Weddings are an excellent example of how newspapers’ sense of news is way out of whack with the people in the community and how we miss out on big news and revenue opportunities because of the blinders of our current business model.
The blinders hurt us on both the content and revenue sides. Weddings, engagements and anniversaries aren’t big news for newspapers because they happen so many times each year in the life of the community. If we make a big deal of one, we’ll have to make a big deal out of them all, so we bury them inside the paper and handle them by format. Well, they all are big deals and each is unique and memorable. Each wedding is one of the biggest news stories of the year in the circle of people attending. And we can make each of them a big deal in our network.
Each wedding in the community deserves its own multi-level web site. We need to start seizing this content (and its revenue opportunities).
St. Louis Best Bridal provides a good starting model but we need to go further. Iowa Bridal Planner barely begins to touch the possibilities for networking and commerce related to weddings. In addition to events and printed bridal planning guides, we need to become a place where people share their experiences: a mix of features and advice about weddings and user-generated content such as romantic moments, wedding disasters, funny moments, cute-kid stories from weddings, worst-bridesmaid-dress contests and how-to discussions.
We should offer a directory of businesses that help with the jobs to be done around weddings. This would be a multi-level directory, connecting with the iGuide. Just to have useful content, we should list basic information (address, phone, hours, web site, map) for every florist, dress shop, etc. in the community. We should offer the businesses an opportunity to pay for enhanced listings on multiple levels, including preferred placement and lead generation.
We need to offer web sites for each couple, linked to from the main wedding page and easily searchable. The couple’s site includes not just the engagement announcement, but lots of opportunities for user-generated content: how the couple met, their song, a quiz about the couple, information about the event.
We need to offer direct help with some of the logistical details about the wedding. For instance, the couple should be able to reserve a block of rooms at a local hotel directly from our web site (with opportunities for guests to reserve and confirm rooms directly). We need a more interactive and helpful online wedding planner, where brides can check out venues using virtual reality photography, choose their tuxes, preview dresses (of course, they’ll need to go out and try them on, but they can do some online shopping to narrow the list of shops they want to try in person).
When couples start their wedding page, they would agree in the registration process that we can provide information about them to vendors (we might give them multiple levels, so they can choose which types of vendors they want to hear from). This is a powerful lead-generation opportunity for an event on which couples spend tons of money. We can provide a gift registry from which family and friends (many of them people from outside the community who wouldn’t spend money here unless we give them the opportunity) can buy gifts online for direct delivery to the couple.
We also might collect contact information from the buyers and email them before the first anniversary, offering a new chance to buy gifts. We could offer the couple a newspaper and/or a DVD about the couple’s childhood, adolescence and courtship, using photos and stories posted at their web site.
As with many areas of personal content, we need to extend these services through multiple products: Iowa Bridal Planner, of course, but also The Gazette’s Milestones section as well as events and special sections or magazines. We also need to look for opportunities to provide solutions for services such as reservations and gift registries directly ourselves and where we need to partner with businesses already providing those solutions. For instance, we could get paid on a click-through basis when family or friends click into a department store’s gift registry from our site. But we could develop our own registry tool for smaller community-based shops and there we collect the money for the sale and collect a larger fee from the vendor.