Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Digital Marketing Services: Five Newspapers That Are Diversifying Their Business Models

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Digital Marketing Services: Five Newspapers That Are Diversifying Their Business Models

Article excerpt

There are essential elements that have always gone into building a successful newspaper. Among them are writing, design, knowledge of the community and its readers, ability to sell sustaining advertising, and, in reporting the news, the ability to spot trends and look into the future. All the skills that go into those elements of success remain the same, but they have been adapted to the new world of newspapers, enabling diversification of the traditional business model.

Of course, the process of diversification and of introducing new products to staff and clients doesn't happen overnight. At the Kenosha (Wis.) News, managing director of digital media and director of client media Nicole McQuestion said, "We spent a year developing staff that does a needs analysis of a client's business. We taught them how to look at the client's whole business and future needs, rather than just how to sell an ad. We have an 11-person staff with three who specialize in digital media."

The result of this year of development and training was KN Digital Media, which provides local business clients with custom social media channel creation and management, foundational content and strategy plans, internal and external search engine optimization recommendations, email marketing, blogging, website development, and reputation management.

"We've found digital sales take longer, and the knowledge the salesperson needs is more extensive. Our first thought was to have a separate digital staff, but we decided not to because we didn't want to leave people behind. They may take longer to acclimate and, in fact, they might never acclimate, but we still need these people," McQuestion said.

Since the Kenosha News began the digital media component of its business, MeQuestion said, "We have 34 clients and are still growing. My projection is for double that amount by the end of the year. Our average digital customer pays between $400 and $2,000 a month. We got out of the red in the first six months and are bringing in between 20 thousand and 25 thousand dollars a month in revenue. That percentage is constantly growing."

On a larger scale, Gannett Digital Marketing Services offers similar solutions to the local markets served by the 81 newspapers and 23 TV stations owned by the media giant. Vikram Sharma, president and chief executive officer of Gannett Digital, said, "A few years ago we came to the conclusion that we want to be branded as a local company that helps local advertisers. Toward that end we refreshed our product line--careerbuilder. com, apartments.com, and cars.com, among them."

Although the company services more than 100 markets nationwide, Sharma said the focus is still very much aligned with local values and small- to medium-sized businesses.

"We are," he said, "a local business that's chosen to diversify our product set by acquisition and using that to help existing clients. This is a fully owned, integrated business. We took our disparate digital businesses and pulled them together to build a digital solution that is a one-stop shop of digital marketing. The scope of what we're doing is certainly aligned with helping our markets and existing customers."

According to Sharma, that strategy has paid off, as a quarter of the company's business now comes from digital. "I think our business is extraordinarily strong. The demand is very., very high," he said. "It solves what has been a big problem for merchants. Many have been approached by new companies that have the technology but not the knowledge of their business and the market. The fact we are already a trusted partner is very comforting to the advertisers."

WHEN IN DOUBT, DO IT ALL

In 2008, The Dallas Morning News began to experience what publisher and chief executive officer Jim Moroney called "a significant decline in print ad revenue for the second consecutive year."

The paper approached the problem by diversifying from several angles. …

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