Texas School of Journalism Series

Let’s go back a bit to see if some of these training videos are still relevant. We did these in 2011, when we worked with TCU; Texas Center for Community Journalism. 

Stop calling your online Newspaper….”the web”.  How to approach skeptical advertisers who may be uncomfortable with digital advertising in general,  or specifically your Website.

Why you should Run your Website… like your Newspaper

Using Video on your News website

A Digital Sale is Made on Every Call

When a local advertiser tells you they’re not interested in web advertising or digital marketing…and you walk away….that’s a sale. They ‘sold’ you on the fact that the Internet is not important to their business.

When the Publisher or GM convinces you that a paywall is good for your news site, that’s a sale. They ‘sold you’ on the mistake that journalism is your company’s primary objective. It’s not. Your primary objective is helping local business by using content creation to bring together consumers and sellers.

When a research firm gets you to buy expensive market data…that’s a sale. They ‘sold’ you on the fact that it’s not necessary to run your website like a business. Just buy their reports for all the answers.

When your boss hires an outside sales firm to ‘hard close’ your clients, that’s a sale. They ‘sold’ you on the fact that you’re not qualified to sell digital and your future as a salesman is limited.

When your ad director has no idea how Reach Local or Google is pitching local business…that’s a sale. They ‘sold’ you on the fact that you don’t need to understand the fast growing competition. They want you to ignore that stuff….and sell lot’s of low CPM banners.

When the CEO says that digital journalism will save your company, that’s a sale. They ‘sold’ you on the fact that community news coverage…using digital… by the trusted newspaper… is a guarantee for financial success. It’s not. Advertisers are the critical key to great journalism. If you don’t help local mom & pops build their business…they”’ have no money to support your journalism.

Watch this scene from BOILER ROOM (with Ben Afleck) to see what I mean.

A Sale is Made on Every Call…( NSFW )

7 Habits of Profitable, Hyper Local News

Still no sustainable business model for online news? That’s crazy talk.

We love reading about online editorial success and greater activity in the hyper-local space. Yet most of these reports feature vague remarks about revenue plans still being explored and the perplexing challenge of finding a way to pay the newsroom bills.

CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis, NYU’s Jay Rosen & other veteran journos have been trying to crack the business model code for quite some time now. These entrepreneurial endeavors are well intentioned as they seek  to support the emerging legion of news sites that may one day replace traditional newspapers. Seasoned educators like Jeff and Jay used their editorial credentials to wake up many online newsrooms. But that’s not going to move the needle enough.

Now it’s time for seasoned sellers and revenue focused execs to step up and take the lead here. Maybe we need those with actual sales and revenue experience….. to tackle this sales and revenue issue?

Since 1998, we’ve been tracking and field-testing the leading revenue and sales models used by leading online operations. This research identified a robust collection of revenue models that are currently thriving in the local marketplace.

So why are most hyper-local sites still swimming in red ink, or looking for financial bailouts? With plenty of proven and active revenue models available for adoption…..are these models being intentionally ignored, or just mistakenly dismissed?

Here’s a summary of findings we submitted to CUNY’s New Business Models for News project:

7 Habits of Profitable, Local News Sites

1) Lead by revenue-first executive (just like traditional media business)

  • Profitability first, then operations, followed by editorial/content
  • Run site as a start-up business
  • Think like an entrepreneur…NOT just a manager or journalist
  • Borrow tactics from online revenue leaders

2) Running extra-lean & efficient w/content & platforms

  • Open source platforms, software & applications
  • Outsource content via feeds, blogs, indie-journalism
  • Aggregation & curation. Do what you do best, point to the rest
  • Aggressively strip out & reduce hard costs/expenses
  • 24/7 news cycle; Twitter = first responder journalism
  • Hard news & data as commodity loss-leader
  • Monetizable soft news & activity, subsidizes hard news
  • Data as content

3) Advertiser & sponsor friendly

  • Enabling local commerce is priority #1
  • Advertising as content
  • High impact ad units & sponsorships
  • Removal of GAN’s; garbage ad networks
  • Feet on the street-sales efforts
  • Local business education via Web 101 workshops
  • Self-serve & outbound tele-sales
  • Ability to show quantifiable ROI
  • Local & regional advertising networks

4) Non-traditional revenue streams

  • Rev-share, transaction fees & e-commerce
  • Free-miums & up-sells
  • Offline initiatives & live events
  • Marketing services for local business

5) Training, management & compensation

  • Regular training of all staff (especially top management)
  • Performance based compensation
  • Mandatory budgets with bonus & penalty
  • Managers lead by example, not from behind desk

6) Seed, syndicate, socialize & mobilize

  • More than just a destination site strategy
  • Leverage & monetize content anywhere & everywhere
  • Enable formation and leveraging of affinity groups

7) Database mining & video adoption

  • Sales and editorial appreciation of well-defined databases
  • Sales-based uses of video; online infomercials & ad-vertorial

Moneyball: Fixing Newspaper Web Sales

Traditional Newspaper management is just like the old guard in Baseball. That’s what you’ll think after watching Moneyball starring Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager; Billy Beane.

