the mobile networks do not offer high bandwidths.

Online therefore seems well suited for a next step in the communication process, namely the high-speed transmission of large data volumes of information including photos, videos and audio elements as well as extended possibilities for motivating the receiver to interact (blogs, forum, voting, etc.). Here also, the print product continues to lag behind; limited storage capacity, i.e. number of pages, and the absence of a possibility to transport motion images and sound, limit the suitability. However, the ongoing development of ePaper and e-ink respectively, will soon eliminate these limitations.

So where can the print product apply its strengths in this example of a communication process? What are the strengths of the print product compared to the aforementioned media? These strengths include the very simple method of consumption without the use of electronic devices; trust in the newspaper brand and in the printed word, the greater capacity of people to absorb printed information as well as the reading experience itself. These factors ensure that the information which is printed on a non-electronic medium have and will continue to have a fixed place in the communication process. Additionally the content contributed by the public via other media can constitute an important part of the printed edition (e.g. user-generated content or citizen journalism).

Generating brand loyalty by means of the synchronised and co-ordinated use of the individual media enables newspaper publishing houses to increase their total reach among consumers and therefore also remain attractive as an advertising medium.

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