McClatchy, other newspapers think vertically

September 5, 2008

Friday’s press release from McClatchy Corp about its new vice president for strategic initiatives includes a quote from interactive media VP Christian Hendricks that caught my eye:

It’s clear there’s a tremendous opportunity to provide local readers with a richer online experience by creating niche and vertical websites that combine our local experience and content with national brands and content… We are confident advertisers will also benefit greatly from better targeted advertising opportunities and increased traffic in topic-specific content areas on these sites.

By now you’ve realized that it was “niche and vertical websites” that got me all excited. Normally I find ways to translate that kind of jargon into English, but not this time.

It must have been nearly two years ago that former Wall Street Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz started talking about “verticals” — websites and other vehicles that present news geared toward a narrowed audience as a way of attracting advertising dollars because the advertiser would know that a bunch of lawyers, say, would read the law vertical that a news organization creates. The New York Times is trying something similar with its business news section, and Gannett is doing this with “mom” websites.

And now, apparently, so is McClatchy. Newspaper publishers tend to pick up each others’ catchphrases about what they’re doing to save themselves as advertising revenue dries up, and they often try to shape the story of their fortunes in similar ways until they’re forced to retreat and find a new way to explain how they will survive. Until now, however, I hadn’t heard any of them aside from the Journal and the Times use the term “vertical.”

What about all you newspaper employees and consultants out there? Is “vertical” the new buzzword among U.S. local newspaper publishers? Will verticals help save the business? Or is this latest word born horizontal?

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