Old Media, New Media, and Posh Supermarkets


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I was once fortunate enough to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong while on a business trip. Checking in after a 13-hour flight from London, I was too tired to fully appreciate the stunning, tree-filled atrium; the amazing view from my room; or the impeccable service as a procession of hotel employees appeared unbidden, bringing tea, fruit, and hot towels. I haven't had the good fortune to revisit that particular haven of luxury again, but I was interested to learn that, starting in spring 2015, all 85 Shangri-La hotels and resorts will no longer provide guests with complimentary print newspapers. Instead, the hotels will offer online access to more than 2,000 local, regional, and international publications from 100 countries in 60 languages, which can be downloaded to guests' own devices, via an app that is available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows.

As we approach the end of 2014, is this yet another nail in the coffin for print newspapers and magazines? Media watchers in the U.K. might point to the fact that this autumn, Hearst Magazine UK's Company became a stand-alone digital brand, with October marking the last monthly print issue in the face of a significant decline in circulation.

Launched in 1978-and a newsstand fixture ever since-the magazine describes itself as "the brand for street-style-obsessed young British women" and will now concentrate on its digital business. According to Hearst, the signs are good: In the 6 months leading up to August 2014, website traffic increased by 46%, with social traffic up more than 140% via a strong social presence across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Other, more venerable British media brands are also reaping the benefits of a nuanced social media strategy. This summer, Jason Seiken, chief content officer and editor-in-chief of Telegraph Media Group (publisher of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph) drew attention to a 20% increase in traffic to The Telegraph's website. He attributed this to a decision to favor Facebook over Twitter as a traffic driver, as well as producing fewer stories overall. According to Seiken, an assumption had been made that Twitter should be the major focus of activity-underpinned by journalists' own obsession with Twitter-but the data suggested otherwise.

As 2014 draws to a close, annual year-end forecasts of the health of the newspaper industry show a varied international picture. PwC's "Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2014-2018" predicts that the newspaper industry's revenue decline will end next year. The report highlights significant regional variations, however, with expected revenue growth in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American markets alongside declines in North America and Western Europe. So 2015 looks set to present ongoing, print-based challenges for traditional newspaper publishers, at least. But creative content marketers might be seeing the year ahead in a much more positive light.

The upmarket British supermarket chain Waitrose is a case in point. In 2010 the grocery retailer launched Waitrose Weekend, the first free newspaper published by a retailer in the U.K. This isn't a thinly disguised mechanism for delivering money-off coupons. It's a lifestyle publication with unapologetically high-end editorial values, offering regular columns by much loved British national treasures alongside features, interviews, and articles about food. It produces around 40 pages weekly with a circulation of 400,000 and is accompanied by a free iPad app.

The Waitrose content marketing strategy also includes Weekend Kitchen With Waitrose, a lifestyle and cooking network TV show, as well as the online channel Waitrose TV that features hundreds of videos from celebrity chefs. But perhaps most interesting of all is Waitrose's co-option of old media print newspapers into its strategy. Holders of the myWaitrose loyalty card who spend more than £5 (about $8) in a single transaction are entitled to a free daily newspaper, with a range of U.K. quality press on offer, including The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian, or The Times. In addition, myWaitrose cardholders can claim a free daily tea or coffee in-store, even if they do not buy anything.

Mark Price, the managing director of Waitrose, clearly articulates the company's ambitious use of its loyalty scheme and content strategy to generate engagement and affinity in the internet economy. As a result, it is growing market share in the U.K.'s cutthroat supermarket sector. Each week, Waitrose is estimated to be giving away 1 million cups of coffee and almost 1 million free daily newspapers. That's a lot of old media being put to work in the service of the brave new world of content marketing.