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Target, Execute, Grow
Can you give us some insight into your career road-
map that has led to your position as Vice President
of Digital & Circulation for Bliss Communications?
A Bliss is a fabulous company. Over the last 18 years
I’ve done a number of things. In 1997 I started with
the company selling retail advertising to a zero book of
business. It was 100% new business development. A year
and a half later, I accepted an outside classified display
position, selling print advertising within real estate and
automotive verticals. A few years after that, I was promoted
to general manager of The Jotter, one of Bliss’ two-day-a-
week shoppers. Three years later I was beamed up to the
mother ship and worked with outside ad teams selling
digital, co-op programs, and Top of Mind Awareness
programs. My first stint in circulation started in 2004, when
I became sales & marketing manager. A few years later, I was
promoted to Circulation Director. Eventually, Digital Media
was added to my plate. Late in 2013, I was named VP- Digi-
tal Media & Circulation. Eighteen years goes quickly.
Q And, a thumbnail of your media company and
A Bliss Communications owns and operates newspa-
pers In Janesville (Gazette), Monroe (Times), and
Marinette (Eagle Herald), WI. The Gazette is the flagship
business, with total circulation of 21,000 on Sunday.
GazetteXtra.com hosts 1.5 million page views monthly. We
have a nice franchise in the Janesville area with an AM and
FM radio station. Regionally, we operate Community
Shoppers, Inc, which publishes three area shoppers, two days a week. Our
digital agency brand, Local Matters Digital, is the latest business within our
franchise. It delivers web, digital, social media, search, and targeting
Janesville is situated between Madison and Milwaukee. We maintain
an aggressive local brand. This has been our best defense against metro
competitors. The Gazette’s brand promise is, ‘Local Matters.’ It has served
our customers and us well. The Gazette’s product value and quality is sec-
ond to none. We are a three-time Wisconsin Newspaper Association ‘Best
Newspaper’ award winner. Our newsroom is full of veteran and rookie
reporters and editors that love their jobs. And it shows. I’d put our newspa-
per up against anyone’s.
Q In nominating you for the LMA award, your General Manager
Mary Jo Villa talked about your implementation of an enterprise-
wide new content management system that included many components.
Tell us about that system and its various aspects.
A The system has two nerve centers: the audience database and the
content management system (CMS). This has served our mission
well: greater monetization of audience and content.
The audience database is also the circulation database. It integrates
with the user database within our CMS, primarily for the purpose of con-
trolling activations and authenticated users. The CMS labels content as
premium or non-premium. The sharing of data between the two systems
determines which users get which kind of content.
Within the CMS exist profiles and taxonomy for every bit of content.
While helpful for building pages and sections, it serves another purpose.
We have built tags on our content that are ingested by a powerful user
behavior database. Those tags become important when we assign behavior
to users within the database. We’ll discuss this in more detail.
The CMS also integrates with our print pagination system. Our news
team first creates the content in the online CMS. Later, it moves to the print
system for production of the print newspaper. Content goes online first.
Editors fulfill a day part budget, so that fresh items appear online through-
out the day.
The audience database backfills related databases with customer and
transactional data. We’re running data warehouses for commercial email
marketing, as well as circulation transaction analytics.
Speaking of analytics, our sites run Adobe Site Catalyst and Google
Finally, we are working to develop a circulation API that works in tan-
dem with our ad targeting platform. This opens up a much more personal
way to communicate with our customers, while on our sites. After all, this
great ad targeting technology isn’t just for our ad customers.
Q The new CMS takes full advantage of integrating advertising sales,
circulation, and content development & presentation with an eye
towards your All Access members. Can you give us some insight into your
strategy and goals?
A Our best product is local news and information. For way too long,
we just gave it away. To make matters worse, the consumers of our
free content were anonymous. The strategy was simple: to monetize our
two greatest assets- content and audience.
We started by labeling all content we produce into one of two buckets.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
Vice President of Digital Media & Circulation
Bliss Communications, Inc.
Our best product is local news and information.
For way too long, we just gave it away. Preprint and
ROP advertising dollars are missing from digital-only
subscriptions. Essentially, the consumer covers the
cost, not the publisher.
Lon Haenel was recently named Digital Innovator of
the Year in the LMA Digital Contest and when you read
this interview, it will become crystal clear why he was
selected. Here’s to managing your assets with an eye on
audience & revenue!
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