Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pa. Firm Arms Small Papers with Low-Cost Research

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pa. Firm Arms Small Papers with Low-Cost Research

Article excerpt

Sales reps at big newspapers are armed with original research to impress advertisers, but small- and medium-size papers often feel they cannot afford research.

To fill that gap, Inland Research Corp., a small Erie, Pa.-based company, sells research that is low in cost, although not original.

Inland's research, which is known as secondary research because it does not involve original or proprietary data developed from interviews, is compiled from some 40 sources, about half from private outfits, such as the Audit Bureau of Circulations, and the other half from state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jerry Szorek, 64, president and ceo of Inland as well as former national advertising director of the Erie Daily Times and Morning News in Pennsylvania, said in an interview with E&P that he learned early in his career the value of proving the worth of advertising with research numbers.

'It got to the point where business was more demanding, and you had to justify, and you could only do it with numbers,' he said.

One Szorek customer is Ron Capretta, 49, advertising director of the Youngstown, Ohio, Vindicator, who recalled interviewing 'several vendors to do a proprietary study.' Proprietary research firms asked more than double the fee he paid Inland, which he said was under $7,000.

Although Capretta had authority to commission a more expensive proprietary study, he picked Inland because 'in the first go-through with a research study, it's really all we needed. ... It's very easy for customers to understand.'

Inland's study helped Capretta's 14 retail and four classified sales reps meet one-year goals he set for 'substantial' hikes in the number of advertisers and in total ad revenue.

Vindicator sales reps persuaded some current advertisers to increase the frequency with which their ads run, said Capretta, by pointing out an Inland chart that demonstrates advertisement readership grows from 53.5% with one ad a week to 81.3% with five ads a week.

When Capretta pursues advertisers who already buy radio ads, his sales reps point to an Inland chart that shows each of the city's seven biggest radio stations has less than 8,000 listeners during an average quarter hour.

'Isn't that amazing?' asked Capretta. 'Radio is very weak.'

With advertisers already spending on tv, Vindicator sales reps display a chart that reports on viewer activity during commercials: 33.6% got up and left the room, 29.6% talked with others, 9.2% switched channels, and 5.9% muted the set. Only 21.7% listened to the tv commercial.

Szorek is quick to admit to clients that the kind of research Inland sells they could obtain themselves: 'I say, 'There's no magic in all this; you can do it. ... The only thing is we've been down all the blind alleys,'' said Szorek.

Inland completes a report in four to six weeks, a fraction of the time it might take someone who was doing the job for the first time. Moreover, it is presented to a client in an easy-to-read bound report designed to be taken on sales calls.

'If you just give them rows and rows of numbers, their eyes will cross,' said Don Devich Jr., Inland's vice president for sales and marketing, who spent more than 30 years in newspaper advertising sales. 'What you need to do is give them a loaded gun, a finished product.'

No other company produces similar reports for newspapers, according to Szorek. Other companies sell secondary research in other forms, including E&P, which publishes the Editor & Publisher Market Guide, and Claritas, a San Diego-based target-marketing firm with at least 100 newspapers among its clients. …

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