Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Strike Up the Brand

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You know it's going to be a tough day when the first image you see on your laptop is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a baseball uniform — truly a visual that cannot be unseen.

Christie was playing in a celebrity softball game for charity last week, so good for him. But he kind of looks like a giant softball with legs — or a Weeble — not the kind of image you want out in cyberspace if you're planning to run for president. (And since he's a Republican of some stature — and has the ability to walk and chew gum and deny science — he's probably running for president.)

As one pundit wrote, Christie did not help his brand by dressing in those white stretch baseball pants. And make no mistake about it, today, politicians are brands — as are all of us, at some level. Even if we're just posting stuff on Facebook, we're building our brand: as a gardener, foodie, political activist, civic organizer, musician, funny person, doting parent, loving spouse, photographer, news hound, pompous ass. All of the above.

In fact, Facebook and Twitter and other social networks are beginning to function more and more as principal news sources for many of us — news sources curated by our friends. Think about how many things you read each day that come from links to news and entertainment and sports posted by a friend or acquaintance on a social network. We're all part of the new news hive now.

This new model for information sharing has kept those of us in the actual news business on our toes (or, in some cases, put us out of business). What used to be a singular process — writing news and entertainment and putting it out in a printed newspaper each week — has evolved into a multi-tiered, multi-platformed content-creating, branding, and promotion business.

Are you reading this column in a printed Flyer you picked up at Kroger? Or on your laptop at a coffee shop? On your phone at a bar? The words are the same, but now they have to be formatted for several platforms.

Similarly, what made you decide to read this column? Maybe you just opened the Flyer to page 3, like the more than 100,000 Memphians who see the printed paper each week. Or maybe someone posted a link to it on Facebook. Or maybe you saw a tweet about it sent out by the Flyer marketing department. That would put you among the equally large number of people who read us online each week.

Big numbers of readers are nice, but our challenge (and that of pretty much every capitalist publisher in the free world) is getting revenue from all those eyeballs seeing our words and pictures each week.

The only thing anyone has figured out that works well for all concerned parties, is selling advertising in proximity to the content. The good news for Flyer advertisers is that they're not only getting lots of eyeballs, they're getting the smartest and most influential eyeballs in town — which makes you smart and influential, too, right? (How about that for a slow-pitch softball?)

Enough, already. Next week, I'll probably go back to ranting about bridges. It's something Chris Christie and I have in common.

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