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Media Relations Minute: How are traditional media companies appealing to your basic senses to drive sales – and remain relevant?

At the recent Ink+Beyond 2011 conference [1], the Canadian Newspaper Association’s annual convention in Vancouver, Geoff Tan, SVP of Business Development at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), delivered a presentation that surprised the crowd of 200 media execs, based on what he and his team have been able to accomplish.

SPH has 17 publications [2], both print and online, a market of about five million people. Although a small country, Singapore has some of the highest smartphone and Internet connectivity rates in the world. How then can it be that more than half of all the online advertising dollars in Singapore go to SPH?

Geoff and his team at SPH think outside the box to drive their media sales. They have supplemented their print publications with Web content, online TV and mobile. This cross-platform approach allows them to keep their readers engaged and entertained, where other traditional media outlets have struggled to do so. They have created ad formats in all kinds of shapes (zig-zag or across a page [3] of editorial content, see image above) and developed different ways to use real estate (spread out among the four corners of the same page). While these methods are used in larger countries’ major markets, they are completely new to the Singapore market and have been well received because of the added value they offer. 

The media landscape is evolving at break-neck speed, and it’s no longer just North America and Europe leading the way. In Asia, North Africa, the Middle East [4] and elsewhere, events that would have been impossible to document just 10 years ago can now be captured, thanks to technology. And, to further the process, that content can be delivered anywhere in the world or posted online at any time, with the touch of a button. The print and media revolution is not just digital, it’s about activating people’s senses. And we are reaching a point where this goes beyond sights and sounds.

Recently, US Ink [5], an ink supplier for traditional newspapers, released a flavored insert for print ads [6]. The sealed insert includes an edible film resembling breath-freshening strips that can be made to match just about any flavor. Hypothetically speaking, if KFC inserts a flavored ad in the paper for a new chicken sandwich, you might get a sense of what it actually tastes like. It’s another way to appeal to the senses that digital media can’t match (for now).

Scent-based print ads have been around for a while, particularly to promote perfumes and colognes. (Open the flap to get a whiff.) SPH is looking into something new. Geoff says SPH will be experimenting with ingredients in their ink that will allow their readers to scratch and sniff advertisements in their publications. You can’t get that on HBO!

For media companies, it’s increasingly difficult to maintain a level of profitablility while operating within only one medium. The successful players will be the ones who manage to enhance user experience and make it enjoyable for people to consume their content. Print, broadcast, Web and mobile are quickly converging as technology permits, and we have only scratched the surface.

The next step in this equation is for journalists to follow suit. Reporters Without Borders [7] created a way to merge print and mobile in a relatively seamless yet highly unique fashion. As more and more media companies require their editorial staff to provide content across multiple platforms, both journalists and media execs would be well served to engage the builders of these technologies to help shape the media landscape of the future — where the senses are engaged like never before — or risk being left behind.

What other innovative ways can journalists employ to appeal to their readers’ senses? Beyond websites, feeds and apps, how are print publications incorporating online and mobile?

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