Full disclosure: I am a Gen Xer.
In the United States, Generation X (Gen X) refers to people born roughly between 1965 and 1984, who are now between 30 and 50 years old. It is a relatively small generation compared to and sandwiched between the baby boomers and the millennials.
Despite its size, Gen X is the quiet, driving force behind much of the creative disruption of how media is consumed.
Gen X came along at a wonderful time for media. As kids, they had newspapers in their homes, but they grew up and came of age during the most rapid advance of media technology in history. They watched colour cartoons every Saturday morning. They were the first kids to be able to tape shows and watch later without commercials.
Gen Xers were early adopters of portable music. They moved the video arcade to the living room. They ushered in the beginning of 24-hour news coverage and watched reality television before anyone else. They were early visitors to the very first HTML Web pages.
The boomers lit the torch, and Gen X ran with it.
The unique nature of this transitional audience presents some wonderful opportunities for newspapers.
Gen X understands the tradition and integrity of the local printed newspaper, but embraces technology of all sorts. In fact, Gen Xers want to get information in multiple ways rather than on just one device or another. Like their millennial children, they have a thirst for information and want it at their fingertips at all times....[more]
26 February 2014 · By Anne Crassweller
I joined a band four weeks ago. I have never played a wind instrument before – unless the recorder counts.
The New Horizons Band is sponsored and run by Long & McQuade, a family-owned music store in Canada. The store started out with a single location, near a subway station in a “mixed” neighbourhood in west Toronto. The company now has many locations across Canada. Among other things, they supply most – if not all – of the instruments children rent in Toronto to play in their school bands. That is how I came to know them.
We have been loyal customers since we rented our first trumpet 25 years ago. Since then, my family has rented and bought many instruments, music, and paraphernalia at Long and McQuade. On a quiet weekend, my son, who lives around the corner from the flagship store, will walk over and rent an acoustic guitar and amplifier for about C$15 – sympathies to the neighbours! He still plays a couple of other instruments.
My very new and wonderful band experience got me thinking about how to connect and build your customer base in a competitive marketplace....[more]
18 February 2014 · By Jim Fleigner
When it comes to subscriber acquisition, most analysis done by media companies reviews historical performance, but does not offer any concrete insights about how to improve that performance.
It is not enough to simply highlight flaws and mistakes.
Optimisation of subscriber acquisition strategies must provide a blueprint – explicit, quantifiable guidance on starts that can be improved so that each start reaches sufficiency (i.e., a start’s projected lifetime net margin exceeds its expense to acquire the start).
One tool to accomplish this is a set of break-even curves. As seen in the chart, every start (or segment of starts) has a historical level of weekly net margin and retention performance, which is represented by the location of the gold star.
In this case, seven-day starts with a three-month term from the Crew channel incurred an acquisition cost of US$97.57. Those starts were retained for 14.4 weeks (on average) and generated a net margin (circulation revenue, preprint revenue, newsprint and ink expense, delivery expense, etc.) per week of US$2.32.
Collectively, these starts generated an average rate of return of -93%, which means the projected lifetime net margin fell substantially short of the acquisition expense incurred to generate the starts.
The location of this gold star is then compared to the black curve, which represents the various combinations of weekly net margin and retention that will allow that start to reach sufficiency (i.e., a rate of return of 0%) at the current cost per start (i.e., US$97.57).
Thus, the goal of a blueprint is to explain exactly how much performance must improve along each of the three drivers of rate of return (cost per start, weekly net margin, and weeks retained) to migrate the gold star to the black curve, and then eventually exceed it (i.e., generate a lifetime surplus in excess of its acquisition expense, which should be the sustainable long-term goal.)...[more]
06 February 2014 · By Jeff Clark and Siobhan Vinish
After realising its high-quality audience spans across all four major platforms of print, desktop, tablet, and mobile, Postmedia adopted an audience-based approach to selling its inventory.
The online audience is swiftly moving to mobile; in fact, one could say the audience already has moved. In order to capitalise on this reality, publishers should extend desktop campaigns onto mobile and follow their consumers, taking a more audience-based approach to selling.
Here are five reasons publishers should move to a platform-agnostic approach to selling inventory.
