How does the News International brand stay alive? News Int is clearly suffering, and the risks — as The Times in particular seems to have recognised — is that the weight of the News of the World could drag all the company’s assets down with it. The brand damage for the group isn’t for focused on the group, but on the sum of its parts.
And the pay wall has made recovery more difficult than ever.
Brands take years to build and moments to destroy. The tarnishing happens very fast in today’s media environment because digital media has made the flow of news and personal opinion almost effortless:
- Stories are heavily linked
- Readers have a strong social voice
- News is not limited by space or time, so is always looking for something new to say
All of which makes it painfully difficult for any organisation that is experiencing negative PR to respond to the situation.
So it’s even more painful when a media organisation like The Times is not able to cash in its positive investments when it needs them.
Times writers like Caitlin Moran and Matthew Parris are much-loved by readers and have a healthy digital presence. They have been nurtured by their employer and are now powerful, effective (and very funny) voices in the digital space.
Unfortunately, they are handcuffed in their ability to remind the public that The Times brand is independent of the mucky world of its sister title.
They discuss their personal views but they cannot make that discussion a part of their employer’s own voice because they cannot link behind the paywall. I have written about how paywalls limit non-commercial benefits elsewhere.
Media companies do themselves a valuable service when they invest in talent. New journalists are promoted to leads, to section heads, to columnists and to eminent ‘voices’ of the title. They are promoted because they are loved by their audiences.
In good times these voices amplify the goodwill their audiences feel; and in bad times they reassure audiences (and potential audiences) that they are valuable.
Social is the most powerful tool any organisation has to redress negative PR, but NI has cut itself off from the conversation. The talent that it has invested in are cut off as spokespeople for the title.