In his May blog posting, Sandy MacLeod wrote about the successful Royal Wedding campaign at the Toronto Star which generated substantial incremental revenues in both advertising and single copy.

This innovative approach to revenue generation has been permeating our marketing group lately and causing everyone to think (excuse the cliché) “outside the box” when it comes to ways of generating Mo’ Money.

This way of thinking was the catalyst for a new activity book developed by our direct marketing team titled: “Do You See a Money Tree?”

Like many newspapers, we offer curriculum-based teaching resources to educators through our Newspaper In Education (NIE) programme. And like many newspapers, we offer these resources only to educators.

The “A-ha!” — or as I like to say, “Duh!” — moment came to us when a colleague commented that someone in his family was taking a life-skills course that included financial management.

“Why don’t we develop a financial learning resource for kids and market it directly to parents?,” he asked. “We have so much experience developing these programmes for teachers, let’s do something that targets families directly!”

So that’s what we did. The first step was to do the math, and the math was good. We estimated a high, medium, and low net revenue potential between C$40,000 to C$170,000.

The use of promo space in-newspaper and on thestar.com made the upfront marketing investment for this initiative relatively low. We hired an educator to write a fun and interactive activity book on the topic of money management for kids, and used our internal creative team to develop some eye-catching promotional material targeted to parents. The order processing was handled on our syndicate Web site.

Our initial vision was to generate revenue from the sale of the activity book, which retails for C$8.99 plus tax, shipping and handling. But as we worked on the marketing plan, more ideas to generate revenue took form:

  1. Sell an ad in the activity book, plus include an advertiser’s logo and URL on all the promo ads.

  2. Offer the programme to other newspapers as a turnkey campaign for their market.

  3. Launch an NIE programme targeted to teachers and students for the 2011-12 school year.

We are three weeks into our launch, and so far we’ve had a very positive response to our press release. Several influential parenting bloggers have agreed to promote “Do You See a Money Tree?” on their Web sites by doing a giveaway contest to their followers. We’ve had requests for bulk orders come in from financial institutions from Toronto to Edmonton.

So what’s next?

We will be offering the turnkey package to other newspapers in the near future. The revenue potential for newspapers will vary based on the size of their market. But here’s an example of the potential revenue: if a newspaper sold 2,500 activity books at C$8.99 each, the revenue from the sale of the guide alone would be over C$22,000. That doesn’t even include the revenue they could generate from an advertising/promotional partner or through an NIE programme.

In August, we will be selling the activity book as a combo-buy with our direct-mail subscription sales, which will be targeted to families with kids.

This campaign is a great example of a fresh approach to an old way of doing things. It’s already got us thinking about what’s next on the revenue generation front.

It’s a challenging but exciting time to be in the media business.