The modern newspaper serves three functions: as a news and information source, as an advertising vehicle, and as a delivery system for coupons.Â The brand’s value comes from the news side, obviously; the money comes from the other two sides. Newspapers (and magazines) long ago figured out that maintaining brandÂ value required separating these functions, hence the “wall” between news and advertising. That wall has been breached in the last couple of years as the News struggles for revenue: Looks, for example, is an “editorial” product published by the ad side, not the news side.
But my interest is in how the News promotes coupons to non-readers. One can’t discount the importance of coupons: thousands of people buy the newspaper just to get them. But couponÂ advertisers want total market coverage, so the News also sends out thousands of coupon direct mailers. It emblazons its logo across the top of these mailers. So to thousands of non-readers, these mailers are the Dallas Morning News. It is not a news and information source; it is, at best,Â a coupon promoter (if I want them) or, at worst, an uglyÂ nuisance (if I don’t want them). My question is, what does this do to the brand?Â I raise the question becauseÂ very shortly the News, like D Magazine, will have to leverage its brand to serve its readers in new and, perhaps, unexpected ways. That transition won’t be easy for any media company. But one has to believe that brand value is crucial to the transition. Â So is it wise to use or misuse the brand in ways that detracts from its value? In simpler times, didn’t they call this eating your seed corn?Â
CORRECTION: A commenter informs me (and you) that Looks is now produced by the news department.