Over two event-packed days in downtown Austin at the headquarters of the American-Statesman, attendees at THE Revenue Conference on April 26 and 27 were exposed to a multitude of ideas on how to boost income in a fast-changing and challenging business landscape.
“It was exciting to be at an event totally devoted to developing total newspaper revenue—digital and print,” said seminar co-sponsor Mike Blinder, president of the Blinder Group. “During the entire two days of intense dialogue, we never discounted the need for the industry to not focus on innovation and stem the tide of the digital disruption we all are facing. However, at the same time, this conference did not ignore the importance of maximizing every dollar we can from our core print assets, since it is still a major part of the revenue—and profits—for our industry today.”
The conference’s theme might be summed up by the title of the presentation by H. Iris Chyi, a professor at the University of Texas’s journalism school: “It’s Time For Us To Get Our Swagger Back!”
Chyi reminded the attendees that although the “print is dying” mantra has been around for a quarter-century now, rumors of the death have been exaggerated. Chyi cited recent research findings that 86% of people who read newspapers still do so on actual paper—and even 55% of digital newspaper readers still read the print edition, despite its higher cost.
“While digital is sexy,” said Go Girl Communications CEO Patti Minglin, “print is still most publishers’ bread and butter.” Other speakers echoed this sentiment. Zach Ahrens, president and publisher of the Topeka Capital-Journal, likened publishers to TV chef Paula Deen in that they only use five basic ingredients (to reach advertisers, that is): reach, frequency, audience, brand, and content. “We are the content generators in our markets,” Ahrens said. “We are the people with the butter; we get to be entrepreneurs.”
In “Rehabbing Your Real Estate Revenue – Really!,” Dennis Sheely of Digital First Media NorCal Community Group and Bob Kellagher, CEO of Burgundy Digital, advised treating realtors like business owners. That is, rather than relegating them to the classifieds, publishers should target realtors as full-fledged business prospects, offering ad packages and opportunities to be featured in print and online, with a portal into a multiple listing service.
Second Street President Matt Coen spoke about the importance of tailoring marketing approaches to build loyalty. “Advertisers are looking for the same things as the publishers: information about the audience,” he told attendees. Harvesting email addresses through contests and public events pay big dividends for publishers, Coen said: “One email address is worth $50 per year in revenue, minimum.”
As for social media, Christian Priskos, digital director for Copperfield Digital Services, advised backing up social campaigns in print, along with showcasing editorial posts and other tie-ins. Links to business’ website, which a newspaper can set up for a fee, from a newspaper’s online listings can be key in building both revenue and brand loyalty, for client and provider alike.
Speaking about how the Austin American-Statesman boosted revenue by breaking their classified space into separate sections—home improvement, financial, real estate, legal, health care, and the auto aftermarket—Cox Media’s Bill Nagel pointed out that this practice helped galvanize the separate niche markets for these products and services and boost engagement.
In his presentation, longtime newspaper consultant Paul Camp said that social media is the “secret sauce” of local native advertising in terms of securing both reader engagement and client fidelity. Good native ads, he said, outperform editorial, especially on mobile devices. “Don’t do bad content,” Camp said, “It gets people mad!”
In “Vertical Leap: Niche Print and Digital Products That Punch Above Their Weight,” Laura Burke Shaw, director of niche publishing for Shaw Media, urged publishers to embed themselves in their community, work closely with local chambers of commerce and really get to know their market; the big dividends, she emphasized, lie in the details.
In “Ready-To-Go Revenue Solutions,” Scott Pompe, vice president/advertising for the American-Statesman, and Ahrens spoke about the importance of fully monetizing physical assets, like the headquarters building, with unused space can be rented out. Other examples: Running programs to print newspapers for local high schools, putting out supplements for wedding vendors, sponsoring local events like 10K races and concerts, and charging merchants to set up event pages, a good way to harvest emails.