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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.

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6 ways to turn digital content into digital dollars

31 March 2014 · by Lon Haenel

Everybody loves a good story.

From primitive cave people, to first century scholars, to Renaissance thinkers, to modern day entertainers — much of our past is known today thanks to the story.

That got me thinking. If everybody loves a story so much, how can we do a better job using the story to sell more newspapers?

Content marketing — or modern day storytelling — has come of age. Why? It simply is effective.

Businesses have known for longer than the Internet has been around that no form of advertising is more powerful than the testimonial. A happy customer singing the praises of great service, a good deal, or just a straight-up great buying experience is a great way to sell your stuff.

Buyers demand great content. Put another way, content is king of the Internet.

A recent Act-On survey revealed why content marketing is so powerful. Of all buyers, 71% trust brands that provide relevant content without trying to sell something. In fact, buyers do their research. An startling 70% of consumers read four or more pieces of content before making a purchase decision.

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Finding and promoting the “sweet spot” for long-term ROI

23 March 2014 · by Scott Stines

Every marketer wants to maximise the return on their investment. But finding the right or best combination of tactics to maximise response and lower cost per transaction can be a challenge with limited time and resources.

The perfect mix of audience, channel, message, and response options – in other words, the “sweet spot” – of any campaign is also a moving target. Add to this the time, discipline, and costs required to test and measure results from varying tactics, and it is easy to understand why time and budget-strapped marketers might not have the luxury of knowing what works best; more often, they’re limited to what they can glean from short-term results.

I remember a trip to my parents’ home shortly after our daughter started walking. After we arrived, she immediately took off to explore her grandparents’ home, with her grandfather following close behind.

I listened from the kitchen as I heard my dad saying things like, “be careful,” “don’t touch,” and “no, no.”

After we corralled my daughter, I remember Dad asking the question, “Why does she (insert behaviour here)?” My answer was quite simple. I told him that my daughter likely didn’t know why she did what she did, so it was unrealistic to expect me to understand – let alone explain the motivation for her behaviour.

Marketers have been trying to predict and explain consumer behaviour for decades, if not centuries. It’s natural to want to know why something works – or doesn’t work. The challenge is most marketers believe they don’t have the time or resources to test and measure campaign variables to isolate the tactics that deliver the best results.

Aristotle wasn’t talking specifically about marketing when he said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” but his statement is an accurate assessment of marketing campaigns. Take, for instance, a direct response campaign in which success is measured in terms of the number of orders received.

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News Tribune looks beyond print to grow audience, revenue with 5 building blocks

18 March 2014 · by Phil Schroder

There are two main goals in every audience division: maximising revenue and growing audience.

Revenue can come in many different forms — subscriber rate increases, single copy pricing changes, and add-on or niche products. To grow audience, however, takes much more than just watching the home delivery and single-copy numbers shift week to week.

We also have to focus on unique visitors to our Web sites and engagement with our apps.

So how do we get the word out to grow this audience? Is there really any new marketing? We need to get back to the basics on all of our marketing efforts, and that really has been my focus over the last year at The News Tribune.

Below are five basic building blocks to construct a solid audience marketing approach.

1. Customer service: This is critical to growth, and responsiveness is really what our customers want. The key is that this needs to happen on all channels – on your Web site, links on apps, and social media.

Social media is playing an even bigger role in this. In fact, 31% of Twitter users who complain about a service issue to a company’s Twitter account expect a response within 30 minutes. according to TTA, a customer service consulting firm.

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Want more relevance and revenue? Start with your mobile audience

05 March 2014 · by Lon Haenel

Print is not dead. It might never die. That’s the good news.

As news organisations, to survive we must change. And so, newspaper might not always mean “news on paper.”

For more than 150 years, Industrial Age thinking led many to believe a mass-produced product must be good. It was great. There hadn’t been much competition, until lately.

Publishers could circulate a one-size-fits-all product. Advertisers would benefit by reaching an entire community. And the notion of targeted communication wouldn’t come along until some 100 years later.

Newspaper might not always mean “news” either.

