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Gannett shares 5 lessons learned by asking advertisers what they want

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Can storytelling be the industry’s savior?

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


Native app? HTML5? Hybrid? An inside look at how and why Verdens Gangs transitioned its VG+ mobile app

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.


4 predictions that will change the way you look at digital

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!


Financial Times weighs in on Web vs. native app debate, how technology has shaped its own digital strategy

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.

Native apps

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:, 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.


Starting from scratch: a blueprint for the re-invention of local media

09 December 2013 · By Randy Bennett

Pierre Omidyar is now the latest very rich guy attempting to either fix (Manchester, Kushner, Buffet, Henry) or to potentially re-invent (Bezos) the newspaper business.

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:

  1. The era of mass media is on life support as the new world order of personal media has arrived.

  2. The news ecosystem has been disrupted by deep vertical players, wide technology-based aggregators, and pervasive connectivity.

  3. As such, traditional media organisations cannot compete if wedded to their historical organisation, processes, and cost structures.

  4. As community has splintered into a range of special interests, the only segment that is somewhat defensible is local.

  5. 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.

  6. The media environment is just as (if not more) complex for marketers as it is for publishers.

  7. Those organisations that provide customers with the best return on time, attention and financial investment win.

6 steps to audience, revenue growth through intelligent marketing

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. 


Why Schibsted, Axel Springer are selling, while Jeff Bezos is buying

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.

I was Berlin to sit in the jury for the Media Hack Day, a hackathon that brought together 100 creative programmers, designers, tech-savvy journalists, and concept designers from around the world.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?


Can engagement research solve the news media industry’s revenue conundrum?

23 September 2013 · By Jim Chisholm

Readers are flocking to our Web sites. But, on average, they don’t hang around.

Our lack of audience engagement is the cause of our woes. The bad news is, it ain’t getting any better … on average. 

The good news is that the application of best practice — and a better understanding of the how, why, and what of our audience (mis)behaviour — could and will raise our industry’s fortunes in the future.

It is simple Darwin. Some will survive. Some won’t. 

But it’s not simply about adaptability. It is also about understanding.

According to comScore, in the United States, 62% of digital users visit newspaper Web sites, yet newspapers account for only 8% of total visits, 1.7% of time spent, and 1.5% of pages visited. 

One has to ask why a medium that is so rich in content enjoys so little traction.

According to the UK national readership survey every month, digital audiences are around 83% of those of printed product. On this basis, the duplication between print and digital is 20% of the print readership and 25% of digital. 

But on a daily basis the digital figure falls to 39% of print. And duplication accounts for 5% of print and 12% of digital. Low daily duplication is arguably a good thing, particularly for paywall aficionados. But over a month, it is vital that print and digital operate in tandem.

The consequence of this fact is reflected in our industry’s financial reality. It is no coincidence that globally the KPIs of engagement online — visit frequency times pages viewed times time per page — are 5% of those in print, and digital revenues are typically around 5% of print.

In the UK, the multiplier of digital engagement is around 10% of those in print. And it’s no coincidence that around 10% of advertising revenues are from print. But in the UK, 40% of total advertising revenues are now digital — the highest in Europe. 

So why are newspapers deriving so little revenue from digital advertising? Because they are deriving too little of their audience engagement in the digital space. The correlations are indisputable.

In part, this is because of a historical defensiveness. But in reality, today, it is because we are not confronting what the analytics could be telling us. Hence the recruiting drive.

Solve the audience conundrum and we solve everything. 

We know, thanks to comScore, that the Netherlands and Turkey enjoy the highest levels of engagement – nearly triple the average. The UK leads in visits per month, Turkey in pages per visit, Spain in time spent per page.

ComScore’s data also shows that among the top 10 publishers in the countries measured, one newspaper in the Netherlands has an engagement score that is 21 times the global average, yet another Dutch publisher has a score of only 20% of the average — a ratio of 100 to one.

In Brazil, one publisher enjoys an engagement index of 13 times that of another performer. In Germany, the ratio between the best of the top 10 and the worst is 200 times. 

And these are the top 10!

The issue isn’t the what, but the why.

Undoubtedly a number of publishers are achieving great digital results. The key is unlocking the reasons for their success.

Every conference, report, and academic analysis focuses on the likes of The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Scandinavians. But these are not typical newspapers.

The question is what makes a typical 30,000 copy newspaper successful online?

A number of factors are driving traffic, engagement, and ultimately, levels of inventory:

  • Clearly content is a central factor; but as, if not more important, is navigation. The eye navigates the written page in a very different way from the screen.

3 tips for moving your news media company beyond the digital war

19 August 2013 · By PJ Pereira

One of the most tired debates in the media world is that of traditional versus digital media.

Regardless of how much we still remember a world without Internet and smartphones, despite how much you have invested in servers or printers, real life has already left all of that behind.

Technology is so omnipresent that people on the streets don’t think about platforms anymore. They just want to know, watch, play, read — and they expect to do it in multiple ways. All at the same time.

From my optimistic standpoint, that gives news brands one of the best opportunities they’ve ever had to either solidify their reputation or establish a new one.

One way or another, people are still going to want to know what’s going on. And if consumers are redefining their habits, so are marketers. Money flies in flocks.

This moment of reinvention requires you to ignore tradition, of course. But it also requires bandwagons and your own infrastructure.

If you want to succeed, you need to see the world with fresh eyes. You need to ask yourself, if you were inventing the very first news company in history, today, how would you do it?

I have a few tips:

1. Think tweets to books.

There is nothing more anachronistic than defining a news brand based on the way people consume it. Still, many do it: “We are a TV show,” “a newspaper,” “a blog.”

I would think range instead. There is a long continuum of possibilities way beyond what used to be considered news — some faster and more timeless than you. From the instantaneous but superficial tweet, to the depth and thoughtfulness of books, and everything in between.

Newspapers, for example, may play the role of qualifying the quick stories posted online the previous day. Blogs can be a way to reflect on and dig deeper into the stories you tweeted about. Weekly magazines may be a way to show what really mattered.

And why not look at years or even decades with rigor and publish e-books about the main themes within your field? (Let’s see what Jeff Bezos will do with the modern history of America’s backstage in his hands.)

When you look at things in a range and unrestrained by a specific timeframe and platform, you start to see different formats working together, not against each other.


About this blog

Every conference has a keynote presentation, that one speaker who connects the dots on a key industry issue and brings clarity to chaos. That is what we aspire to do with the Keynote Blog: identify the top strategic issues facing the news media industry and marshal the smartest people behind them. This blog represents INMA’s “keynote presentation” for the month. Begun in January 2013, this content previously resided in Ideas Magazine; for an archive of past magazine cover stories, click here.

Blog editor

Dawn McMullan is the editor of the Keynote Blog and senior editor for INMA. If you are an INMA member and would like to contribute a keynote blog, please contact Dawn directly by clicking here.


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