Publishers' Advantage Program
The purpose of the Publishers’ Advantage is to use a new USA Talk Network, Inc. (“USA-TN”) public affairs television series --- “Colorado Now TM” --- to bolster journalism by allowing print and other publications the opportunity to use television programming on their Websites to direct subscriber and other reader interest and revenues to newspapers while simultaneously giving them an editorial advantage by having news content (including interviews, video, and photographs) in advance of their television competitors. The initiative also will offer other special programming which participants will be able to premier on their Websites.
In recent decades, although political spending has grown geometrically --- now totaling several billion dollars nationally in each election cycle and hitting $100 million in Colorado in 2008 --- print and other publications have found political campaigns and committees have deserted them in favor of electronic media (primarily television) advertising. This is paradoxical because, as a rule, newspaper readers are far more active politically than their electronic counterparts (with the exception of political Websites). For this reason, if publications offered the right opportunities, they could gain some of the dollars which are being spent in the political arena.
Aaron Harber, a columnist for The Denver Daily News and The Colorado Statesman, who also has been published by a variety of newspapers (The Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, the Times-Call, and the Daily Camera, among others) has developed a plan to help print publications. In 2008, with leadership statewide by COMCAST Entertainment Television, Aaron pioneered “The Senate In Balance TM” --- a 22-program series. It featured programs with Republican nominee and former Congressman Bob Schaffer and Democratic nominee and then-Congressman Mark Udall (D). The project (from endorsements to all 22 television shows) can be viewed at www.SenateCO.com. Using the investment made and groundwork laid in 2008, USA Talk Network, Inc. has expanded its public service effort in 2011.
This, time, however, publications will have the opportunity to have many of the television programs (except for “live” programming, such as call-in shows) at least 24 hours before they are broadcast anywhere on television. This is the core concept of the Publishers’ Advantage. The extent of the advance access to programs also is a function of the specific arrangement each publication has with USA-TN. In all cases, however, there is no charge for the programming to any of the participating publications.
Publications will attract new subscribers, readers, viewers, and advertisers to their publications and Websites. Hence, Publishers’ Advantage gives newspapers editorial advantages because they would have the first copies of finished programs (except for journalists who cover tapings. There also are new revenue opportunities because this arrangement gives newspapers opportunities to sell Website and video advertising space and time on an unlimited basis before and after each program. In addition, each publication will be able to have its own readers send in questions for the candidates and can advertise this opportunity exclusively to its subscribers. Examples of the diversity of publications which already have signed up for the initiative include:
The Boulder Daily Camera
Publishers’ Advantage is structured so there is no cost to the participants. The television programs will be donated to each participating publication. For this experiment, USA-TN will cover all of the expenses related to the production and distribution of the special television programs. And Aaron Harber has agreed to donate his per-program hosting fee. Even better, when publications sell advertising related to the programs, they will keep all (100%) of it and would not share any of the revenue with USA-TN. There would be no limit to how much time or how many advertisements publication sell before or after each segment or program. The only requirement is the programs and segments (some programs also will be edited into 1- to 5-minute segments) provided by USA-TN would be provided to readers and viewers by program participants without any interruption or modification.
Hence this concept allows newspapers to offer political campaigns and other political entities such as 527’s, 501(c)(3)’s, 501(c)(4)’s, 501(c)6)’s, individuals, et cetera, a highly targeted demographic. These advertising buyers know newspaper readers are a far more politically active and higher voting demographic than television viewers. The program will allow television advertising to be placed on the Websites of publications immediately before and after the public affairs programming provided by USA-TN. And each publication could keep as many programs on its Website as it desires through December 31, 2011. For those publications who do not want their own copy of any program, they can simply use a link as a way to provide their readers with access to the programs (with the publication’s advertisements appearing upon their readers’ use of the link, if they wish).
To summarize, the concept provides attractive, unique, high-quality video programming at no cost to publications which they can make available via their Websites to their readers for an exclusive period of time before the shows appear on television. Thus publications will have access to and Web broadcast rights prior to television broadcast of most programs and they will be able to tell their readers they can view the shows on the publications’ Websites in advance of being able to view them on television (i.e., “Watch it here first!”).
COMCAST Entertainment Television (“CET”) and USA-TN have finalized an agreement for 2010 which allows Publishers’ Advantage participants to view the shows prior to their broadcast on CET. CET will broadcast the programs during the Prime Time slot of 8:00 pm on Mondays and will rebroadcast them at 7:30 am on Fridays and Sundays. The programs also will be available 24/7 via COMCAST’s free Video on Demand service. The programs also will be broadcast across the State by ION Media Networks (KPXC-TV) as well as by Denver Open Media (DCTV) and TV Aspen, among other broadcast and Web outlets.
This is a win/win/win/win arrangement. The publications get exclusive content --- making them more attractive to their subscribers and advertisers. The broadcasters get new content along with promotions from the publications which, in turn, direct more viewers to the television broadcasts and increase audience numbers. Candidates get a chance to detail their positions in depth. And, most importantly, citizens receive a valuable public benefit by getting high quality information in a manner which mitigates negative political advertising.
Many publishers have asked, “So why is Aaron doing this?” The answer is threefold. First, he believes Publishers’ Advantage will expand the public service contribution of his programming by making it available to more citizens. If he can reach more members of the electorate and help inform people, that would further his public service mission. Aaron knows viewers of his programs are tremendous consumers of news. They include the State’s opinion-leaders, businesspeople, elected and appointed officials, and most politically-active citizens --- typically drawn from the Media, Government, Politics, Business, and Education. They are very well-educated, have high incomes, and are decision-makers. The Publishers’ Advantage initiative serves this target audience.
Second, Aaron believes the survival of newspaper journalism is critically important to the health of the American Republic. He believes our democratic system is irreparably damaged every time a paper closes its doors. And he recognizes most news on television and the Web originates from print journalism -- so everyone benefits from this initiative. He believes this project can show there are solutions to the financial challenges print publications face by demonstrating how print and electronic journalism can be combined advantageously. Aaron has written extensively about the future of newspaper journalism and Publishers’ Advantage is based on his belief in the need to bolster journalism. This is illustrated by the column he authored published in “The Huffington Post” --- www.HuffingtonPost.com/aaron-harber.) Below is one of the many responses he received to that column.
Third, although there is no payment required from newspapers, USA-TN anticipates each participating publication will promote the later availability of the programs on television and highlight every new program as it is featured on each newspaper’s Website. Some publications also may write stories about the programs based on their news content --- so this will enhance the value of the newspaper. Nevertheless, there is no financial or advertising requirement or quid pro quo from USA-TN related to the promotion of or reporting about the programs. These decisions are solely left to the discretion of each publication.