Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Products, New Roles: Looking beyond 'Sales Rep' as the Revenue Mix for News Changes

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New Products, New Roles: Looking beyond 'Sales Rep' as the Revenue Mix for News Changes

Article excerpt

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Former Digital First Media CEO John Paton used to talk about the need to start "stacking digital dimes" as newspaper companies scrambled to replace declining print revenue.

The solution was a "firehose" of digital ad formats and revenue partnerships. Local newspapers could increase the number of ad positions on their websites, and get more creative with them, start selling advertising with text messages, email newsletters, mobile apps, business directories, video. They could do revenue shares with weather, entertainment, business and social media plug-ins from third parties who needed your local audience, and they could sell local businesses into national programmatic advertising networks and take a cut off the top.

But there are inherent problems with throwing everything against the wall at the same time. It can lead to websites and mobile sites larded up and slowed down by plug-ins, and the effectiveness of any one revenue ploy hampered by the same reader being targeted by a dozen ad positions and partners.

It also runs up against the performance of sales reps who used to sell two or three products and are now being asked to pitch 20. New products get rolled out, reps focus on them while management is focused on their launch, and then their contribution to overall revenue suffers as the next new thing becomes the focus. And there's a limit to the revenue growth possible from 10 new products if all 10 are aimed at the same advertisers who have only so much money to spend. Money gets switched from an old product to a new one, based on how you're incentivizing and managing your reps.

A natural evolution of Paton's "firehose" strategy would be to look beyond the traditional role of sales rep and consider what kinds of jobs are necessary to support a new mix of revenue at news media companies. This is especially relevant as the mix has shifted over the past year away from near-complete reliance on traditional display advertising and toward reader revenue, sponsored content and other categories.

Some revenue-supporting jobs that would go beyond the traditional sales rep role might be:

Data specialist. How well are you tracking the effectiveness of each ad position on your site, it's viewability, and the revenue it's bringing in per impression? Could fewer ad positions actually increase your revenue? Do you have the capacity on staff now to run models that could give you that answer? Are you looking at data on reader behavior to optimize subscriber conversions? What if leaving a particular investigative news story up on the home page led to fewer page views for that particular day, but resulted in subscriptions that dwarfed the revenue you'd get from those page views? …

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