AJC, WSB Memo Unveils Insidious Cross-Marketing Plan

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(APN) ATLANTA — Cox Enterprises, the media company which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, WSBTV Channel 2, and WSB Radio, distributed a memo to its reporters unveiling a deliberate attempt to influence the perception of readers, viewers, and listeners through insidious cross-marketing techniques, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

The memo was first posted as a Google Document by Grayson Daughters, a blogger and social media expert, who obtained it from a trusted source.

Cox Enterprises wants Metro Atlantans to believe that the AJC and the two WSBs are essentially the only places to obtain news in Metro Atlanta.

The news agency distributed the four-page memo detailing its plans to cross-promote, using various techniques, some of which were less transparent to readers, viewers, and listeners than others.

“As a rule of thumb, most collaboration efforts will NOT be made known to readers/viewers/listeners. This means we’ll limit credit lines, tease boxes, contributor shout outs, etc., in print and on air,” the memo stated.

The memo also makes clear as to how Cox Enterprises views other media outlets in Atlanta.

“Consider any contact from a Cox journalist as a contact from a co-worker, not a competitor.  The competition is now defined as all media outside Cox properties,” the memo states.

Indeed, APN has observed that the AJC appears to go great lengths to avoid crediting other news agencies for stories, or even acknowledging their existence.

For example, the AJC has twice covered the lawsuits brought by APN’s News Editor–the present writer–against the City of Atlanta for Georgia Open Meetings Act violations.  But the AJC always refers to the present writer as a “gadfly,” “activist,” or “watchdog,” never as the editor of a publication.

In another example, the AJC reported on a forum of the current Mayor and former Mayors of Atlanta sponsored by Atlanta Magazine last week, but neglected to mention the forum was sponsored by Atlanta Magazine.  The AJC simply referred to the event as an event “at the Atlanta History Center.”

Cox Enterprises explained its strategy in detail:

“What the AJC wants: Promotion to print; pointing out specifically what’s available in specific stories in the newspaper. The AJC should identify those specific items,” the memo states.

“What WSB-TV wants: Increased ratings, especially at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. The AJC should provide information and/or stories that will help WSB beat the competition and garner higher ratings. This is especially true of enterprise stories, particularly in the key counties of Gwinnett, Cobb Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton,” the memo states.

“What WSB Radio wants: Real voices. The AJC should provide audio of 1) witnesses / sources / experts about stories or 2) AJC reporters talking about stories,” the memo states.

“When a property gets an exclusive interview, quote, document, or other information, the other must be credited as source for clarity’s sake,” the memo states.

“Examples: Chipper Jones tells only the AJC’s reporter that he’s demanding a trade. Radio and TV should mention this in their report so listeners/viewers will know the basis for the information. Conversely, if WSB-TV or WSB-AM airs an exclusive interview, the AJC should clarify to readers that the quotes came from an interview with Channel 2 Action News or News Talk WSB,” the memo states.

“A very limited number of packages will bear the co- AJC/WSB-TV branding label. The decision to co-brand will be determined on the front end, in the story conception meetings between the respective properties. The branding will need to be communicated fully to the newsroom production staffs so they’ll know to use the labels,” the memo states.

“Embargoes are determined by whichever property developed the story first. An *important* exception: If story originates with the AJC, an angle of the story can be reported and aired first by WSB, with a strong push to specific, in-depth details only available in tomorrow’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” the memo states.

“Cross-promotion efforts. Using the Atlanta Forward series as an example: 1. In print, the AJC would run a box with its story that tells readers they can watch a Channel 2 Action News special on the subject at 5p.m. Sunday. 2. Conversely, in WSB-TV’s special, they would push to specific additional coverage available in tomorrow’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” the memo states.

“If you know another Cox journalist who is working on a story similar to yours, reach out directly to them for information sharing,” the memo states.

“Don’t take it personally if another newsroom doesn’t show interest in a story you’re working. Not all news stories work for each platform: newspaper/online/ radio/TV. Your idea may be perfect for your platform, but may not translate easily to another,” the memo states.

In these times of layoffs, cuts, and cutbacks at the AJC, the company seems to want to leverage its three Atlanta-based news staffs by promoting collaboration and thus avoid duplication of efforts; it makes economic sense.

The company also seems to want to create an unrealistic sense of omniscience and omnipresence, and through an insidious marketing scheme, instead of simply by earning the reputation as a news leader by producing more news content to inform and empower Atlantans.

(END / 2011)

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