“There are no case studies about the future.”
I don’t know how often I have said this in reply to the question: “Jim, can you present a few case studies on what my company should be doing?”
It is many years since I lost the inclination to deliver an answer to the wrong question. So when Australia’s Newspaper Works asked me to write “a piece on what some publishers are doing to increase revenue or create new revenue streams,” much as I love them to bits, I simply ignored them.
What I’ve learned over 20 years advising publishers on growth strategies, including creating and directing the World Association of Newspapers’ “Shaping the Future of the Newspaper” project, is that if peer emulation is your only raison-d’etre, you will die.
If you really want to not only survive in an industry with a half-life, in mature markets, of around five years — but also create value for the future — you have to innovate from the heart, not the blog.
To be fair, our industry began to pass its point of inflection — where digital growth exceeds print decline — around the turn of the year, with the rates of decline slowing as finally, after 20 years living with digital, it finally ......[more]
04 August 2014 · By Siobhan Vinish
News media marketers have managed well, or at least well enough, for decades with limited budgets and limited objectives.
For a very long time, the main objective was “own the community” with few resources to achieve it or methodology to measure it.
With a limited budget, marketers have often found creative ways to execute creative campaigns — mostly using enthusiastic young people eager to schlep boxes, set up booths, and attend various business and community events waving the company flag.
Marketing took some creativity, a little bit of money, physical work, and a few great pairs of comfortable shoes.
And yes, we owned the community.
Our media companies were connected: We knew every not-for-profit leader; every festival and tournament chair; every walk, run and race organiser in the city and further afield. If an organisation didn’t necessarily fit our target demographic (everyone), there was always the impetus to shut out the competition.
And let’s not forget the historic role the publisher has played in the community and the demands for support that have come with that.
We were the go-to call for print support and we always delivered.
We may not have had millions to market our brands, but we had people, enthusiasm, and newsprint — a lot of newsprint. Our logos were everywhere, our newspapers at every event, and all those promotional “partnership” ads ran free — many, many millions of lines every year, up for the asking with little to no measurable return.
With advertising walking in the door and circulation stable, the shotgun approach worked just fine.
What a time!
Sounds like ancient history now, but it was, in fact, only a few short years ago. Since then, we’ve realised those were the good old days and we needed to fast forward to 21st-century approaches to marketing in the digital age and embrace radical change.
Each individual market is not so unique.
Declining traditional print revenue forced us to look at how we did everything. Transformation began with a review of the who/what/where/when/why/how of the silos of marketing teams across our network; each masthead had a team of individuals focused on their own brand and their own strategies.
Despite the fact that every market felt uniquely special in its products and audiences, research and review determined that, for marketing purposes, it just was not the case.
Our proprietary study of cross-platform readership behaviours and preferences showed different demographics behaved and preferred content streams in much the same way as their respective cohorts in every other market.
The top three content categories are the same three in every market — maybe not in the same order but still the top three, almost the top four. And who is reading on which platform is consistent across our country: 18-34 on mobile, 50+ on print, etc.
The transformation of Postmedia into a functional structure simplified and accelerated our ability to transition the marketing structure and culture beyond the local brands’ focus on their own perceived uniqueness, to one that was aligned with the overarching corporate and audience objectives.
What did we do?
- Conducted a comprehensive review of all marketing activities, sponsorships, and partnerships.
- Determined time spent on each task by each team member.
- Evaluated promotional lineage, contra, and other expenses.
- Determined alignment of partners to corporate strategic objectives.
- Assessed skill sets required locally and nationally.
- Reviewed opportunities for economies of scale.
- Assessed workforce alignment to corporate strategic plan.
- Assessed team skill sets against audience analytics and digital marketing needs.
The transformation inevitably led to cuts, however it also led to the rebuilding of how we did everything.
We maintained our community presence with a local marketing person at each brand and leveraged the expertise we had in different regions to build the leadership structure.
We then built a national structure to support them, situated across the company and not just at a head office, to allow for cross-training and support in other cities and other areas within a much smaller team.
