Abrams: Obama Election A 'Wake-Up Call'

The latest think piece from Tribune Co. Innovation Chief Lee Abrams. He's gone gaga for the election (the collector's item status of the election edition has "spurred a lot of thinking and action across the Tribune Nation") and he wants to capitalize on it.

"This idea is all about DRIVING HOME and RE-CLAIMING our historical ownership of events of today's Obama magnitude," he writes.

Among his ideas are to borrow ways to present the news from TV.

"Historically, TV kills newspapers in NOTICABILITY because it's while its BETTER CONTENT in print, it's usually not packaged very well and doesn't get the traction it deserves," Abrams writes. "A little of what CNN and FOX do ala 'Historic Election 2008' with big logo, intro music and always at a reliable time are components we can all do better...or hopefully BEST ... or we'll be handing it over to other media...and that would be tragic."

He also wants to sell three-month subscriptions with the pitch "experience the march to inauguration." He also squeezes in an idea to do a feature story on Ray Charles. There's plenty more (and it jumps).
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November 10, 2008
THINK PIECE: THE OBAMA WAKE UP CALL

The demand for last Wednesday's post election papers is obviously enormous. If there's ever an indicator that newspapers are timeless, this is it. The wake up call last week (like $200 copies on eBay) spurred a lot of thinking and action across the Tribune Nation. Now, as the march to the inauguration begins is when we can:

a) Capitalize on it
Or
b) Let other media steal it from us.

Some thoughts--

*Compartmentalize so it's in a reliable place
*Logo or iconize so it's not just a series of stories
*Give coverage some visual CHARACTER & Style

...so it gets noticed. Historically, TV kills newspapers in NOTICABILITY because it's while its BETTER CONTENT in print, it's usually not packaged very well and doesn't get the traction it deserves. A little of what CNN and FOX do ala "Historic Election 2008" with big logo, intro music and always at a reliable time are components we can all do better...or hopefully BEST ... or we'll be handing it over to other media...and that would be tragic. I was mildly impressed with CNN last week and how they are going to report in a compartmentalized and noticeable way "Obama's accountability" on 6 key issues throughout his term. This is SO us...BUT we need to...OWN it. THIS IS OUR STRENTH! Another thing I saw on CNN was: "What the Newspapers of

the World looked like the morning after". Hey--Isn't that what WE are supposed to do? AND--since WE have the headlines from every election, shouldn't WE be printing those. PLEASE...PLEASE, don't "send people to the web" for these. PRINT THEM. Flaunt them. They are ours. As wonderful as the web is, there's something inherently special about a printed page that IS history. To offer only an electronic version is to minimalize the very essence of what we are.

The point is that this is all a wake-up call. NOW is the time to get inventive and AFDI instead of "assuming" we'll own the Obama story,, because it's very clear that the TV News channels are NOT assuming and are pulling out the stops to own this.

It's all packaging? No--it's the content--but we already do that well...it's the packaging of it that is dated and being handed to TV...along with penalizing readers by simply sending them to the web for things that SHOULD BE in print.

Then...circulation angles. Can we let this simply glide past us?
Is there an angle here to maximize the Obama historical fix that seems so hot by:

Marketing Three Month subscriptions with the hook being something along the lines: "Experience the march to inauguration".

Using this hot button to aggressively extend the post election day historical value of what we provide

Treat the next three months as a historical/collectible opportunity that papers provide best.

Instead of a ton of papers being sold this week and Inauguration day, build his election into a marketable newspaper event....where there's something new in the paper EVERY day surrounding his historic election?

Three thoughts:

*Could hook moderate and non readers via exposure to our new look

*Help us OWN the thing

*Force subscriptions via "I CAN'T MISS A MOMENT OF THE NEXT FEW MONTHS"

If "everyone" wants last Wednesday's paper...why not the next three months...to fully capture the history being made?
This is our great strength...and a good time to pull out the competitive stops. Some thoughts bouncing around:

Reading yesterday's spectacular Sunday Chicago Tribune, I can't help thinking there's a rare window of opportunity to continue to capitalize on what is happening. The first African American President who is a home town guy at a time of global crisis.

1. I think this is a golden opportunity to execute "5 day" features to drive Mon-Friday readership. Two topics that come to mind that are the story behind the story. This is MORE than an interesting election-plus it's inevitable that we'll reach the "enough already" factor among non Obama worshippers, so I think it's important to look at the entire big picture of what is happening;

*AFRICAN AMERICAN PIONEERS-
Monday Jackie Robinson, and Minnie Minoso here in Chicago
Tuesday Ray Charles (or a Black artist(s) that broke the color barriers and reached mainstream America
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday etc...

...A celebration of contribution that ties into what is happening right now.

*CLASSIC ELECTIONS-
Monday JFK vs. Nixon
Tuesday FDR during the depression
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, etc...

...Compelling elections are in our DNA. There is inspirational, educational and commercial value in REMINDING readers of our past, celebrating it...but presenting it in a modern way....and with the "2x4" for noticability. Not against other newspapers, but against ALL competitive media.

Think about it--

These two topics are compelling, backed with amazing historic Tribune coverage, timely, activates the archives, and something that ONLY we can do. LEAD with print, and deepen with web and TV.

This idea is all about DRIVING HOME and RE-CLAIMING our historical ownership of events of today's Obama magnitude.

...and the idea is to create a five day experience to start people thinking about a 7 day Tribune...start to condition people to a Tribune that has "must read" ingredients EVERY day.

Two other things I loved today in the Chicago paper;

*Countdown to the Presidency. Creates motion. "72 days".

*An article on preserving newspapers. Nice! That's swagger. Damn right you want to preserve these!!!!

I guess the above is an example of pulling out COMPETITIVE stops to OWN something BEYOND the outstanding way we're already doing it---
Stellar Packaging AND stellar content? It's the only way to win.

On related topics:

*EDITORS IN RESIDENCE: The T-6 papers are exchanging editors and design [people in a new program. Cross pollination.
As you know I was in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale last week. One thing that really contributed heavily to the success of the meetings was that there was cross pollination. Tim Frank from Ft.Lauderdale was at the Orlando meetings, and Bonita Burton from Orlando was at the Ft. Lauderdale meetings. Here's why I thought this was effective:

*The simple "how do you guys do (put challenge here) in your market? Tim and Bonita both presented how 'they' do it, and in more cases than not, it sparked conversations that resulted in actionable results.

*We have great minds around the company; it's a shame not to share more--face to face.

*I presented best practices from other markets. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. I had a legal pad. Imagine if the actual doers from the markets personally visited each other, in a group environment. I'll be that:

--The host market will learn a great deal

--the visitor will import ideas to bring back to THEIR paper.

*This can go miles in creating the "one Tribune" we all seek.

*The ideas will be both creative, operational and efficiency driven.

*There are things that EVERY paper does well...and things EVERY paper needs help with---what a great opportunity to spread the knowledge and talent.

*Inspiration. Visiting another paper IS inspiring.

...I know that additional travel costs are not a good thing, but with Southwest Airlines and a local hotel deal, we are talking under $1000 a trip. Hell, I'll even fly our guys around as I did with Bonita.

*THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED. On WPIX. The continue to deliver some stunning new approaches to promos.
More archival magic from WPIX. What I like about this intro is:
1. It GETS your attention.
2. It celebrates the station's history.
3. NO-one is doing this sorta thing, and well, it's kinda 'cool'--that intangible "it".
4. It's a fresh take on something getting POUNDED EVERY-where.
5. It's interesting
6. It's free
...Our time is now.


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