Dallas Morning News encourages innovation by funding employee ideas

In an effort to encourage problem solving and innovations at every level of the organisation, The Dallas Morning News initiated an “Innovative Idea Share” programme that encourages employees to identify revenue-generating opportunities. 

Employees are encouraged to share innovative ideas with management council members at the council’s quarterly meeting. If our ideas are approved — and they produce revenue for the company — the person initiating the idea can earn up to US$25,000 in incentives, depending on how much revenue the idea generates.

This has been very popular internally at The Dallas Morning News and gives employees a voice and a platform to share ideas with the executive branch of the company. 

Here are the stories of two winning ideas: 

E-books special sections

Nicole Young, special projects manager in the marketing department at The Dallas Morning News, came up with the idea of creating E-books for special sections and for the news media company’s custom publishing customers.

Previously, special sections were housed in the shopping section of the newspaper’s Web site. The placement of online special sections there was not intuitive, buried behind three clicks, and difficult to find, Young wrote in her presentation.

“Advertisers should be given access to a free, digital version of the publication that they advertise in print, but the current location on our site is less than desirable and difficult to monetise,” she continued.

Young suggested using existing content to create an E-book for each special section and custom publication.

By offering an E-book to each special section advertiser for a minimal fee, The Dallas Morning News could gain efficiencies by allowing shared cost for creating special section E-books among all advertisers.

In addition, the news media company could offer the advertiser user-friendly access to the special sections. Previously, custom publications were not posted on the newspaper’s Web site.

The Dallas Morning News had 25 special sections scheduled for 2012, averaging between eight and 16 pages each. Here is how Young broke down the revenue opportunities for her concept:

  • 12 pages multiplied by US$200 per page equals US$2,400 in additional revenue dollars per special section that could be incorporated in the overall cost equation. This would reflect in the rates generated. Multiplied by 25 publications, that’s US$60,000 annually.
  • At the time of Young’s pitch, five custom publications were in the pipeline for 2012. At US$2,400 per client for an E-book version of their publication, that’s US$12,000 annually. 
  • These total US$72,000 in new annual revenue for The Dallas Morning News, while also bringing clients a useful tool -- at very little cost.

The idea was successfully implemented. The Dallas Morning News moved its special sections and custom publications to a more trafficked area on dallasnews.com, as well as on its iPhone and iPad apps. Advertisers appreciated this value-added option.

Sports poster collectible series 

Three employees — Roland Crago (project manager/advertising), Chris Ball, and Kevin Noble (both sales and marketing consultants) — had an idea with the potential to generate US$340,000 this year: Create a collectible sports poster series, offering weekly posters for three to five players from each local sport included in a center spread in the Sunday SportsDay section.

Sports highlighted are: Dallas Stars (hockey), Texas Rangers (baseball), Dallas Cowboys (US football), Dallas Mavericks (basketball), FC Dallas (soccer), and possibly NASCAR (auto racing).

The left side of the page includes the SportsDay sports star while the right side includes a bio or promotion, featuring that week’s sponsors. The idea was to reach new customers with this must-have collectable poster.

Sponsor logos were included on stack cards and rack cards. Additionally, the posters were marketed with on-air mentions on The Ticket (a local sports talk radio station) and on posters handed out during and after games.

As of February, the idea had generated US$80,000. In addition:

  • Sponsors were thrilled with the extra coverage.
  • Partner, The Ticket, devoted radio time to featured players, increasing awareness.
  • Readers enthusiastically snatched up posters handed out at games.
  • And the SportsDay brand is prominently displayed in proper venues.

About Kelly E. Christensen

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