When Doug Phares, president and COO of the Sandusky Newspaper Group needs to evaluate the performance of the group's newspapers he and his team look deep within their own papers and then compare performance to similar papers across the country using Publisher Benchmarks.
"No two papers are exactly alike," he says of his eclectic collection of publications that includes small dailies and weeklies spread throughout the Midwest, Mountain West and Southeast United States. "We rely on Publisher Benchmarks to measure performance, especially within the group. Our 10 group publishers comb through the new data each quarter, and once a year get together to look through the results in depth. It guides us to the areas where we can improve."
That task just became much easier. After a thorough evaluation by Inland and its partner Mather Economics, a totally revamped Publisher Benchmarks is now available that dramatically reduces the time and effort required to enter data - while providing the comparisons, metrics and performance insights that makes the strategic tool vital to media organizations.
"We learned that some users struggled with compiling the information that is fed into the benchmarks database," said Tom Slaughter, executive director of Inland. "We recognize that is a major challenge and we wanted to do all we could to ease that process, and to encourage participation in the service."
Mather and Inland learned that by asking for just 45 data points they could populate virtually all those metrics that users normally view on the site. Going forward, Publisher Benchmarks participants will need to submit just those 45 data items quarterly-instead of the more than 330 data points that have been required in the current submission form.
With these changes, Publisher Benchmarks retains its flexible comparability options that media organizations find vital-all accessible 24/7 from a dashboard-but in a way that now offers enormous time-savings on data inputs from the organizations.
"We've been working with the Mather team over the last several months to lessen the challenge of data submission," Slaughter said. "We've found an approach that dramatically reduces that burden."
As part of the enhancements, Inland and Mather are offering former users access to Publisher Benchmarks at no charge to demonstrate the dramatic improvements.
"The feedback from our ‘power users' is enthusiastic," Slaughter said. "In fact, we are so sure that users will appreciate the new format that we are offering a three-month free trial to any new or former Benchmarks users. It is simpler, faster and yet Benchmarks remains the industry's most powerful tool for evaluating performance. Even large newspaper groups, which have their own analytics find Benchmarks helps give them a basis for comparison."
"We like the changes," adds Phares. "I feel like I can ‘see' everything I need and not get lost in detail. Overall it is tighter and better."
Publisher Benchmarks was launched by Inland and Mather Economics four years ago, offering a web-based financial and operational benchmarking tool for newspaper and media executives at all levels of management. The service allows users to see strengths and challenge areas at a glance, and gauge performance from top-level views to deeper dives into comparable data within their organization. The service also allows users to compare themselves against their peers, sorted by company size, region, ownership type, business model and much more.
Another change introduced makes it easier to add digital metrics by offering automated processes to collect important digital information. Improvements to Publisher Benchmarks will continuous in an effort to meet the changing needs of users, Slaughter said.
"We are moving to a different technical platform on which the service will rest," he said. "That new platform will allow us to make further improvements in the service much more quickly, allowing us to better respond to suggestions from our participants."
For more information on participating in this improved Publisher Benchmarks, contact Karla Zander, Inland's manager of research and member services, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 795-0380.