What we are building is a national marketing strategy, aligned with corporate objectives and product strategies that includes support and direction for community marketing but doesn’t focus solely on it.
It takes advantage of available economies of scale. It means every market is now aligned to the corporate strategy and how our newsrooms are developing content for our products — our four platform strategy — and allows us to focus our marketing initiatives to support this. And it means paying heed to the nuances that do exist between our individual brands.
Know who we are, be what we do.
People know who we are, but they don’t necessarily know what we do.
We have the oldest and often the most recognisable brands in our markets, yet new potential audiences see us predominantly as their (grand)father’s newspaper. We need to be known as multi-platform news and information providers and our marketing efforts must reflect that.
Despite the fact that print remains as a foundation on which many of us are building for the future, our teams must understand and be aligned to the fact that our future lies far beyond that in the digital world.
How do we do that?
- Our marketing, strategic partnerships, and tactical initiatives must reflect our digital brand evolution.
- Our marketing strategies and tactics need to connect with our audiences on the devices we both inhabit.
- We are storytellers and we need to tell our own story to our audiences and beyond, not just in the pages of our newspapers but leveraging off our connections to the communities to tell the right story.
- Logo recognition is no longer enough. Our partnerships need to work harder and smarter.
- Align with new partners and create new opportunities to connect us to the new audiences we want.
- Question everything that we have done and ask if it is telling the right story of our brand.
Say no to partners that do not lift your brand.
Promotional lineage in a time of 80-page newspapers, multiple special sections, and huge weekend news packages was plentiful. It was a great tool for marketing to leverage with sponsors and partners.
However, we were preaching to the converted, with our logos appearing in advertisements in our own newspapers, talking to our own audiences who already subscribed or were, at minimum, well aware of the role that we play in supporting our communities.
But as we move brand perceptions beyond the print edition to the Web, smartphone, and tablet apps, how does this help us to entice new loyal readers and educate them about the fact that we produce relevant news and useful information for them on the devices they use?
Organisations large and small all make decisions as to how they will participate as corporate citizens. Some choose to focus on three or four key pillars, moving beyond the shotgun approach and trying to be everything to everyone.
Instead, they look to their specific audiences and the unique product attributes that will drive deliverable outcomes.
We needed to do the same.
Over the past two years, Postmedia has reduced its promotional lineage run by more than 75%, maintaining a similar level of overall partnership revenue and remaining connected to partners and programmes that align to our objectives.
We are looking for new opportunities and partners that align our brands with the audiences that we are diligently trying to attract.
Culturally this has been one of the hardest transitions.
How have we managed it?
- Ensure all marketing team members have a clear understanding of our corporate strategic objectives — the what, the why, and the how.
- Everyone needs to understand the audiences that we are driving to engage.
- Manage the transition. Don’t go from hero to zero in your communities; transition your lineage commitment down over 18-24 months.
- Look for new opportunities with old partners. Frequently they are trying to reach digital audiences as well. How can you help each other achieve this?
- Explain the shift in strategy to our traditional partners and those we can no longer support in the same way. People understand we are a business too and need to ensure we are driving that business forward.
- Being clear on what you do support makes it easier to say no to those things that you don’t.
Doing less of the things that do not align frees up resources and creativity to do new things that will drive us forward as well as make meaningful contributions in selected areas.
Everyone needs support.
For many, marketing has been so focused on community giving and support that we have lost sight of the exciting marketing opportunities in front of us — research, analytics, product marketing, social media marketing, creative development, video, and unique brand and partnership executions.
How many of your individual local brands have the resources, talent, and time to think about and execute these things?
Building a national marketing structure and new culture to align with the corporate strategic objectives of driving revenue and growing audiences across platforms requires investment, but investment in the right resources, in the right places, focused on the right things.
This cultural transformation at Postmedia has led to the formation of new teams — brand and audience development, product, creative, research, analytics, social media, and local community engagement — all integrated with editorial as much as with advertising and while managing in a strict cost control environment.
Rather than a hierarchy of divisions with each driving their own direction, the collaboration of all will take us beyond merely owning the communities to owning the audiences.
