Passport to Gold 2010 web site
Passport to Gold 2010 web site

Moving from daily newspaper managing editor to strategist/writer for a marketing agency brought “Say what?” moments aplenty.

A first? A client wanted us to secure a “brought to you by” sponsorship package of the early local TV news segment – long before this was common practice.

Noting my lemon face my new boss later asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Sponsoring a news segment? I feel like I need to take a shower,” I said.

“Welcome to marketing. Everything’s for sale!” he deadpanned.

Fast-forward to today, working to market the content and services of a daily newspaper and news media company: Not everything is for sale (good) – but some things can be purchased (also good).

Let’s be clear. A marketer working for a news operation must understand and respect the journalistic mission of its news department, and know its limitations in working across departments.

That said, there are plenty of new ways to look at “paid content” across platforms.

But first, the web site firewall issue.

Our approach at The Spokesman-Review has always been a hybrid model, where print subscribers get free access regardless of frequency of delivery status. We also offer online-only subscriptions to the signature web site, as well as subscriptions to a newly-launched true e-edition (“The-e”), with nifty features like text-to-speech, translation into 11 languages and a searchable ad database.

Those who don’t pay for online still have access to breaking news, weather and, of course, ads and classified verticals. Premium (behind the firewall) content includes popular local columnists, local business analysis, and locally-reported stories on high-profile sports teams like the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Next up for us will be providing customers the ability to purchase a single story, a package of stories, or other items we may wish to sell. Our web developers are crafting a simple shopping cart that will ease this process and allow users to create profiles for future purchases. We already sell high-quality reprints of news and feature photographs, but will make this process easier and more readily apparent to web users.

Additionally, the web team is building a simple self-service online ad placement platform. By the end of Q1, a business owner will be able to build her own simple web display ad, select its placement and number of impressions, and pay for it via credit card.

But these are rather obvious examples of paid content and services. So, too, are full-service marketing agency-like services such as SEO coaching, paid speaker bureaus, loyalty clubs and other valuable ways to serve clients. We strive to find other ways to create useful, interesting, fun and even delightful content – and services – to market and sell.

A few examples:


  • Paid engagement/wedding announcements: We’ll launch a paid engagement/wedding announcement program in Q2. For a nominal fee, brides will receive a print announcement that will run on a brides page each week in-paper, plus a mini turn-key blog application on a bridal site, where she can blog, post engagement, wedding and other photos, and users can comment and interact with her. Traditional web ads will ring the page, and self-serve ad spots for smaller businesses (florists, limo drivers, etc.) will also be featured. We’ll also tie in promotion for our newly launched Spokesman-Review Pavilion rental program, where brides and others planning events can rent our lovely top-floor pavilion and outdoor rooftop area with city skyline views.
  • Fish Playing Poker: Recently an editorial staffer secured an original drawing of “Fish Playing Poker” for the cover of a fishing tab. He thought people might want to buy prints of it, and shared his idea with our sales and marketing director who immediately saw the value of the plan. In turn, he secured a licensing agreement with the artist and made the print (unframed and framed) available for purchase online. The next iteration of Fish Playing Poker will be a “click to purchase” T-shirt, sure to be a hit for Father’s Day gifts.
  • Passport to Gold 2010: Last month, our city hosted the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for the second time. It’s a huge civic event, drawing skating fans from near and far, and it generates lots of fantastic live coverage – and unique content. We paired with NBC affiliate KHQ-TV (owned by Cowles Company, which also owns The Spokesman-Review) to create a microsite called “Passport to Gold 2010,” with drivers from both of our signature web sites and plenty of in-paper and on-air promotion pushing users to it. Together our sales teams sold flat-rated sponsorship packages that included ads on the microsite, our main sites, in-paper and on television. Nowhere else could you find live and complete coverage, with local reporters, photojournalists and bloggers capturing the event with original content.

These are just a few ways to think differently about “what is content?”


Admittedly, they are fairly simple ideas.

But sometimes we must rediscover and appreciate the wealth of abundance our newspapers and news media companies offer in terms of content, smart people and creativity. Assess your media properties anew. The vast amount of information and “content” in every nook and cranny may delight you – and those who rely on your company to be a comprehensive provider of news, information and business solutions.