Following on from my story on The Independent redesign earlier this week, twitter led me to this excellent post on Media Shift, entitled “What Newspapers Can Learn From Brands”

Their central thesis is that brands have successfully learned how to craft a voice in order to get digital content right. But that traditional newspapers have yet to learn how to do this properly.

This isn’t entirely true of course, The Sun newspaper is an amazing example of successful tone in print, likewise the Mail online and The Guardian across both, or at least to a degree. But many of the rest constantly overestimate the attention of their audience.

The Media Shift post is prompted by the Financial Times announcing it was taking the next steps in its “digital first” strategy, but then goes on to really lay out some home truths about news today. Here’s an extract:

‘The race to be first in reporting a story is leading to irrelevant news that doesn’t make the audience any smarter, well informed or engaged. People are emotional and pay close attention to things with context and connection….if a story lacks a voice and contextualizing information, it’s more likely to be overlooked and unshared.

What people need now is an interpretation of the news. This doesn’t mean adding in bias, but creating thoughtful and engaging content that starts conversation. The Internet has leveled the playing field and enabled audiences to set the stage, telling publishers in real-time the type of content they want to see and read… If viewers aren’t spending time on a website, it’s time to shake things up.’

But if you really want to shake things up, have a look at this. Switzerland’s oldest newspaper, The New Zurich Times, has turned itself into a coffee shop! Well, not exactly, but what they have done is partnered with a food and beverage concession to open a coffee shop at Zurich airport.

The report says the “sleek, light and contemporary” café serves fresh sandwiches including rustic Venticina salami served in Laugenstange german-style wheat roll, Pastrami with tartar sauce in a swiss bread called Bürli, or a Swiss traditional favourite of dried beef, smoked ham, salami, gruyere cheese in a Campaillette baguette.

Every customer at the café is also offered an instant download of the day’s editon of NZZ and a free four-week subscription to the publication.

Newspapers are in trouble, and no mistake. But rather than just beat themselves up, their opportunity is to seek profit outside themselves by partnering with like minded brands more aggressively.

This example of super smart thinking has been kindly supplied by Andy Pemberton from Furthr, who has also just shared the amazing graph below, showing the massive decline in newspaper advertising and Google’s corresponding rise. Magazine advertising has gone down, but all things considered, is actually holding up pretty well.