Alana Engler, director/marketing and audience development, contributed to this blog.
30 June 2014 · By Michelle Krans
When you think about being customer-centric, it doesn’t sound revolutionary. In an age of tight resources, being customer focused is crucial for success. But what does being customer-centric mean to our clients?
We decided to ask them.
We initiated customer research with more than 1,000 decision makers across 11 markets to understand their pain points and expectations. We had them tell us, in their own words, what they needed and wanted from a media partner.
In essence, SMBs told us they wanted:
- Help managing the complexity of their media and marketing investments.
- Partners who truly understand their business.
- Proof that their investments are paying off.
Armed with that information and with a plan in hand, we went on the offense to launch a series of initiatives to enhance our customer-centricity and grow sales – for our customers and for ourselves. Below are the top five things we learned from our effort:
- Stop worrying about creating a world-class sales force and instead focus on creating a world-class experience for your customers. Provide a clear demonstration of insight and value. Our customers have seen the power that comes from connecting all the pieces to deliver the right message at the right time and place. We continue to place enormous focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our sales organisation.
The expectation is that through these improvements, our sales force will be in a much better position to add value for customers. They will be better prepared. Enable your sales force to go on the offense, using creativity, judgment, and insight to provide true value to our customers. Apply industry best practices and analyse data to make sure your media and marketing investments are working hard and working together. It’s the best way to outsell your competitors and grow your share of spend.
- Review pricing strategies. Pricing must be simple to teach to your staff, simple to sell, and simple to buy across all platforms. Make it a game-changer. Create unprecedented value and return on investment (ROI) for customers. For sustainable results, advertisers must commit to multiple weeks, and your rate structures need to reflect that.
If your legacy pricing does not encourage customers to get on the right plans for their needs, change your rate structure. At Gannett, our deep dive into creating an all-new pricing initiative is contributing to our obsession with selling solutions that resonate with customers and get results far more effectively than the competition.
Our goal is to sell impressions and optimise across all our multi-channel platforms, from desktop and mobile sites, e-editions and social media, to tablet apps and print. We also are a digital-marketing company with sophisticated tools for search marketing, targeted e-mails, an enhanced social media presence, and digital display ads.
Our overall strategy is to be platform agnostic. The aim is to set the price/value equation so that it is in line with delivering effective, integrated marketing and media solutions.
- Change the way you talk about your media audiences. We should be shouting from the rooftops about the value of an engaged audience. Our media consumers are the real influencers in the community. They are the shoppers, civic and business leaders, engaged moms, voters, trendsetters, and the ones with the most buying power.
The need here is to very effectively brand our audience and state its value beyond reach numbers. This is compelling enough to make a difference in the value we serve to clients and it gives us a strong competitive advantage.
- Improve training to give your sales team deep product knowledge and an understanding of your sales process. Arm your sales reps with a succinct and compelling way to truly distinguish what you offer from the 29 other people calling on local businesses every month.
Have a full roster of sales and sales leader training and certification programmes for new and existing sales teams. Introduce a formal on-boarding training for all new hires – one for sales reps and one for managers – to give them deep product knowledge and an understanding of the sales process. Focus on digital training, too.
For example, our digital certification programme via e-learning modules has been a real boost for our sales force. Digital training goes beyond expanding product knowledge; it helps staff become digital-media experts and more relevant to customers.
- Once the sale goes through, be accountable for the customer’s ROI. Be obsessed with customer results and building customer loyalty. Put some formal guidelines around the work, including the creation of core competencies around the account management position, and deliver real value to your customer.
We are taking a very deliberate approach to the sales support function, and in particular, the role of account management. The account manager, as well as campaign optimisers, is the key to building our successes in the follow-through stage of the sales cycle.
Once the sale happens, a new set of work begins – and that is to be accountable to the right return on investment for the customer. Advertising clients will choose bigger and bolder campaigns if you build on the success of the initial campaign.
Deliver consistent, meaningful metrics that connect the dots and truly tell the story of the customer’s campaign performance because that’s key to retaining and growing revenue across all platforms.