- Scale/availability of inventory: The sheer volume of mobile inventory available to publishers today makes it an obvious reason to move to an audience-based selling approach. For many top publishers, inventory availability for desktop impressions in such key channels as auto and finance is extremely limited. Extending desktop campaigns to mobile will allow more campaigns to be sold and more revenue generated.
- NASCAR effect: A lot of desktop Web sites have the “NASCAR effect,” named for the way National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing vehicles are covered with corporate sponsor logos. These sites attempt to torque the product to get as many advertisements as possible on a page, in order to increase inventory.
When dealing with mobile devices, there is a lot less real estate than a desktop Web site and, therefore, you are limited in the amount of ads you can display. Although this could be a bad thing, in terms of the amount of available inventory in the future, for now it is a good thing for publishers and advertisers alike.
Typically, on mobile pages there is only one ad and, in many instances, it is in a fixed position at the bottom of the screen. When only one ad is showing, advertisers don’t need to worry about the so-called “NASCAR effect.” The result should be better campaign performance for advertisers and repeat business for publishers.
26 January 2014 · By Elisabeth Clark
So, I’m still humming “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”
A month later, the song is still stuck in my head. As it happens, over the holidays, we went to see the film, Saving Mr. Banks. This is the story about how Walt Disney convinced the author of Mary Poppins to sell him the rights to the story so he could create the classic 1964 film.
The Disney movie reminded me of one of my first trips to Walt Disney World. I remember my parents taking me to the Carousel of Progress and telling me it debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair. Hmmm. There’s 1964 again!
The Carousel showcased family life in several different eras, ending with the “World of Tomorrow” or what the vision of home life would be in the future.
Fast forward to 2014, and we are about to be living in a world of tomorrow that maybe even Disney couldn’t quite imagine. We have the video phones that Disney showcased, and many new and improved ways of communication between people across the planet.
But Disney never predicted our things would be communicating, too.
The viral video, “What does the fox say?” offers a clue.
This tongue-in-cheek video, which literally questions the sound a fox makes, went viral last September. But instead of imagining what the fox says, how about we imagine what your things could say about you.
In the not-so-distant future, devices like your coffee pot will begin communicating through the “Internet of things.” What would your coffee pot say about you? Google certainly wants to know what your coffee pot says....[more]
19 January 2014 · By Nadine Chevolleau
For more than 30 years, the Toronto Star, through our Newspaper in Education (NIE) programme and with donations from our subscribers, has subsidised the cost of newspaper subscriptions to schools in our delivery area.
In fact, even with vacation donations from subscribers, our annual expenses to operate our NIE programme have exceeded revenue from school subscriptions.
No one would argue against making newspaper subscriptions more affordable to schools. However, in a time when most newspapers are experiencing declines in revenue and readership, we had to take a serious look at how we ran our NIE programme and ask a tough question: Is this sustainable?
The answer was easy; taking a financial loss in NIE year over year was definitely not sustainable....[more]
16 January 2014 · By Sandy MacLeod
It’s hard to believe I have been associated with the INMA board now for more than five years. Where does time go?
I remember clearly Tom Ratkovich, who was an INMA board director at the time, buying me dinner at an INMA event and suggesting I consider joining the INMA board.
Tom’s a great salesman and so I agreed. Little did I know the INMA board is a working board and that I had signed up for more than I expected.
At the same time, though, I have gained more from the experience than I could have imagined. Over the years I’ve been involved with a number of boards, including those related to our industry, private companies, condominium associations, and more. All have been great experiences, as has been my time with INMA....[more]
26 December 2013 · By Elisabeth Clark
The evening unfolded something like this. Having both finished working later that planned, my husband and I decided to have dinner out rather that go home to try to figure it out.
You know the feeling, right? Long day. Just don’t want to deal with preparing a meal.
After the usual polite exchange of, “Where would you like to go?” amd “I don’t care, why don't you pick?” — you’ve all been there — we decided to expedite the meal by going to a local favourite buffet. Yes, a buffet. We’ve all been there, and we all feel the guilt, embarrassment, and shame.
Now, my husband is not a small guy and is nearly twice my size. That said, the buffet charges a flat rate, no matter how you might tip the scales. Even though we would each consume some similar items, some different items, the reality was that he would eat more that I would, or could.
That reality turned our dinner conversation to something that is on my mind every day lately.