Based on a true story, Moneyball shows Beane going up against his old school, know-it-all, front office. He’s tired of being in last place and squeaking by on a shoe string budget. Unable to afford star players, Billy decides to slaughter a few sacred cows and installs experimental yet logical tactics into his game plan.

Today’s Newspaper industry is like that once great, but now struggling baseball team. The key difference? They’re now forced to play on a new, hyper-competitive field called the Internet.

Think about it: the veteran print team is stuck in a rut using the same, tired strategy that served them well for years, but no longer. Today, they get trounced by those with more money & muscle ( think Google, Reach Local, Yellow Pages, independent online publishers , etc.)

Did your publisher waste time and money at a so-called “innovation conference” recently? This is something rank-n-file newspaper staffers should blow a gasket over. Is this really helping to save industry jobs? Is that expensive research working? How about that salaried VP of digital at your company? Think they have fire in the belly?

Answer these questions to determine if you’re playing on the right team.

Anyone on your news team play the role of Billy Beane? Go find one. Their job: encourage the ditching of tactics, managers, research consultants, conferences and professorial pundits that just don’t help anymore. This person will need entrepreneurial tenacity and a thick skin. Some old school execs will immediately try to torpedo their efforts. This person will be a threat to ‘the way it’s always been done’.

Let’s slaughter a few sacred cows in Newspaper, just like Billy in Moneyball…did with the Oakland A’s.

Areas critical to your Newspaper’s digital success or failure

Compensation & Financial Motivation. If you can’t fix this, just turn off your site and retire. While adjustment of compensation is the most direct way to positively affect digital sales, it’s also the most challenging…..especially when surrounded by whiny sales reps and ad managers who threaten mutiny. If you can’t apply this simple & proven principle of comp adjustment to digital, you don’t have a web business… you only have an expensive hobby.

Management Structure. Who’s in charge? If the person managing your digital effort is salaried, you’re either bleeding red ink or you’re hitting a too-low web budget. You’re also leaving a load of cash on the table. Would you ever hire a publisher or ad director and then pay them a nice salary whether they hit their numbers or not? Then why do it with those who control your digital business? Need proof that salaried execs will kill your digital business? AOL Patch, The New York Times, Allbritton’s TBD and Gannett placed salaried, editorial execs in charge of building out the company’s hyper-local business models. To date, these brainiac-led efforts have either been shuttered or still bleed rivers of red ink. Tip: Do the exact opposite of what these egg-heads did. Tip #2: Run digital like a real business, not a hobby.

Inventory Management. Publishers, editors and ad directors vigorously defend the value of their content and readership in print. They smartly price the ad inventory adjacent to the editorial. But we’re floored how often they let Google Ad Sense, Centro and other 3rd party rep firms dictate CPM’s for prime positions on their sites. This over reliance on ad networks & deadly CPM selling contributes to the worse crime of all: web managers boasting of an online ‘sell out’. Duh. Would you ever tell an advertiser that you’re sold out in tomorrow’s Newspaper? Being ‘sold out’ online exposes a serious lack of inventory yield management, poor understanding of supply & demand pricing, and the painful in-ability to quickly create programs that help a client spend money with you.

Market Intelligence. If your staff is blind to what local business wants to do online, you’re in for a rude awakening. Instead of just picking up checks and taking orders, sales reps must be vigilant with collecting client ‘intel’. They must keep up with the ever changing need of the advertiser…especially now, as many are moving their marketing dollars to online.

Some media companies blindly follow the advice of market research firms. They invest in studies about local Internet expenditures. Does this expensive market data provide a road map to digital success? If it did, wouldn’t the industry be better off today?

Local media execs also seem to perpetually debate digital innovations in both journalism and sales. Much of this happens during conference panel sessions and keynotes. We have some advice for these folks: stop debating and start selling stuff your local business community wants to buy.

Fact: Your sales force with those direct relationships with local business should be your #1 source of market research. Reps should always be doing CNA’s (client needs analysis) to uncover clues to help point your Newspaper web sales model in the right direction. If anybody should have high levels of market intelligence and know the spending habits of local business, it should be your local feet on the street….NOT an expensive research or consulting firm. Duh.

Digital Business Model Evaluation.  Coming Soon: Questions to help evaluate the revenue potential of your newspaper website and other digital efforts.