The only easy day was yesterday.”

When an industry loses half of its revenue in six years, as is the case with newspapers, the motto of the elite U.S. Navy Seals certainly applies.

But so does this:

 “Hard work on the right things,” which was the title of a recent Seth Godin blog (and I would endorse creating an RSS feed of Seth’s Blog to get the full impact of his thoughts/advice).

 A recent Seth blog post:

I don’t think winners beat the competition because they work harder. And it’s not entirely clear they win because they have more creativity. The secret, I think, is in understanding what matters.

It’s not obvious and it changes. It changes by culture, by buyer, by product, and even by day of the week. But those that manage to capture the imagination, make sales, and grow are doing it by perfecting the things that matter and ignoring the rest.

Both parts are difficult, particularly when you are surrounded by people who insist on fretting about and working on the stuff that makes no difference at all.  

A good place to start understanding what matters in sales is to ask this question: What is my fastest growing sales product or revenue line?  Another good question: What am I selling that advertisers want to buy? It seems to me those are the places to spend a lot of energy.

Reuters reported in a recent analysis that, in the first quarter of 2012, digital advertising revenue at newspapers rose just 1% from the same quarter a year ago, marking the fifth straight quarter that digital growth has declined. The Reuters analysis blamed the rise of ad exchanges as one reason for the negative trends.

“For an industry savaged by the erosion of print advertising dollars, significantly boosting digital revenue is necessary for survival,” Reuters observed, with further commentary from Outsell Research analyst Ken Doctor: “The online share that newspapers are getting is smaller even though it’s the greatest goldmine of advertising growth we’ve seen in a generation.”  

What matters most for newspapers today is building a great digital franchise (while preserving print revenue at the same time).

At Digital First Media, the expectation is digital growth rates at a minimum of 30% a month year over year and up to 60% at some of our properties, while working hard to limit our print declines to single digits. Generally speaking, we are achieving those growth rates and print goals.   

What matters most in this case is how we are achieving these growth rates:

  • Leveraging and investing in our fastest growing revenue stream across the company. That is Ad Taxi, our multi-platform ad network supported by the Ad Taxi Exchange and a large and growing digital operations group that manages and optimises campaigns. Ad Taxi is the heart of our digital sales strategy and is powering our digital growth.  

  • Increasing our commitment to training our sales organisation in a high level of digital fluency — expertise in selling premium inventory, search, mobile, social, video, exchange inventory in a bundled sales package that maximises an advertiser’s ROI.

  • Keeping every sales position filled, upgrading digitally savvy talent as we go, and reinvesting in additional sales pressure where we see opportunity.

  • A focus not only on growth rates but on our share of locally available digital dollars.

  • Effectively marketing the largest local audiences (print and digital combined) in our markets.

  • Effectively leveraging the sales productivity of the largest local sales force and content producers in all of our markets.

  • Fostering a super-competitive attitude within our sales organisations that allows us to compete effectively for digital market share against the digital-only competitors.

 These are the things that matter most to our company. 

 What are the things that matter most to your company?