Home' Local Media Today : September 2014 Contents 14 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | September 2014
Content types are either Premium or Free Access. Generally
speaking, locally bylined content is premium. So is news of
the community, with the exception of Obituaries and Death
Notices. All Premium content is labeled with a conspicuous
blue “G.” It tells the visitor that a specific piece of content
requires membership. It’s an ongoing reminder of the value
behind a digital membership. It’s like saying, “We publish
a lot of content online, but the really good stuff requires a
So today, we have a concentrated audience of loyal news
consumers. GazetteXtra.com does not feature a meter.
Essentially, the meter is set at zero. With authentication
data, the new web audience is no longer anonymous. Sure,
not all users sign in every session, but that’s OK. We’re still
tracking them. Once they do authenticate we marry up their
authenticated data with their formerly anonymous data.
Q And how are you using the CMS tools to help
A Primarily, by assigning our users to profiles. Here’s
how it works. Let’s say our algorithm scores a user and says they belong to our
Obituary profile. That means this user frequents our obituary content. That’s a given.
But users don’t visit just one type of content. They go from obits, to local news, to prep
sports, to weather, and finish up at movie listings. Our platform follows that user
around, no matter where they go on our sites. It gives our advertisers the ability to
target users, not just content verticals. Small businesses want to target users. When we
first got into the web business, our only option was to serve ads to specific pages or
sections. Now we have all that, but so much more. When our advertisers target the
user, it allows them to stay in front of their very best customers and prospects, while
keeping exposure on the area’s #1 news and information site.
Q You’re at the one-year anniversary of your paid content execution. How did
you arrive at your consumer pricing for content and how’s it going so far? Can
you share results? The impact on revenue?
A The very critical first step was to introduce a new bundled price point to
certain home delivery subscribers. We targeted seven-day customers. Histori-
cally, we’ve had our best success with rate increases with this group. It’s a segment of
our market that was most likely to pay a higher rate—30% higher—and produce
minimal churn. The rate is $22.95 on EASYPAY. Kudos to my circulation and customer
service staff for enduring hours of training and thousands of customer calls. They did a
super job selling the changes.
We went to market with a digital-only subscription rate of $29.95. The rationale is
that consumers pay the difference. Preprint and ROP advertising dollars are missing
from digital-only subscriptions. Essentially, the consumer covers the cost, not the
publisher. And since our news costs are fixed, we don’t really lower the cost of doing
business via a digital-only subscription. In other words, distribution of digital-only
subscriptions does not relieve the fixed costs of publishing a newspaper.
I realize the concept is somewhat counter to our industry. This approach helped us
to stabilize our base. There is virtually no flight risk of my customers cutting seven-day
delivery in favor of a deeply discounted digital-only subscription. On the other hand, I
have plenty of other less engaged segments that I’ll optimize with other packages and
pricing. But the key was to shore up the base with 7-day customers, adopting them to a
bundle that includes All Access.
The numbers prove it. Revenue is five times higher than projected. It represents a
significant increase in publishing revenue. The increase is sustainable. As we develop
new pricing options and bundles, we’ll only grow that number.
Q Single-copy revenue is up almost 20% since you started your new approach.
How have you accomplished this?
A You can’t get our best content for free anymore. It is a fact that we asked folks
to start paying for local content. It didn’t diminish the demand for local
content, however. Putting a price tag on our best online content flowed through to our
single copy operations as well.
In order to provide a balance between home delivery and single copy rates, it was
necessary to raise single copy price points by a significant margin. The daily cover
price increased from 75 cents to one dollar. The Sunday retail price jumped to $2.50,
up from $2.00. So a week’s worth of single copy print edi-
tions costs $8.50. Whereas a week of 7-day print plus All
Access is $5.30. Now, the new home delivery rates maintain
a 37% discount from single copy. Had we launched with-
out a simultaneous single copy rate increase, our margin
of discount would have been prohibitively low: just 18%.
This tactic also reinforces the strong value of the print plus
Now the single copy buyer makes a conscious deci-
sion. “Do I continue to buy single editions at a 25% - 33%
increase, or shall I try All Access at a 37% discount?” Our
single copy inflows play a large role in the financial success
of our paid content strategy. To launch without a large retail
rate increase would have left money on the table.
Q Another initiative is your 2014 foray into digital mar-
keting services with Local Matters Digital. Tell us
A We’re selling web and mobile design services, social
media management and content creation, video
production with YouTube optimization, local business
listing services, search engine optimization and marketing, as well as all forms of
digital ad targeting, including email marketing and SMS text marketing.
Services are sold by our team of print Account Executives and our team of digital-
only Account Executives. A mix of in-house and outsourced talent fulfill the services
we sell. We’ve been most successful selling new site design and marketing services
designed to connect web users to those sites. This is a growth initiative for us. Beyond
our top 100 print customers, our biggest objective is to grow our market share among
non-advertisers. The race is on to build volume. We own quite a large client list. They
are most happy with our work.
Q Tell us about your ad sales structure.
A Digital is here to stay. To ensure our success, we made several structural
changes. The list includes compensation changes, investment in training
certifications, ongoing continuing education, incentives, and contests specifically
designed to motivate performance in the digital realm. Local Media Association
trainings have been central in our education programs.
Four-legged sales calls are good. However, once we’ve empowered each one of our
sales staff to go out confidently—on their own—to prospect, pitch, and close digital
services, we will be light years ahead. We’re not there.
I believe the key is to develop digital-only sales talent. This is who I like to call “digi-
tal rock stars.” They won’t have institutional print knowledge. That’s fine since they’re
not selling legacy media. Matching the best customer solutions is what it’s all about.
I can develop within them targeted digital and media sales skills, but first I need the
best of those who want to sell digital and only digital. My rock stars love digital. They
can tell an amazing story over and over again. They are passionate and that’s all they
talk about. Their job is to go out and spread the good news about digital marketing.
The first step is to educate your prospects. That builds trust. Then match just the right
solution to the business’ needs.
Q Finally, as you look ahead in your digital realm, can you comment on some of
the things you’re incubating or plan to experiment with?
A Always look out to the horizon. I am focused on what’s developing, even in
other industries. Our websites are constantly evolving.
We need to get better at connecting with less loyal segments. That includes con-
tent, bundles, and pricing. We’ve done a great job with the hyper-local, 7-day seg-
ment. We’ll be experimenting with articles passes, day passes, and week passes. For
certain segments, we actually need to lower the bar of commitment and market those
price points to match. We’ll use data to build content programs that fill the needs of
the occasional news consumer. But most of all, we need to evolve our content. Video,
databases, user-generated content, events, and lifestyle are areas we’re developing.
We also want to make our sites as simple and intuitive as possible. Our interfaces are
evolving to keep up with changing technology.
The future is inevitable. Our customers lead the way. They vote with page views,
activations, and ad revenue. I believe if we do right by our customers, they will lead us
into the future.
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