Our success is wholly dependent on our ability to deliver value for our customers. That means delivering a better buying experience for customers, having sales reps that are prepared and insightful, and delivering better outcomes. Keep developing those business-building ideas that lead to measurable ROI. And keep exceeding customers’ expectations.
And if that’s done, you will gain share. Your top line and bottom line will improve. That is the win-win. And that is our focus.
02 June 2014 · By Dawn McMullan
Editor’s note: Raju Narisetti was named senior vice president/deputy head of strategy at News Corp in February of 2013. Prior to this move, he was deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, managing editor of Washington Post Co., and founding editor of Mint, the second-largest business newspaper in India.
Here’s why he believes in print, feels newspaper brands have a more long-term view than, say, the Huffington Post, wonders why we didn’t create the Facebook Paper app, and thinks the industry needs to be embrace the genius of a good story.
INMA: You say “brands have moved from marketers to publishers.” What does this mean and how does this bring opportunity to the media industry?
Narisetti: Lot of brands want to engage their customers, audiences, or consumers using stories. Brands really don’t want to get into the news business, but they want to get into the storytelling business around themes, topics, and occasionally around specific brand that matters to them.
GE, for example, cares about innovation, wants to be in the conversation about innovation, and wants to engage audiences with great relevant content — often in the form of storytelling.
As more and more brands realise they can target and reach their potential customers or audiences — and realise that they don’t have enough content beyond just advertising — they will figure out ways to create it themselves or partner with others who can. Many of these brands used to rely on advertising to do that and now, in some cases, they are shifting ad dollars into...[more]
05 May 2014 · By Padraic Woods
VG+ is VG’s premium subscription-based digital product and VG’s third editorial product, consisting of the best content from the printed VG newspaper with the best content from VG’s free news site.
Context-aware content — tailor made for each platform — ensures the ideal reading experience per device. Users can quickly and easily gain news insight on their mobile while enjoying a more immersive experience on the iPad.
The first version of VG+ was released in 2011 as an iPad app. It was a native application that won multiple awards, including the “Best iPad App in the World” at the WAN IFRA Cross Media Awards in 2011.
In 2013, we ditched our native apps and created a new set of VG+ hybrid apps (Android, iPhone, and iPad). The goal was to combine the best of Web technology with the best of native technology. We also created a new set of editorial tools that are tailor made to the needs of our editorial team and to creating interactive and instantly available content for mobile devices.
We had just started the VG+ 2.0 project to develop hybrid apps when Mark Zuckerberg announced, “The biggest mistake we [Facebook] made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native.” Speed and stability were the main factors influencing Facebook’s change of mind and move back to native.
Taking an award-winning native app and transitioning to a hybrid app was a very difficult decision. Our native app was popular with our users, it was winning awards, and we were steadily increasing the number of subscribers to our product. We still had a number of challenges with the native app — as I’ve outlined below — which we believed could be best addressed by developing a hybrid solution.
We believed that given the requirements of our project, we could combine native and HTML5 functionality in a way that would give us the best of both technologies — the flexibility of HTML5 and the speed and stability of native....[more]
17 March 2014 · By Duncan Stewart
Deloitte has been publishing “Predictions” reports about the technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) sectors since 2001, and I have been co-authoring these reports since 2007. After 13 years, the company has gotten pretty good at it.
Our 2013 list of predictions was 85% accurate. Here, I share with you the most important short-term trends in the TMT space today, and what they mean for the media industry.
1. The decade of the device is over.
Globally, we have seen a remarkable growth in consumer hardware in the last 10 years: The global dollar value of all TVs, PCs, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles has gone from US$250 billion in 2004 to a projected US$768 billion in 2014. That tripling in size represents an annual compounded growth rate of nearly 12%, and is unprecedented in the history of consumer electronics.
However, that period of hypergrowth appears to be at an end, with Deloitte predicting that sales of those five devices will plateau and still be under US$800 billion by 2018. Although unit sales will continue to grow, falling prices (especially in the developing world) will cause annual growth in dollars to fall to almost zero by 2018.
