When publishers lift their heads up from their tablets and smartphone screens, they should realize that there’s not just life left in the print newspaper business model—there are opportunities to optimize print, thereby optimizing revenue.
The Inlander over the next few issues will be showcasing these ways by publishing a series of suggestions taken from “25 More Ways to Improve Your Print Products in 2017.” We may even from time to time slip in some tips that came from “25 More Ways to Improve Your Print Products in 2016.”
Both white papers were created by the SLP Print Solutions Team of Southern Lithoplate Inc., Creative Circle MediaSolutions, Presteligence and MW Stange LLC.
This issue’s installment touches on production, revenue and obituaries.
You can download the books from Creative Circle’s website: http://25printideas.creativecirclemedia.com/.
Count your blessings if you’ve never had to post a paper delivery delay announcement to your web site or email subscribers due to production snags. Or worse, hit your readers with a “No newspaper today” bulletin.
As one of the 1,350 US newspapers that prints papers every, or most days of the week, your chances of facing this money-draining, profit-robbing and embarrassing circumstance is high enough to warrant a closer look at some prevention.
Sometimes your weakest link is the press, sometimes it’s the software, but frequently, it’s in prepress.
And because prepress typically includes both a platesetter and a processor, the odds are at least double that one of them goes down. Spent laser diodes/laser heads, clamp sets, power supplies, motherboards, pumps, filters, blower motors and more. Lots of parts…lots of opportunities for downtime. And most downtime events last upwards of 8 hours to 24 hours or more, depending on parts availability from your supplier, or other factors.
Even if you are fortunate enough to maintain a full inventory of replacement parts for such occasions, has your crew (if you are fortunate enough to have an adequately staffed crew) been trained on all the intricacies of removing and installing components in your prepress, and can they get the device back up and running quickly?
The obvious solution is to have dual sets of imagesetters and processors so that if one device takes the day off, you can still a resource to feed the press. But…anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of newspapers, according to commonly reported industry statistics, do not have a backup for their prepress devices. Certainly not surprising given tight or non-existent capital equipment budgets among many newspaper operations today.
Given all that, what are your options? Just take your chances and hope that the baling wire and chewing gum will hold up? Start attending church services regularly?
The smart money is on establishing a relationship with a dependable service organization. And with many newspapers’ prepress devices facing end-of-life status, or manufacturers discontinuing their support of your device, it makes even more sense to find this life support, pronto.
Okay, so what do you look for in a service supplier? Here is a partial list of capabilities/services your supplier may offer which you’ll need to prioritize:
Technicians available 24/7: You may never need it, but, with older equipment, it may be priority #1.
Remote device access: Depending on the CtP this can provide virtually instant relief from your issues.
Parts for your device are in stock: Waiting for parts is the biggest contributor to long downtimes.
High rate of successful resolution of service problems: Look for a supplier whose rate is at least 85%.
Video camera installation: This inexpensive option at your device, speeds diagnostics, helps identify parts, and can cut your downtime big time.
Service or maintenance options: Preventive maintenance, service on call, phone support and more. The greater the number of options, the more likely you will find something to meet your needs and budget.
Certainly, there are many other considerations such as, does the supplier also service printing presses, can they install software, and are their technicians certified? But perhaps the most important option is preventive maintenance provided by a dependable service provider.
Because when you add up the cost of downtime, the cost of parts and the cost of last minute service at 3:00 in the morning, you won’t have to ask, “Who am I gonna call?”
— Southern Lithoplate
Calculate your best target subscribers
When planning a campaign to acquire or retain subscribers, it’s important to consider value for the advertisers. Don’t automatically think of expanding your circulation area —remote distribution may not be as valuable as core market distribution, and zip codes that generate the greatest number of preprint advertisers are the best areas to focus on.
How do you judge this? A good gauge is to calculate the value of a single subscriber over a year in terms of preprint insertion revenue.
Take the insert rates, which are CPM-based, and calculate an individual value per zip code or zone. That number is evidence of advertiser preference, customer/audience usage of the advertising, and likely overall engagement with the newspaper. Building subscribers in these priority zones automatically generates great revenue.
Here’s an example: Suppose you have 30 Sunday inserts at an average CPM of $47. Multiply 4.7 cents per household by 30 to equal $1.41 per Sunday paper delivered in preprint insert value alone. Adding another 20 pieces during the week at the same average rate gives $0.94. The weekly total would be $2.35 per daily subscriber, which translates to an annual value of $122.20. It’s not unusual for newspapers to generate more than $3 per week per subscriber in peak zip codes.
