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I was really pleased with the Mega Conference this
year. It has gotten better each year since its inception. The
attendance was tremendous and the excitement about
our industry is starting to resonate more and more as
our member newspapers are beginning to improve their
I came hoping to find ideas on how to enhance our membership
model within Schurz Communications and I think Steve Wagenlander
hit a home run while giving me ideas on how to enhance our programs
for our members within our company. I also wanted more information
on how to improve our TMC products and Jim Hart was tremendous
in helping me to see things that I never even thought of in the 34 years
I have been in this business. I also wanted more information on how
to move to modular advertising and Leonard Woolsey’s insights were
These three sessions alone were well worth my investment of time
and money to attend. I look forward to attending again in 2014.
Charles V. Pittman
Sr. VP Publishing, Schurz Communications, Inc.
I was encouraged by the passion and excitement of my
newspaper colleagues who are embracing the future of our
business with such innovative ideas. I’ve already started
putting initiatives in motion from the Weekly Newspapers
Roundtable Discussion and the Double the Profit of your
I also plan to attend the Revenue Summit Program in Los Angeles in
April to get even more great ideas.
Cindy Hefley, Director of Advertising, Wick
The conference just wrapped up and certainly a very
good one from a programming point of view and the
attendance was very strong. Best opportunity to network
with colleagues and suppliers that I have had in awhile.
Well worth the investment in time.
President & CEO, Black Press
The 2013 Mega Conference was chockfull of useful ideas
that are actionable. Speaker after speaker presented many
that publishers could adapt, modify or customize to their
markets and needs.
From the bonus pre-conference session on digital
agency services moderated by Mike Blinder on Sunday through to the
final presentation, “ The Modular Advantage” with Leonard Woolsey,
publishers in the throes of innovation for both print and digital,
drilled down to options they are having successes with in their shops
There were many light bulb moments.
The conversations were real and on point. The ideas were concrete
and offered real playbooks for implementation.
Whether it was luring SMBs with the strawberry margaritas of the
Elkhart Truth’s Strawberry Agency, or the Paxton Media groups
“modular” deals for mom & pop businesses, publishers, like me, left
New Orleans less bewildered and more energized to embrace new
It’s always good to gather and hear the trends in the
industry. I came back with several ideas from the
Weekly/Small Newspapers Roundtable Discussions. I’ve
“borrowed” many ideas in the past and brought some
home to try out again. Kelly Wirges’ presentation about
Leading Through Change was terrific. I felt challenged and reenergized
to create a world-class organization at our newspaper group.
Doug Dixon, Advertising Director
ThisWeek Community News
ago at the Denver Post. In the beginning
they outsourced most of the services and
then brought most things in-house over
• According to Ad Taxi V.P. Brock Berry
“The SMB’s trust us the most; they want a
single source for these kinds of services.
AdTaxi was one of the first to enter the
digital ad agency services in the industry.
Our products include: email marketing,
advanced targeting, social media, creative &
optimization, search, premium mobile and
premium local (display + video).”
• They work on the “ad funnel” concept – 1
they generate awareness (search, behavorial
nd they drive image (social), 3
they do specific offers and 4th they increase
• “When you own the acquisition and
the retention piece, you really own the
customer.” – Brock Berry
• Structure: With 76 daily newspapers and over
1,000 sales people they use a combination of
corporate digital help and local reps. They
regularly make four-legged sales calls.
• AdTaxi goes after larger customers such as
hospitals, auto, real estate, etc. Travel is also
a great category for them. Their average
order is $3,200/month.
• Strawberry Fields is the digital agency that
The Truth (Elkhart, Ind.) just launched.
• According to Kelly Bolyard, V.P. of Business
Development, “this is a start-up business
and must be run that way.”
• They have outsourced to Guarantee Digital
for most services but do handle display and
external email marketing in-house. The
outsource arrangement includes answering
the phones with their name – Strawberry
• They are not in favor of naming the agency
after the newspaper. This limits your
geographic borders. Strawberry Fields
expects to do business in markets outside of
• As for structure, they are hiring digital-only
reps as Bolyard is “tired of trying to get print
reps to sell digital.” Newspaper reps can sell
for the agency if they attend an optional
‘digital academy’ held on Saturdays and
then pass a test. If they do, both logos
appear on their business card.
• Their strategy is “platform agnostic”. They
own 35 daily newspapers and 63 weeklies,
mainly in small markets. They do not agree
• They have one dedicated digital person in
the whole company. In their small markets,
they believe that the local reps are the best
ones to sell and they should be selling
• They use Radiate Media to create digital
storefronts for SMB’s in their market. They
also bring in The Blinder Group to conduct
advertiser workshops (many of the panelists
are also using Blinder for this purpose and
reporting very good success).
• They pay all reps 10% commission up to
goal and 20% on all revenue over goal. The
mix (print versus digital) does not matter.
• Their program is called SLAM and includes
social, local and mobile.
• They don’t sell a la carte. They offer packages;
they brand it as part of the newspaper
and it includes print. It is an offensive and
defensive strategy. Print is a big part of the
package and they are not ashamed of that.
• They use Vendasta for reputation
management and report it to be very
affordable. The bundle includes Facebook
and reputation management. These are
the two things that SMB’s in their markets
are most interested in. This strategy is
delivering $20K - $30K per deployment in
very small markets.
• They are using Local.com (they provide
directories for free and rev-share with
advertising sold). They sell packages that
• They have a 60% closing ratio from their
workshops. The workshops “fill their
• Localmediaworkshops.com is the site where
people register for the Boone workshops.
Managers get an alert each time someone
registers and they are then pre-qualified.
• They started Gannett Local in Phoenix and
have since rolled it out nationwide. It started
as a telesales strategy to go after businesses
with a certain lower spend level.
• Their strategy is to have digital sellers tied
to the outside reps. They provide extensive
training and are comfortable paying double
commissions (like many others on the
panel.) They work hard to simplify the sales
• They use a five-step model for their sales
process: evaluate needs, build the solution,
present & close, follow through, plan and
prepare. The digital reps are focused on
steps two and three. They want the local
reps to be really good at the rest of it.
• They believe that the customer doesn’t know
what they need to buy and therefore the
education process becomes so important.
All of the panelists were using workshops to
promote and sell their digital agency services.
Blinder suggests that rooms be set with rounds
(never theatre style) and to expect a 60% show
rate. He also noted the average SMB brings 1.5
people to the workshop. Most of the panelists
were using workshops to develop leads. Very few
were actually selling at the workshop. Providing
something free to attendees definitely helps to
boost attendance (like a digital ad spend report
for their category of business).
Local Media Association will be following
the developments in the digital agency space as
a top priority for 2013. Please call on us for help
or information in this exciting and emerging
opportunity area. Nancy Lane is reached at
(843) 390-1531 or email@example.com.
KEY EXECUTIVES MEGA CONFERENCE 2013
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