The first implication is that we will likely see a shift or re-allocation in consumer spending: Lower growth for hardware almost certainly means more growth for software, services, and content.
By 2018, an incremental US$250 billion may be available for mobile apps, higher speed or bigger data plans, and media content, whether one-off buys or monthly subscriptions such as newspaper paywalls. That won’t radically transform those industries, which already have revenues of more than US$2 trillion, but a tail wind is always appreciated!...[more]
20 January 2014 · By Graham Hinchly
The Financial Times’ award-winning Web app shook up the news industry when it was launched 2011, quickly becoming a case study for the benefits of distributing content solely using the Web, rather than relying on native apps.
But for many, the “Web vs. native” debate is still opaque, due to the technical jargon and acronyms that surround it. By demystifying some of the concepts for a non-technical audience, and outlining the advantages and disadvantages to both native and Web apps in an impartial manner, I hope to enable more publishers to make informed decisions when it comes to evaluating, or re-evaluating, their approach to delivering a great user experience on all devices.
I’d also like to share some of the things we’ve learned from building a Web app at the FT, as well as a few thoughts on how I’m expecting publishers’ approaches to content distribution to evolve over the next few years.
As a trip to a local technology outlet will show you, there are many makes and models of smartphones available and an increasingly large number of tablet devices.
The common ground for a lot of these devices is the operating system that they run, with the majority either running Google’s Android operating system or Apple’s iOS, the operating system for iPhones and iPads. Between them, these two operating systems comprise more than 90% of the smartphones and tablets currently in use (Source: netmarketshare.com, Dec 2013).
The term “native app” refers to an app that has been built specifically for one of these operating systems, using the specific programming language of that platform, meaning that you can’t re-use an app written for one operating system on another. The apps are generally distributed through app “stores,” such as the Apple iTunes store for iOS or the Google Play store for Android....[more]
09 December 2013 · By Randy Bennett
To be fair, Omidyar is focused on re-inventing news media generally. While no one really knows what Mr. Bezos has up his sleeve, it may be a more transformative approach if the newspaper itself stays largely the same. Omidyar is preparing to create a national or international news entity, while Bezos is retooling a large metro newspaper with a national brand.
Is anyone reinventing smaller local newspaper franchises?
Certainly, Advance (itself owned by a family of billionaires) is taking a whack at it by reducing print frequency and creating new, digital-only news and marketing operations. The traditionally tight-lipped media company has not revealed much about what informed the strategy or how it has played out so far.
While smaller-market newspapers are healthier than their big-market brethren, their long-term future, too, is in doubt without a fundamental rethinking of the franchise. It would not take the resources of multi-billionaires (perhaps just a cadre of civic-minded local millionaires) to build a successful, for-profit, local media organisation. If I had the luxury of starting a relatively well-funded local media enterprise from scratch, this would be my blueprint.
Note: There are many traditional media organisations that are implementing and executing on strategies and approaches outlined in this blueprint. These organisations, along with innovative digital news startups, provide ideas, approaches, lessons learned, and departure points for our own business and product strategy.
The context for this blueprint is an acknowledgement of a range of market “truths” including:
- The era of mass media is on life support as the new world order of personal media has arrived.
- The news ecosystem has been disrupted by deep vertical players, wide technology-based aggregators, and pervasive connectivity.
- As such, traditional media organisations cannot compete if wedded to their historical organisation, processes, and cost structures.
- As community has splintered into a range of special interests, the only segment that is somewhat defensible is local.
- News is no longer primarily consumed at a single destination. Rather, it is consumed across a continuum, increasingly starting with social media or on a mobile device and progressing through more traditional channels to layer on context, additional information, and related content.
- The media environment is just as (if not more) complex for marketers as it is for publishers.
- Those organisations that provide customers with the best return on time, attention and financial investment win.
25 November 2013 · By Tom Ratkovich
What is “intelligent marketing?”
Most marketers, me included, want to believe they are intelligent. But for the purposes of this article, “intelligence” will have more to do with approach and process than intellectual capacity.
Let me state my biases right upfront: I’m a data geek.
