Innovations, partnerships keep Dallas Morning News evolving with the times

By Dan Phelan

The past decade has witnessed a huge technological revolution that has forced every growing company to re-examine new consumer buying habits.

Since arriving at The Dallas Morning News in 2003, I have seen a dramatic evolution of this news organisation from a single newspaper with a digital platform (still in its infancy) to a true media company. 

And with any evolutionary process, things continue to change.

That is the truly compelling aspect of what we do. One of the most interesting and positive aspects of the change process within our company is that we have never taken the position of producing a product or programme with short-term implications.

The quality and consistency of our core newspaper has been the basis upon which we develop and launch new initiatives — or enter new partnerships. Consistency and long-term support are the keys to our most successful launches:

  • Al Día: Later this year will be the 10th anniversary of Al Día, which has consistently maintained its high standards of journalism. It’s a bi-weekly, home-delivered product that has been well received by both the community and advertisers, because it is valued for its relevant content.

  • Briefing: Additionally, this year will be our fifth anniversary for Briefing, a condensed version of The Dallas Morning News with a key focus on specific content for families that have time constraints. Even though Briefing was launched in the midst of the economic downturn with a four-day-per-week delivery to 200,000 households, it was still able to reach breakeven during its seventh month. Its growth has been remarkable.

  • Pay For Performance programme: This will be our third year of our Pay For Performance (PFP) programme. It is exactly as it sounds; clients pay us a pre-determined rate based on the performance of their ads. For neutrality purposes, our verification is managed through a third-party vendor. With margins that continue to increase, PFP is one of our latest successes in thinking differently.

  • Speakeasy: Speakeasy, our social media company, was developed in conjunction with a well-respected Dallas advertising agency. It has been a significant success and expectations are growing — even though it has not even reached its first birthday.

  • Non-industry partnerships: We now have more than 100 separate partnerships, business agreements, and affiliations with primarily pure-play digital organisations. That combined grouping has acted as an accelerant to our digital growth engine. We are smarter, faster, and better because of whom we chose to partner with.

  • Industry partnerships: In the past year, we have entered into partnerships with Hearst for its SMB digital product (Local Edge) and with the Media News Group for its Ad Taxi product. In both cases, we were the first media company outside of those organisations to participate.

  • Industry lessons learned: Soon, we’ll launch a call center that will be 100% focused on digital products. This was initiated after hearing how Deseret Digital Media developed its programme during the American Press Institute’s Transformation Tour last year. DDM has been more than willing to share its best practices with us.

    And in March, we had a conference call with The Times of India to discuss some of its innovations in advertising.     

Imagine these types of partnerships and information-sharing opportunities 10 (or five) years ago? 

With any evolutionary process, the path is not defined and the outcome is unknown. However, we have more control over the outcome through working together, sharing best practices, and never letting go of who we have always been — quality news organisations that deliver advertising to our consumers in a multitude of formats.

If you enjoy taking part in a business revolution, this is a good place to be.

About Dan Phelan

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