NEWSPAPERS TURN TO ZYMAN TO STEM LONG-TERM DECLINES: NAA ENGAGES EX-COKE EXEC; BUDGETS $11.3 MIL

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Got newspapers?

The Newspaper Association of America wants to develop a branding campaign for the nation's publishers on par with the California Milk Processor Board's ubiquitous and memorable "Got milk?" commercials.

To do that, the trade association has hired former Coca-Cola Co. marketing executive Sergio Zyman, now president of his own Atlanta-based consultancy, the Z Group. Mr. Zyman's charge is to create a campaign that positions newspapers as vibrant players in today's fragmented -- and Internet-crazed -- media universe.

STEMMING YEARS OF DECLINE

The advertising effort is one part of an $11.3 million marketing and research campaign NAA is funding in an attempt to reverse years of declines in newspaper circulation and readership.

NAA is not above admitting it needs high-power help. NAA Chairman Richard Gottlieb, president-CEO of Lee Enterprises, announced Mr. Zyman's hiring at the association's annual conference in San Diego last week. "We're putting his thinking and experience behind repositioning newspapers, an industry that -- let's face it -- has never been known for its marketing excitement," Mr. Gottlieb said.

As part of the effort to boost circulation, the Newspaper Management Center at Northwestern University will conduct readership research, as well as develop education and communications efforts. The center will work closely with marketing experts at Northwestern's J.L. Kellogg School of Management, and the research results will provide the basis of the planned ad campaign.

EVERYDAY RELEVANCY

"Newspapers have allowed themselves to be positioned by everyone else," Mr. Zyman said. "They have let themselves be defined by TV and the Internet telling consumers, 'We're relevant and newspapers are not.' It's not the case. Newspapers are a relevant part of lives every day. We need to sell newspapers anew every single day."

Mr. Zyman said the best way for newspapers to increase circulation is to try and convert twice-weekly readers to daily readers. "Why chase the audience that you have to win over? Why not just talk to those you've already won over and try and get them to buy you more often?" he asked.

The entire NAA effort is budgeted at $11.3 million, but Mr. Zyman will receive his initial fee from a $3 million pool NAA had earmarked for a fall flight of an ad campaign developed by Della Femina/Jeary & Partners, New York.

That fall campaign has been canceled. The last ads in that campaign, tagged "It all starts with newspapers" and featuring celebrities, will appear through late May.

Since 1990, the newspaper industry has seen a steady decline in daily circulation. A recent NAA study of Sunday circulation for 200 newspapers found that the majority (57%) reported declines, with only one in three reporting any

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