Inland/SNPA Joint Annual Meeting

Heard at the joint Inland/SNPA Annual Meeting


Some of the most important newspaper benchmarks, as seen by Southern Newspapers Inc.
President Dolph Tillotson:

  • EBITDA as percent of revenue, generally 15% to 20%. "Our goal is to be above 15%, we're above in some and others struggles." 
  • Salary-to-revenue ratio, including benefits: 35%. Without benefits: 30%. Newspaper doesn't have a press? Take off 5 percentage points. 
  • Collections: At Southern, 75% of accounts receivable should be current on the first day of the month.
  • Cost as percentage of revenue. Totalled up, they come to 75%, leaving 25% for profit. The particulars: 
  • Editorial: 10%
  • Advertising: 12%
  • Composing: 3%
  • Circulation: 15%
  • Press: 15% 
  • G&A (general and administrative accounting): 20% 

Last quote on benchmarking

"Shame on us if we're not sharing financial information with our department heads-and I mean all department heads."
-Tom Yunt, COO, United Communications Corp.
and Inland president

Three thoughts from Jeremy Gilbert, The Washington Post's director of strategic initiatives:

Opportunities in voice: "You know, the Amazon Echo is kind of a gateway drug. My kids went to my parents' house the other day and talked to room-just assuming they would be able to call up a song."

The game show "Jeopardy" and journalism: "We should be like ‘Jeopardy," with individual sentences that are questions that need to be answered...We should be allowing people to ask about election results or Olympics results. If you don't understand your stories as ways that answer questions, you'll be missing out."

Why loading time matters: "Every second-every millisecond-you give back to your audience, you get that back with a view of a second story."

Opportunities in voice: "You know, the Amazon Echo is kind of a gateway drug. My kids went to my parents' house the other day and talked to room-just assuming they would be able to call up a song."

One more quote about voice, this one from Jeremy Mims, the head of strategy at SpokenLayer

"I've been buying technology for my parents for 20 years, and they literally have never used any of it. But I bought my mother an Amazon Echo-and within three days she had stopped going down to the driveway to get the paper. Instead, she was asking Alexa for the news."

Recipe for growing print volumes, by Oahu Publications Vice President of Circulation Aaron Kotarek

Put up a hard paywall: "You either pay for our digital content or you go in another direction."
Bonus reason for a paywall: "Paid home delivery subscribers value their subscriptions since they know (non-subscribers) can't access the same information digitally.

Focus on growing print volume first, revenue later: "We do not target our subscribers with exorbitantly high price hikes."

Diversify the print portfolio: In addition to the flagship Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Oahu publishes magazines, military newspapers, tourist publications-31 titles in total.

Results: Since 2011, print volume has grown from 177, 458 to 285,680.

Quote: "Digital-first, digital-centric, etc. sounds peculiar to us when the major of our revenues are still generated from print."

One-third of the "12 Ideas That Drive Revenue" session led by Tom Yunt, COO, United Communications Corp. and new Inland president

1. Start a war. Well a war of envy and egos, anyway. The Kenosha (Wis.) News sold a small ad to a local real estate agent that runs every day. By the third day, a second agent wanted to be in the paper, then a third. Now the paper runs ads from seven Realtors every day. The strategy can work for lawyers, doctors, plastic surgeons-anyone looking for ways to brand themselves.

2. Everyone samples. Convert your entire team into circulators by giving them cards for a 28-day sampling that can start immediately. "It reinforces to employees how important readership and circulation is to our entire newspaper."

3. B2B is big business. Creating a second-class requester business magazine "directly connected us to the business community," and has proved a reliable revenue stream.

4. It's a wrap! Steal a page from The New York Times, which every six weeks or so puts a full advertising wrap on its front page. Who are buyers? Think Netflix, LL Bean, American Airlines, Google.