Dallas Morning News creates revenue-generating event marketing division

By Kelly E. Christensen

The Dallas Morning News has diversified its revenue sources since mid-2008, when we, as an organization, began to experience a significant decline in print ad revenue for the second consecutive year. 

We asked ourselves, “What if 2009 doesn’t improve?” So we set plans in motion that year to hedge against further decline in print ad revenue:

  • We launched Briefing, a 200,000 copy, four-day per week broadsheet newspaper of 12-24 pages, in September 2008, right before the U.S. stock market crash. 
  • We prepared to raise the home delivery price of the newspaper, which we implemented with an across-the-board, 40% increase in May 2009, right in the teeth of the burgeoning recession. 

  • We aggressively went after commercial printing and distribution, eventually winning both. We print and distribute The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Investor Business Daily. We already had the USAToday contract. 

Circulation revenue grew significantly in 2009 and 2010, and we saw it began to level off in 2011. We also noted that as our commercial printing and distribution customers lost circulation, revenues from this source decreased, since contracts were on a per-copy basis. So we considered what other sources of revenue we could build. 

One of the new businesses we focused on was event marketing, creating an event marketing division at The Dallas Morning News called CrowdSource.

CrowdSource, led by General Manager Alison Draper, is a revenue-generating event-marketing arm of The Dallas Morning News, that invests in creative partnerships to generate incremental revenue while engaging consumers with our brands. 

One example of how we accomplished this in 2012 was the creation of Walk to the Park, an event designed to celebrate a new downtown park in which we sponsor a Reading and Games Room. We leveraged a partnership with SpeakEasy, a social media company charged with creating awareness of Walk to the Park, and driving foot traffic to the event.

Walk to the Park also solved a particular issue in Dallas: people who work downtown hesitate to walk through the city during lunch hour. So Draper gathered together entertainment influencers and city officials, then hosted a kick-off meeting, resulting in collaborative partnering that executed the event within just 30 days. 

The event was a success: social media drove traffic to the event, readers pledged to walk to the park, and companies gave employees extended lunch hours to enjoy the events we hosted, including:

1. A marching band (hired to create a spectacle office workers could view from the buildings adjoining the new city park, attracting them to the event.

2. Concert performances from two local bands, The King Bucks and Larry G, promoting our entertainment section of dallasnews.com, GuideLive.

3. A visit with Search One Bloodhounds, the canines used in our subscriber retention campaign. (Search One rescues bloodhounds and then trains these rescued dogs to rescue humans after natural disasters.)

4. Food trucks to feed the 2,000+ crowd that attended.

Local investors became interested in the event.We are planning our next Walk to the Park in April to align with the city’s Green Day celebration, and we have lined up investors to monetise this as an annual event.

“We will continue to pursue a strategy that builds new sources of revenue off the foundation of our brand, our core competencies, and our infrastructure,” says Publisher/CEO Jim Moroney.

About Kelly E. Christensen

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