Friday, May 13, 2011

The newspaper special advertising section as an app: digital ad products could be a huge new opportunity

So, do newspapers still do as many sections today as they did in the past? For me, the special section was both a great opportunity for a boost in revenue, and a terrible burden. After all, you do a new special section one year, and if it is successful, you are pretty much forced to do it again the next unless you can come up with something to replace it with.
Because most newspapers have failed to integrate digital publishing throughout their company almost all special sections remain strictly print affairs. Yet once creating new tablet app become as common as the next day's print edition, I think we will see lots of innovative special section apps.

When I downloaded this new app from Societe Emeraude Diffusion France I immediately thought about the 'special section'. Sure, Avenue Montaigne Guide 8 is not about just some small town shopping area, but isn't it, basically, just a special section?
The free app is all about a very ritzy avenue in Paris where your typical small town merchants – Gucci, Dior, for instance – have their businesses. OK, I admit, selling Dior is not the same as selling MaryJo's Cupcake Parlor, but you get the idea.

The app goes shop by shop, providing editorial content on all, with some supporting the effort with ads.

I compared this app to a recent special section run in The Miami Herald. That section was fine, 24 pages, plenty of ads. But the nice thing about digital ads are that they don't have to be size related – on an iPad you would think that all the ads would be "full page" – plus they offer interactivity and other benefits.

I've often wondered why I don't see more "special sections" on newspaper websites, or on their mobile applications. Now I wonder why we don't see more special section apps. My guess is that the reason is that the ad departments are not full partners in the paper's digital strategy. Maybe it's time to change that, no?