Saving Print

There are at least 25 ways to improve your print product


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 print products, data and print and deliver.
You can download the books from Creative Circle's website:

Expand your print products!

While it might seem counterintuitive, launching new print products - especiallyniche products - still works.

Consider layering some weekly newspapers under your daily newspaper footprint. Move your community news, which has a real but limited audience, out of your daily product and into more targeted weeklies that deliver tight, town-oriented content. This frees up space and energy in your daily product to cover the broader issues, which is a better role for a daily. Too many dailies are filling their local pages with hyper-local content that is wasted on a broad audience. It's not a good use of space in a publication covering a broad area unless you are zoning.

Weekly products can have lower ad rates that might appeal to advertisers who don't want your whole market but would advertise in a more targeted one that better meets their needs.

You can also use weeklies to extend your market. Add weekly publications where you have gaps in your coverage or to extend your reach to towns beyond your daily market. At least some of your daily content might apply to the weekly product and having a local brand might give you a footprint you can grow in the future.

Where you have daily readers in those outlying areas, consider inserting the weekly into your daily product, enhancing your brand in the area.

The magazine option

Niche magazine products, like a glossy magazine about your region that celebrates why it's great to live here, are often a big hit. Niche titles that focus on kids or parenting, the outdoors, business or even a very specific area like boating can work in many markets. What demographics might be a good fit for the people you reach or don't reach through the newspaper?

A good way to find niche topics is to revisit your special section list and see if there is a topic among things you are already doing that could be elevated into a separate publication. Gardening, home improvement or entertainment might provide a bump in revenue if they were elevated into a magazine format and done once or twice each year.

An alt daily?

Taking this idea of more targeted print products further, what if you created another daily?

The Chicago Tribune successfully launched Redeye, a free, daily alternative paper aimed at younger readers and mass-transit commuters. It was a bold and expensive move, but perhaps the kind of thing more papers should consider. While a new daily is only plausible in a metro market, maybe a targeted weekly would work in yours. If our existing market is old (but wealthy) and we want to establish new markets, maybe a new print newspaper is the answer.

If your paper is known for its conservative slant on the editorial pages, it might be crimping your reach. What if you launched a liberal-leaning daily and offered an alternative?

This tactic may seem like a reach, but it works in most of the world. It's not uncommon in Europe or Latin America for one publishing company to publish multiple dailies. One might be a conservative paper while another is more mainstream or liberal.

Think Fox News vs. MSNBC. They are like oil and water in terms of their viewership but they both would have strong proponents in your market. Fox News happened because Rupert Murdoch (who owns newspapers, too) brought European-style TV that wears its political affiliation on its sleeve to the U.S. That drove the already liberal MSNBC further to the left. Could that work here in print as well?

U.S. newspapers have a tradition of trying to be "objective" in everything we do, but too many people reject us because they think we are biased anyway. What if some of us adopted the European model where we took a one-sided perspective in everything we cover? Since papers in other parts of the world live and die by newsstand sales and in many cases have more loyal readers because of their political affiliation, it might not be that crazy.
- Creative Circle Media Solutions

Use data for sales prospecting

  • These are tough times for ad sales: 
  • Fewer advertisers are pre-sold on newspaper advertising value. Fewer in-bound ad orders, newspaper audience and brand strength has diminished
  • Sales staff and sales support staff reductions.
  • Fewer sales conversations, less sales.
  • Fewer IT resources to help in managing data to support sales.

Best tactic: Sell advertising to those most likely to buy it, "low hanging fruit" with good ROI.

Prioritize the best potential advertisers using industry average ad spending, and also targeting those types of advertisers that do well with newspaper advertising.

Create sales prospect lists that reference:

  • Current advertisers that should be spending more;
  • former advertisers that could likely be resold; and
  • non-advertisers with best potential that match up well with the newspaper audience.

How: Use a Data Analysis tool to produce the information and guide it with a CRM.

Most newspapers do not need expensive tools. The tools should be easy enough to use without adding labor, and the set up and ongoing cost should be covered by sales gains the first year.

The cost for both the analysis tools and the CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) should be less than an FTE, and offer a positive cash impact. Beware of systems that multiply charges with additional seats, and that are designed for selling everything under the sun. Look for tools that can offer testimonials from newspapers that use them efficiently, particularly for mid-sized papers.

Reference for a good tool: Marketing Solutions Group has a good analysis tool, called CP-Ads. When coupled with their CRM option, business data can be matched to the newspaper's billing data, they have a reasonably priced option that is good for most newspapers.

Cost estimates for business data: 10 cents a record. Assume acquiring a number between 2% and 3% of the area population, or use a designated number of business establishments. A community with 100,000 people would generate a list of about 2,000 business records. Total business counts, which are dominated by the very small working out of homes usually approximate over 7% of population counts, or 7,000.

CP-Ads costs - Setup ranges from $4,000 to $10,000 for one-time set up, plus $200 to $1,000 per month based on circ size. $500 to $1,000 to append data to billing accounts. No added per seat costs. The CRM add-on is also $200 to $1,000 per month, per circulation.

ROI: Counting only ten advertisers that spend or increase spending by $1,000 per month, (or 20 smaller advertisers spending or increasing $500), would bring $120,000 more in a year. Assuming 30% annual churn, the second year would total $204,000 and the third year would be $288,000. It is also realistic to target seasonal special sales opportunities that can return $100,000 to $200,000 annually.
- MW Stange LLC

Focus on print and deliver programs

Don't just deliver inserts, print them, too!

"Ad Inserts and Circulation, our leading revenue segments." - Mike Joseph, EVP Newspapers, Cox Media Group

"40% of ad revenue is preprints. Manufacturing capacity unlocks optimum revenue." - Ray Farris, Publisher, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The strongest competitive advantage that newspapers continue to leverage is in advertising preprint delivery. Many newspapers have not seen a reduction in numbers of active preprint advertisers.

Newspapers can deliver pre-packaged inserts for a fraction of the cost of direct mail, which is weight-rated. Paid subscriptions ensure that the material makes it into the home, and the audience value of ad inserts in the Sunday newspaper is a cultural norm. Inserts in other days have less competition, and are also highly valued.

Print and deliver adds the creative and printing elements to an already strong value. Non-subscriber or free options also work, depending on the value of the package to the consumer.

By producing everything from end to end, the newspaper can control the quality and quantity for best delivery, and not be at the mercy of outside printers not meeting standards for automated inserting. For standards, visit

Tips for creating your own print and deliver sales effort

  • Bring together a cross-department team including advertising, production/operations, finance and circulation to build the best offering for what you can do.
  • Examine print and deliver options offered by other newspapers of a similar size. Learn from them.
  • Have a short-run press capable of printing full color at competitive cost. Each press option has its own sweet spot of lowest cost when considering quantity per run, paper options, and operating cost. Help to justify the expense by having the machine handle all other company print work, including rack cards and mail pieces for circulation. Justify also with short run work bids.
  • If acquiring a short-run press is not possigle, consider a partnership deal with a local printer. • Build a sales kit that has prices for print and deliver with overrun options, and a minimum selection of variable options. Too many choices can kill a sale. Only sell what you can do well. (i.e., paper stock, standard colors). Build competitive deadlines and rates, minimum quantities that can ensure large enough geography, and always include waste and full draw numbers for single copy in package quotes. Include a creative charge for changes beyond one proof correction.
  • Train sales staff using examples of delivered ad inserts. The program is very effectively sold over the phone to smaller advertisers. The pitch can be "print and deliver 10,000 color flyers to your part of town for only 7 cents per household, $700 total cost."

- MW Stange LLC