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What can media companies learn from Amazon, top social media sites about social transactions?

27 July 2014 · by Phil Schroder

Selling subscriptions is an age-old game of paying careful attention to types of campaigns, the pricing of campaigns, and the response mechanisms employed. Many articles have been written about these subjects, whether it’s about selling digital subscriptions or what and where you should sell.

However, one of the most thought-provoking pieces I read recently was from fellow INMA blogger Scott Stines, who wrote about making sure you really cover the “last three feet” of a marketing campaign before you get started. I thought all of his points were excellent, but two of them really stuck out:

  • Make it easy to buy.

  • Keep it simple.

These are two pieces that are too often missing in ...

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4 key areas of subscriber retention media companies must address

16 July 2014 · by Phil Schroder

As I was traveling for several weeks last month, I experienced multiple encounters with service companies that invest a lot of resources into acquiring customers. The question is, which ones really focus on winning that customer’s loyalty and keeping them coming back time and time again?

According to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. While those numbers might seem high for those of us in the media industry, they do hold a lot of truth, especially when you add advertising revenue into the mix.

Retention is something audience development professionals talk a lot about. But the real question is, do we put our time and money where our mouths are?

There are four key areas of retention that every audience executive should address (but not be limited to). Think of these steps as ...

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6 ways to start a marketing campaign with a successful end in mind

10 July 2014 · by Scott Stines

There is no shortage of intellect, creativity, and effort when it comes to developing marketing and communications strategies and tactics.

This includes evaluating alternative strategies, analysing target audiences, and assessing creative execution across all communications and sales channels.

While so much effort is expended “up front,” the final steps in the sales transaction are often overlooked or neglected. The “last three feet” of the marketing and sales process is essential to having your brilliant strategy and killer creative pay off.

That is why it is important to start with the end in mind when crafting your marketing and sales campaigns.

The history of missteps at the “last three feet” of campaigns is too long to recount. Whether it is the direct mail piece that asks respondents to mail back a card (no envelope) with their credit card information exposed to everyone in the mail stream, the incorrect toll-free number, or the non-secure online form collecting credit card payment information, the result is the same – failure.

Successful marketing and sales campaigns require ...

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4 ways to help local small businesses with their mobile strategy

17 June 2014 · by Lon Haenel

Quick: When you woke up this morning, where was your mobile phone? If you’re like most, you’d measure that distance in inches, not feet.

Mobile has become a driving force. Consumers don’t create a lot of separation between themselves and their smarthphones. The mobile revolution is here.

Mobile has become a constant in our lives. As a medium, it reaches us during all phases of life. In some cases, it drowns out other media:

  • Nearly 6 out of 10 people have used a mobile device while driving.

  • 3 out of 10 go mobile during dinner, during school functions, or in a movie theater.

  • 19% report mobile usage while in church.

  • 9% have reported they’ve used a mobile device during sex.

Mobile has created a medium that’s more engaging than prime time.

Did you know that the mobile phone in your pocket has more computing power than all of NASA in 1969? As marketers, we’ve never had more power to...

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Big Data highlights media industry’s quandary: need to earn profit while respecting privacy

12 June 2014 · by Scott Stines

Next week, when the postal mail arrives, sort out personal letters (remember those?) and bills, and place everything else in a stack to review at the end of the week. When your week of collecting postal mail ends, take a hard look at what you’ve received.

Sort your postal mail into two piles:

  1. Companies with which you’ve done business.

  2. Companies, political campaigns, and non-profits with which you have never done business or given money.

Pay attention to whom the mail was addressed: occupant, resident, and variations on your name, e.g. Stines Household, S. Stines, F. Stines, Scott St. Ines.

This exercise will begin to reveal the personal information that has been collected about you and how it is used by public and private companies, political parties, and non-profits to sell their products and services and raise money.

As someone who has paid a mortgage and sent children to college with the money earned from using information, I am both reluctant and eager to submit this article to’s Bottom-Line Marketing blog.

Reluctant, in that I know the more information we have on a target audience, the better we can target and the better the results, e.g. more profit, greater return on investment (ROI) for

 ... [more]

Sports contests bring in revenue, data, readers for regional media company

28 May 2014 · by Phil Schroder

Readers love to enter contests and sweepstakes. The key to getting them to participate is to make it easy, or fun, or — even better — both.

Contests can run for just a few days or last for months. But according to an infographic from Kontest, the best duration for your campaign is 25 days or 60 days.

Kontest also recommends using several channels to boost a promotions performance. This is great news for most publishers, as we can promote through print, on our desktop and mobile sites, through our social media pages, and using e-mail blasts.  

There can be a number of reasons why a publisher might run a contest:

  • To increase opt-in email database.

  • To build social media following, i.e. increase Facebook fan page likes.

  • To obtain answers to survey questions.

  • To retain current readers/subscribers.

  • To acquire new readers/subscribers.

We do contests frequently at The News Tribune and The Olympian. Here are a few that have worked well for us, and each has been run with a different goal in mind.

Facebook Seahawks tickets giveaway: When the Seahawks, our local American professional football team, was in the playoffs earlier this year, we were able to ...

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5 ways to turn Facebook lemons into lemonade

21 May 2014 · by Lon Haenel

The world somehow survived recent Facebook changes. We’re doing fine, thank you very much.

Hundreds of millions seemingly become more dependent on Facebook each day. The smallest changes from the social media giant send ripples across the social universe. If Facebook changed the way we communicate, and now Facebook is changing again, how much damage did it create?

