FORCED MARCH 7: What’s in a name?



News. Papers.

With that name, the newspaper industry has positioned itself to dominate the marketplace of the 19th century.

This series about newspapers’ “Forced March to Digital” was started by a series of provocative questions asked by VJ President Meredith Vaughan. Among them was a question about what to call this evolving industry.

Certainly, by stressing the dead trees aspect, newspapers continue to promote the most antiquated aspect of their business model.

I put this question to one of the most visionary thinkers in the realm of media transformation: social media evangelist Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody.”

He puts little stock in the chances for newspaper survival.

“What makes you think there will be newspapers when they are no longer on paper?” he asked. “We have very few examples of newspapers that stop printing while remaining going concerns (the Christian Science Monitor is probably the best example), while we have many examples of papers that shrank dramatically or simply imploded when their print operations became unsustainable.

“So I’d say that the modal case of a newspaper that stops printing will be a ‘For Sale’ sign on the real estate and a long line of job seekers streaming out the back door,” he said.

OK, that’s a bit grim. Granted, if you look at the revenue trends, there’s abundant reason for his level of pessimism.

Still, as difficult as it is to imagine newspapers surviving as purely (or mostly) digital entities, Clay finds it even tougher to imagine them called something else.

“Almost by definition, if they survive, we’ll call them newspapers, in the same way we still ‘dial’ phones, ‘book’ tickets, and call collections of songs ‘albums.'”

He has a point. We make phones now that look and function similar to Captain Kirk’s, but we don’t call them “communicators,” and I imagine if we could make phasers, we’d call them guns.

On the other hand, Meredi’s question not only muses about what newspapers will be called but what they should be called.

I gave this some thought, from a marketing perspective, considering “What is the newspaper’s greatest franchise?” When competing with TV, radio, Internet streaming (and progressive newspapers are now incorporating bits of each of these media), what newspapers really deliver that’s distinctive is text and still photo-based content and context. In the Who, What, When, Where, Why game, they answer those “why” questions better than anybody else.

So, here’s my suggestion: Textuals.

What I like about it is that it incorporates both “text” and “context” and creates a new word. I like made-up words. You may be surprised that even with the explosion of new media, text – particularly on tablets – is more popular than ever.

On the other hand, the word “text” doesn’t sound very sexy. Think “text book.”

To get some more ideas, I did what any modern journalist must: I crowdsourced. I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers for input.

Here are a few of their ideas: eNews, iNews, periodica electronic, diginews, interactive news coverage, press-cipitate, new news, fact totems, newsflash, netnews, cybernews, ePages, the new post and electro-news.

What do you think? Send your ideas to

About the Series

The transformation of the newspaper industry not only affects readers and communities, it throws several wrenches into a tremendously successful advertising business model.

VJ has done extensive research and economic projections to examine where this is going. Our embedded philosophy – Truth Creates Opportunity™ – drove us to add some finer textures and clarity to issues that, for much of the industry, have remained vague, scary and undefined.

Exactly what does the evolving content infrastructure mean to agencies, their clients and consumers? We plan to spell that out in a series of white papers produced by our agency that will place these issues into meaningful and useful perspectives.

Read the whole series.

About Vladimir Jones

VJ is a full-service ad agency dedicated to one simple, powerful idea: Truth Creates Opportunity™. Good or bad, the truth of your brand is the truth of your customers and the culture in which they interact. To identify the truth takes insight, creativity, engagement, guts and metrics. Like all things worth finding, we pursue the truth with ravenous persistence. Once found, it is power. The power to connect. To influence. To inform. To humor. Incite. Engage. Convert. Like your mother always said, tell the truth and good things happen.