Invest in data
Targeting subscribers has become more sophisticated with segmentation tools that contain consumer demographic, lifestyle and behavioral information. Publishing companies that invest in these type of data and match the information to their current subscriber database and other internal address-based lists can produce a powerful picture and enhanced opportunities for acquisition and retention.
This deep consumer information is not only beneficial in gaining the subscriber audience, but can also support a number of advertiser-related revenue programs.
One additional opportunity might be to match subscriber data with customer lists of large advertisers. Customers who don’t get a paper could be given a “sponsored” copy of the Sunday paper courtesy of the advertiser. The advertiser then is assured that the newspaper reached its primary audience, can cross-promote to the public that readers can see their “sale” ad insert in the newspaper, and may be able to reduce their mailing budget. This tactic works best with advertisers that appeal to a “baby boomer” audience.
Special coverage of high school sports or youth soccer leagues can generate enormous seasonal readership interest if promoted correctly. There is no better way to obtain sponsorships from alumni, or from those businesses that already actively support the school sports activities.
Clubs or fraternal groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis often include influential local business decision-makers in their ranks. The newspaper can offer subscription rebate donations to high-profile club activities for fund-raising. If the donations are significant, members of the organization will pressure their families to all make sure that they have a current subscription. Getting the paper into the right hands can make all the difference for an advertising sales opportunity.
Don’t forget to deliver to advertisers
Newspaper subscriptions should automatically be included for all active advertisers supporting us. This seems obvious but is often overlooked. Are your advertisers seeing the paper every day? It is critical for retention that ads are visible to the organization advertising. Remember: Out of sight is out of mind.
— MW Stange LLC
Our best-read content
Obituaries, paid and unpaid, are important to a newspaper audience. Their financial return has also become important. Modeling best practices to establish a strong market reputation for death records and obituaries should be a priority.
Goal: An objective is to get a death notice for almost all deaths in the core market, and to get a longer paid notice from more than 65% of those. Some markets get more than 85% of deaths running a paid notice.
Paid and unpaid: A good practice is to run submitted basic small death notices for no cost, and to sort them together alphabetically with paid longer versions. Often, the longer paid version is submitted later, and would replace the remaining scheduled dates for the free small version. The appearance of the smaller version often creates an incentive for elaboration and placing the longer version.
Location: Obituaries should be run in the local news section, alongside any newsroom-generated copy about deaths of newsworthy figures. They are local news of record, and should never be placed elsewhere.
Placement: Obituaries should only be placed through funeral homes, and sent via e-mail or submitted through a remote entry system. While some papers still accept obituaries via fax, this method of delivery should be discouraged. E-mail preserves a record, prevents re-keying errors and reduces labor. The e-mail address should have multiple back-up agents. Family-placed obituaries, if accepted, should be verified with the funeral home.
Font: Since older readers are a primary audience for obituaries, use a very readable font in at least 8 point size size and preferably larger, although legibility is driven by both point size and font. A five-column broadsheet page is the ideal format, though a six-column page will work. Consider offering a two-column obit format if obituaries run particularly long.
Rate: The average price point is often weighed in comparison and as part of the cost of funeral services. Think in terms of the reasonableness of average cost for the obituary. In many markets, a $200 to $300 price point can work. In small community markets, the price should be more like $100 to $150.
Be aware that funeral homes will typically mark up your price, sometimes dramatically, and blame the cost on the expensive newspaper. Discuss with your funeral homes what their pass-along costs are, and discourage dramatic markup of your costs.
A positive redesign of obituaries with accompanying rate modifications should be reviewed with leading area funeral directors for feedback. In general, the rate should be lower than other insertion rates.
Many newspapers have gone through a conversion from fewer high-cost, hard-to-read obits to quality and size for a fair total price, and have had gains.
If you are moving from a fax or phone-placed process to e-mail or remote entry, or even from family-placed to funeral home-placed requirements, you might consider a service fee discount for the funeral home in exchange for typing in the copy.
Take care with local regulations regarding funeral home services and disclosure. Again, it’s best to review plans with the local experts.
Online: All obits should be packaged with online placement, including optional social media extensions. The most popular vendor service for newspapers on this is Legacy.com. National searches through Legacy bringadded audience, and they have revenue-sharing options on the results pages. Every local death should be reviewable through the newspaper website as a matter of public record.
— MW Stange LLC