Across the country, newspaper after newspaper has been implementing pay meters, paywalls, and even survey walls to make readers pay to get to the content. But this tactic is just a brief interlude while publishers try to figure out how to make money in the digital arena.
Digital advertising hasn’t taken us there yet, so now we are turning to our consumers.
Ultimately, the current version of pay meters is going to fail. Why? Because it doesn’t take into account that consumers no longer want to buy the whole album.
In the iTunes-driven world, people want to buy only the snippet that is important to them. But newspapers insist on taking the entire album into the digital world, and it is not going to work in the long term.
We will be missing revenue opportunities from people who want only to snack on our content....[more]
15 December 2013 · By Lynne Brennen
Most newspaper executives have a vision, at least in theory, that takes them from a print enterprise to a transitionally bundled product set, and ultimately to a digital-only medium.
Technology, newsrooms, and advertising teams are shifting and re-tooling to ready for the transitions and, in most cases, newspapers are at least halfway there.
In contrast — and despite being responsible for a large portion of the revenue plan — marketing in many cases is still being handled with a circulation tool kit rather than with direct and digital marketing sophistication.
As an industry, our marketing skill set has not kept pace with our product ambitions.
Take a look at the diagrams. The two trajectories are purposefully lined up comparing product and marketing evolution.
- Before it leaves the print-only phase, a newspaper’s marketing skill set should develop beyond traditional circulation tactics.
High-churn channels and renewal-dependent offers, which might make economic sense when a newspaper on the doorstep was as important as a front door, should give way to direct marketing strategies where each acquisition and renewal touchpoint has a distinct profit and loss.
- In the “perfect” marketing evolution timing, circulation tactics would be replaced by early digital marketing capabilities before the digital product transition even began.
08 December 2013 · By Dan Johnson
As a follow-up to my last blog post, “Don’t assume “greatest generation” will support print at all costs,” I had planned to write about Gen X and how that generation more than any other has contributed to the creative disruption of the newspaper industry (and perhaps all media).
I’ll save that topic for later, though, as this time of year my thoughts are on a different audience: an audience that still remains fiercely loyal to the printed newspaper in the absence of any alternative.
I’ll bet your local newspaper, like mine, was chock-full of retail inserts this past Thanksgiving (if you live in the United States) and that your Sunday newspaper will be huge for the next couple of weeks.
My local newspaper had more than 50 inserts in the Thanksgiving edition this year. While that’s down from the year before, it still represents some of the biggest preprint numbers that paper has ever seen in a single edition.
In recent years, single-copy sales have remained steady on Thanksgiving Day, despite significant declines on just about every other day of the year. Consumers who value coupons and use store circulars to comparison-shop continue to be one of the most loyal print readership audiences left.
In a 2012 Ideas Magazine article, “2017: What media shifts in the next five years mean for newspapers,” Shawn Riegsecker, founder and CEO of Centro Marketing, predicted that by 2017: “National dailies still breathe, but weekly newspapers thrive. For printed metro and national dailies, an implosion of advertising preprints in 2014 or so will devastate their revenues.”
Riegsecker said newspapers would lose 30% of the preprint revenue the first year, and the decline would continue in subsequent years. If that prediction were to come true, Thanksgiving 2013 could be the last of the big pre-print newspapers.
So far, though, I haven’t really seen anything that will cause the collapse of printed inserts in the next 12 months. But I do believe advertisers are looking for alternatives that better enable them to target customers. I also believe they will abandon printed circulars if there ever is a viable alternative.
Newspapers absolutely must be at the forefront of this innovation or plan to lose this revenue for good.
As someone who has managed both advertising and circulation for newspapers, I know firsthand the importance of pre-prints as a connection between advertiser and consumer.
The fact that advertisers would welcome a different means of reaching customers hit home a couple of years ago when I was sitting in the offices of a local grocer, trying to keep him from making a drastic cut to his distribution.
The reasons for the cuts were primarily financial (he was forced to cut back on his overall marketing budget), and we ended up in a discussion about the effectiveness of pre-print advertising.
The grocery executive felt he had no choice but to continue to do free-standing inserts, but made it clear he would gladly consider a less costly alternative to pre-prints. He rightly pointed out he was delivering inserts to entire zip codes in which only a handful of people would shop at his store....[more]