According to Facebook, delivering relevant content in a way that won’t be missed by Facebook users is the goal. This was explained in a blog post by Facebook. The objective is to remove content that is “gamed” in the news feed to gain more distribution than it normally would. Facebook engineers went to work to scrub three major areas aimed at reducing news feed spam.

I saw the early accusations against Facebook. The company claimed that just 6% of a business’ page feed would appear on followers news feeds. “How dare they?” and “Facebook should be free!” angrily rang out.

This behaviour, coupled with Facebook’s rising ad revenue, would have social media critics ...

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Stay sane — and profitable — by shaking up the status quo with your subscriber acquisition strategy

07 May 2014 · by Phil Schroder

While perhaps a cliche, this phrase does ring true: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In light of that definition, why would a publisher that continues to lose audience year after year operate the same way? But many publishers do still conduct business in much the same way they have for years, “hoping” each year brings better results than the last.

That’s not our plan, and that’s not what we are doing at The News Tribune and The Olympian this year.

I mentioned briefly some programmes we have started this year in an earlier post, “News Tribune looks beyond print to grow audience, revenue with 5 building blocks,” but I wanted to delve into these a bit further and share some other growth ideas, as well.

  • Variable, single-copy insert marketing: Every week, we insert a promotional subscription offer into single-copy newspapers. We do this on a rotation basis, with a different piece going in each day of the week. Over the course of a month, a purchaser would see a different piece each week they purchase the same day’s newspaper. For instance, every Sunday in a month we insert a different looking piece.

    The strategy behind this approach is two-fold. First, it allows us to reach the audience with different types of art, but with the same price point on every piece. This allows us to measure performance without having to figure price elasticity into the equation. Second, we are able to move a piece out of rotation if it has a high cost per order, and replace it with something that might do better.

    We have been doing this for several months now and wanted to share a little glimpse of our results.

    We have one piece that is bringing us a cost per order of less than US$5, but another piece that is costing around US$32 per order. Next month, we will be swapping out the US$32 piece for a new one that should produce a better return on investment (ROI). 

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Coupon clippers still a force to be reckoned with

15 April 2014 · by Phil Schroder

The first coupon appeared more than 125 years ago when Coca-Cola issued coupons for a free glass of Coke. Coupons also have been a part of the Sunday newspaper for years.

The first co-op, free-standing insert for coupons was introduced more than 40 years ago in August 1972 by George Valassis.

The original coupon inserts were called “flag-wavers,” because “the coupons were separated along the side and waved freely like flags.”  

As a child, I can remember my mother clipping coupons from the Sunday newspaper, and then I would help her sort them as we shopped at the supermarket. We normally had one of each coupon, and maybe used three or four in each shopping trip.

In recent years, couponing has changed dramatically from what it was when I was growing up. Television shows such as The Learning Channel’s “Extreme Couponing” gave rise to a new breed of couponers, who use tens to hundreds of coupons in a single shopping trip.

Publishers were quickly caught up in the wake.

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Marketing Columbus Dispatch’s “brand essence” delivers data-driven, measurable audience results

06 April 2014 · by Scott Stines

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  

After taking an objective look at its operation, a 142-year-old media company in North America opted for sanity by deciding not only to change its product, but how it serves the needs of consumers in its market.

The company’s data-driven changes have delivered measurable results, including increases in voluntary starts, younger subscribers, and fewer subscription stops.

As I visit news media companies and attend industry conferences, I’m always asked, “Who is doing ‘it’ the best?” Whether “it” is branding, circulation sales, or e-marketing, news media companies have an unquenchable thirst for successful ideas, products, and practices. This is what INMA is all about – sharing ideas and inspiring change.

When I received an e-mail about the Columbus Dispatch’s 38% increase in year-over-year voluntary starts, 46% increase in younger (younger than 50) subscribers, 7% more total starts, and 16% fewer stops, I decided to reach out.

I asked Phil Pikelny, the company’s vice president and chief marketing officer, what was driving these positive results. Phil was kind enough to share the story of how the company is transforming itself to better meet the needs of consumers and advertisers in its local market.

“It’s numbers-driven,” Pikelny said. “We started back in 2009, working with Mather Economics and pricing our newspaper like airlines price seats on a plane.”

Between 2009 and 2010, the company doubled the price of its The Columbus Dispatch. The price increase resulted in some losses in circulation – “mid-single digits,” according to Pikelny.

But the important question was, “Who are these individuals who value what we do and are willing to pay twice as much for the newspaper?”

Additional research identified distinct audience segments and revealed the segment of “traditional newspaper readers” was not growing. It also revealed that another segment, aptly named “stubborn seniors,” had been priced out of the newspaper.

 ... [more]

About this blog

The “Bottom-Line Marketing” blog aims to bring together the principles behind marketing with the real-world experiences of newspapers transitioning to newsmedia companies. Our bloggers are some of the leading marketers at the world’s leading newsmedia companies today, most with experiences with packaged goods and brands such as McDonald's and Disney. They will aim to show how marketing – often under-utilised in the news industry – improves the bottom line (even a baby's bottom).

Meet the bloggers

Lon Haenel
Vice President
Digital Media & Circulation
The Gazette
Janesville, Wisconsin, USA
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Bob Provost
Director of Marketing
The Star-Ledger
Newark, USA
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Phil Schroder
Vice President of Audience Development
News Tribune
Tacoma, Washington, USA
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Scott Stines
Cedar Rapids, USA
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