As the founder and president of ASTECH InterMedia and, more recently, the managing partner of Leap Media Solutions, I have long espoused the conviction that the industry’s future will be chiefly determined not by how much we can charge for our paid content initiatives, but by the knowledge we have of our customers — and our customers’ customers. And as part of the ownership group of a Colorado publishing company, that conviction has only grown stronger.
That is not to say that consumer monetisation efforts and new product development are unimportant; indeed they are essential. But those initiatives — and most others — will only succeed if they deliver value to our intended audiences.
And the dominant variable in the value equation is relevance.
Our ability to be relevant is driven by customer knowledge — knowledge that is garnered, enhanced, and applied through intelligent marketing. Such knowledge facilitates the creation, promotion, and delivery of content and offers that are valued by audiences because they are relevant.
So, back to the original question: What is “intelligent marketing?”
The answer is not a simple one. Intelligent marketing is both a journey and a destination. It is a process and an outcome. It is a strategy and an objective.
Let’s start with defining the endgame: the destination, the outcome, the objective.
In the simplest, most idealistic of terms, intelligent marketing is the state in which all communications are customised and targeted based on customer knowledge — and delivered via the channel of customer preference at a time likely to provoke the desired response. That is the euphoric state of absolute relevance.
Obviously, attainment of that state — or anything close to it — requires a level of customer intimacy that can only be achieved through a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy or process that is intended build the company’s knowledge of its customers and those of its advertisers.
This is the process of intelligent marketing.
The process is driven by an ecosystem that includes data, technology, automation, content, expertise, and more. This process integrates and optimises activities designed to, among other things, build and engage audiences, prioritise content development initiatives, nurture new revenue streams through targeted delivery of advertiser communications.
This article is primarily about putting that process in place.
At the recently concluded INMA Audience Summit in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to share one company’s journey of — and to — intelligent marketing. The company, the Erie Times-News, has made significant inroads in transforming its business over the past 12 months.
But metrics can’t really tell the story of 12 months. Let’s revisit Erie a year from now.
For this article, I’m going to talk about a newspaper whose journey began almost three years ago.
Let me tease you with some results....[more]
28 October 2013 · By Tor Bøe-Lillegraven
I am becoming quite the Berliner.
Last week, I attended the INMA European News Media Conference, where speakers from around the world discussed successful revenue strategies on the Web, in mobile, and in print.
Highlights included a presentation from digital frontrunner Schibsted, which is embarking on a global investment in advanced data analytics, and a visit to Axel Springer, the largest publisher in Europe, which has seen phenomenal digital growth.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to actually see Springer’s digital innovation in action.
Axel Springer hosted the event, and the main prize was a trip to Silicon Valley, where the winners get to visit its “plug & play accelerator.”
The mission was to hack your way into newspaper archives and make the content found relevant in the digital age. The results were amazing. I wrote a piece about the event, which you can find here.
The hackers really opened my eyes to rapid innovation, and got me thinking about the future of legacy publishing companies such as Springer and Schibsted.
This is a most timely topic, as we look back at the last several months, which have seen some major newspaper properties across the globe changing hands.
Three of the transactions are of particular interest:
- In late July, German media powerhouse Axel Springer announced it was selling of a slew of newspapers and magazines to focus on its digital business. The sale included prime properties such as Berliner Morgenpost and Hamburger Abendblatt.
- The Schibsted Media Group, based in Norway, has enjoyed stunning success in transforming from a newspaper company to a digital frontrunner in online classified ads and services. In September, Schibsted offloaded newspaper properties in the volatile Baltic region. Pundits immediately speculated about whether Schibsted plans to exit the newspaper business entirely by 2017.
- And of course, the news that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was getting his own pet newspaper sparked a media frenzy of speculation about his motives. Bezos bought the struggling Washington Post for a cool US$250 million, noting that printed newspapers on actual paper is a luxury item: “It’s sort of like, you know, people still have horses, but it’s not their primary way of commuting to the office.”
Are we seeing the start of a massive newspaper clearance sale? Or are owners just making place for some new inventory?...[more]