Newspaper sites: Step I: Talk to your bread and butter

On my run this morning, I got the idea to follow-up on the newspaper post with a blueprint of how a site may go about about operationally improving their service for advertisers and readers.

I’m not going to get into the global issue of walled and free content just yet, but soon.

Step I:

Get a handle on your advertising clients from all angles

Summary: Your advertisers and clients, well, they pay you.

Directive:  Get an online expert to take a 30 day deep dive into your classified/lead gen clients and your branded/display based clients. You don’t need more than 30 days. Why? Because if a client doesn’t respond to your queries within two weeks time, either they are: a) frustrated with current service and support level and won’t be helpful or b) you are not as consequential to their business as you thought.

Process their feedback. Don’t write an email, don’t send out a survey. Go talk to them. Inventory their comments. Annotate whether they respond with data in their answers or not. If they don’t then you can probably help them just through better communication and customer service, before even measureable results.

Evaluate what they think about your technical solutions and integrations, your reporting display, the content where they may be displayed on the site.

Then internally review your technology and you bring them value. Your inventory management, your account management, etc.

What are you looking for through all this, well, quantitative and qualitative factors. What do most people gripe about, what features do they say they really want, what support?

Why do you need to do this first? Well before you even touch your site or content optimization you have to realize if this will equal an ROI.

This is Step I, it should be really ongoing, but I want a hard time believing many companies are really focused on client support and customer service as a primary core competency.

How does this fit the strategic? Well, newspapers I hate to tell you, with the advent of blogging, real time content updates, and search engines, your content needs fixing and is not your strong suit. Sure, you’re brand, editorialship, and the connections of your top reporters is, but not specifically your content.

It’s your client and advertiser relationships beyond this brand that Google, vertical content and search plays (Edmunds and JumpstartAutomitive, HotelChatter and Farecast, Yelp, Service Magic, LaborFair, etc. et.c,) and even blogs are continually attacking.

By speaking with these clients above and beyond the engagement it will create, I’m sure they’ll share with you a number of product and content ideas for you to test later.

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