Print and digital advertising sales
Print and digital advertising sales

II recently did an interesting exercise to compare the portion of our business which runs print only, combination print and digital, and digital only. I quickly discovered that there's significant opportunity in growing our pure digital customer base as well as growing the print customers who have yet to dip their toes in our digital waters.

As it turns out, only a very small percentage of our existing customers run digital only. It was a shockingly low number, especially at the local market level. If you have not done so already, I'd urge you to do a similar exercise.

What has also become clear to me is that we can no longer drink from the same well. Newspapers are no longer traditional media companies.

We are in a fortunate position with our superior content and desirable audiences delivered on multiple platforms that we should command more growth with this unique position. In many cases we've overpriced ourselves with local advertisers. Digital is a great vehicle to earn their business back through a variety of geographic and behavioral targeting products.

There is a massive amount of new business prospects that run digital only, many of whom would never consider a traditional print campaign. Let's build on our deep relationships and the trust built over the years with local businesses and take advantage of our feet on the street. I'll bet that you'll also find through this exercise plenty of ROP customers who have yet to invest their advertising dollars in any of your digital properties. This is low hanging fruit.

And so, as we look for new ways of growing our business, the question remains, how do we structure and retool our sales organizations to pursue these new types of advertisers? In order to reach out to the incredibly high volume of small- and mid-sized businesses we have to find new and creative ways of connecting with them. Some of the methods that we need to explore are self-serve options and better use of social media. Training our print reps to sell multi-platform solutions and improving the processes and sales techniques used within our call centers will also help us dominate in this new arena.

As is the case with many media organizations today, there are digital specialists to help support the sales teams with their foray into the digital world. It was once believed that digital specialists would work themselves out of job as our sales teams became more comfortable with online sales. Au contraire, it seems. The digital space is evolving at such a rapid pace that our digital specialists will continually be challenged as they keep up to speed with new developments and opportunities.

Product offerings must also be improved so that we may deliver what our customers want, not what we think they need. This needs to be done in concert with the sales, content and marketing teams to ensure that the products being built can be monetized while growing audiences. We've established that our sales teams need to be integrated but our product development teams need to be as well.

Groupon's incredible success and Yahoo's development of the USELL program have only reinforced that with the right product there is a significant amount of local advertising dollars to be had. Our sales teams are built for local sales and we have the access needed to monetize new products.

Many of us have made good advancement in getting our traditional sales reps to sell digital. A word of caution though: even with 100% of your sales team selling digital, it doesn't mean that our job is done. Many of us enjoy significant readership numbers and strong reach into our markets through a variety of platforms but we don't enjoy the same portion of advertising dollars.

So let's not take our foot off the gas!