It just so happens the content produced by great newsrooms across the globe happens to be, well, news. Thank the Internet for that. Content is the Internet’s most abundant resource. There’s lots of it; it’s easy to get to; it’s easy to find; and there are multiple way to consume it.

One of the greatest recent advances has been the mobile revolution. It’s not a trend, it’s an explosion. Much has changed over the last 150 years.

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Proactive customer service increases publisher revenues, subscriber retention

23 February 2014 · by Scott Stines

We live in a world where 24/7 self-service is the norm and customers can obtain “instant service” with the click of a mouse.

Even though customers have been empowered to “manage” their relationships with most businesses – including news media companies – there is still an opportunity for proactive customer service to not only delight customers, but provide news media companies with measurable financial benefits.

Below are several examples of proactive customer service delivering a win-win for customers and media organisations.

Anticipating delivery problems: In recent weeks, the southeast United States experienced a once-in-a-decade winter storm with ice, snow, and more ice, impacting travel as well as newspaper delivery. Weather forecasters provided advance notice of the storm, which helped keep people off the roads, but left newspaper circulation staffs across the region with the challenge of managing subscribers’ expectations.

Todd Benz, circulation director of The Times-News in Burlington, North Carolina, is originally from Wisconsin (no stranger to snow). He knew that facing a major snow and ice storm in a community without adequate snow removal equipment was going to present a challenge for newspaper delivery.

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Super Bowl brings super sales for News Tribune

16 February 2014 · by Phil Schroder


Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, this word means “extending beyond the usual or ordinary, especially in size or scope.”

That’s the word we used to describe the Seattle Seahawks’ National Football League championship in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

These last couple of weeks, our team at The News Tribune has been floating on air. We have not had a championship on this level in Seattle since 1979, when the Sonics won the National Basketball Association title. Most of us were not working at The News Tribune 35 years ago, and some weren’t even born.

So what did we do to make this one special? We spent a lot of time planning. The three weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, our team spent hours planning for different contingencies.

First, the Seahawks had to win the National Football Conference (NFC) championship, which they did in the final seconds, thanks to their stellar defense.

The next day, we sold about 3,500 more newspapers than on an average Monday, or a 67% increase. We were pleased with the sales, but then moved on to planning for the Super Bowl.

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6 tricks to grow your conference ROI

05 February 2014 · by Lon Haenel

Many parts of the world are knee-deep in snow, ice, and cold winter temperatures. If you’re like me, chances are you’re ready for the next season. Chirping birds, melting snow, and just a little bit of green will be a welcome sign of a warmer season.

On the business calendar, another season is showing signs of life, too. That’s the conference season. When the weather warms, many groups and trade associations plan annual sales, marketing, and media conferences.

Your conference planners put a year of work into attracting your industry in for a few days. Generally, the goal is to provide networking, education, and exposure to solutions for problems we commonly face.

This isn’t a sales pitch for any particular conference. Personally, I’ve attended dozens of conferences on topics ranging from circulation to advertising, from digital marketing to postal reform.

What I’d like to share, however, are six great ways to get more from your 2014 conferences.

It costs money to travel to conferences. Somebody is making an investment for you to attend. Hopefully, you or somebody in your organisation believes enough to make that investment.

So I’d like to share a few tips to be sure conferences in our industry continue. But more importantly, I want to increase your conference return on investment (ROI).

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Pint-sized vendor offers valuable sales reminder

30 January 2014 · by Scott Stines

The small table and sign went unnoticed the first dozen times I drove past.

Perhaps I was in a hurry or my brain had flipped to auto-pilot as I found myself in a familiar place just a couple blocks from home. 

After a couple of weeks, I finally noticed there would sometimes be people standing by the small table – a couple with their bikes parked on the sidewalk, a young woman stopping while walking her dog, a middle-aged man pausing during a run. 

It wasn’t until one warm weekend afternoon that I finally recognised what was going on. 

Traffic had backed up, and I found myself sitting in my car directly across from the table, waiting for the light ahead to change. There, sitting at the small table, was a young boy, no more than 10 years old. A sign hanging from the front of the table simply read, “Cold Drinks – 50 cents.”

I finally had noticed what is, in many regions of the United States, referred to as a neighborhood “Kool-Aid stand.”

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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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