U-T San Diego invests in innovation, generates cross-channel ad revenues

By Peter G. Marsh

When I was an ice hockey coach (okay, assistant coach), I always told my players, “Keep moving your feet.” This directive is shouted daily in ice rinks at all ranks — from those for junior skaters to professional levels. 

Today, the same instruction is as valid for news media teams as it is for hockey teams. We must keep moving, because we simply can’t afford to stand still.

There are three main reasons hockey players are implored to continually keep their feet in motion:

  1. Because it is harder to get moving again once you’ve come to a stop.

  2. Because it is more difficult for your opponent to hit you if you’re constantly moving.

  3. Because if you stop moving your feet, the goalie will know that you’re about to take a shot.

As a work colleague and semi-pro hockey coach once told me: “Once the feet stop, the momentum stops. This prevents getting to loose pucks and stopping opposition players. When you stand still, the opposition can gain position and advantage on you. Offense is all about finding and creating space, and you have to keep moving to do that.

“Defense is just the opposite. You want to close gaps and take away space. Without momentum, it’s hard to do.”

The metaphor to the media business leaps up like a rising slap shot to the corner of the net. (I know, that’s actually a simile.) The point is, you’ve got to keep moving your feet in our business to maintain momentum, to stay ahead of the competition, and to achieve our strategic goals.

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about “The Law of the Big Mo” and harnessing the power of momentum. Sometimes in business, momentum is the only difference between winning and losing.

As Maxwell says, “Momentum is easier to steer than to start. Getting started is a struggle. But once you’re moving forward, you can really start to do some amazing things.”

Sounds exactly like hockey talk to me.

An excellent example of a media company that put this principle into practice is the U-T San Diego in California.

In 2012, the company changed its name to (from Union-Tribune to U-T San Diego) with the mission “to put San Diego First in everything we do.”

Already a market leader, U-T San Diego was not content to stand still. Instead, the company embarked upon an aggressive and innovative strategy to “enhance our multi-media products and services, while upholding the highest standards of journalistic quality and integrity.”

In late 2012, U-T San Diego invested nearly US$3 million in building a TV station in its editorial department and adding dedicated broadcast staff members to its newsroom. Less than one year later, U-T TV became San Diego’s only all-day, all-local, all-platform live news station.

Today, U-T TV leverages the content and expertise of more than 160 newsroom content providers and journalists to deliver the most credible, in-depth, and complete coverage of the San Diego experience.

But, the company did not stop there.

The U-T San Diego executive team challenged its IT leaders to build a solution for selling, scheduling, and producing ads on the U-T TV station. With a deadline of 90 days to complete this project, the team decided to extend its existing print and online ad platform to include TV broadcast advertising.

In July 2012, the system went live with 521 paid ad spots for U-T TV. Ad volumes steadily increased during the first year of live operation, and in July 2013, a total of 14,496 ad spots were produced on the U-T San Diego system.

This impressive growth represents a 30-fold increase in U-T TV advertising over a one-year period. Best of all, it is estimated that more than 90% of the ad spots for U-T TV are sold in combination with online, print, or pre-print advertising.

These packaged sales help U-T San Diego generate new cross-channel ad revenues, while also reinforcing the U-T brand as a true one-stop-shop for its advertisers.

For U-T San Diego, the momentum to expand into television translated into brand new broadcast ad revenues and increased print/digital combo sales. In addition, by continuing to think creatively and push the boundaries of its existing systems, the company was able to stay ahead of its local broadcast competition. 

Having momentum is important in business because it pushes us to think on our feet, to be more productive, and to make better decisions. Hockey shifts are only 45 seconds long, so players must make an impact every time their skates hit the ice.

In the news media industry, we need to take the same approach. By maintaining forward progress, we are able to add value every day. If everyone comes to work with this feet-moving philosophy, we become an elite team, rather than a team of elites. And, this benefits our teammates and our customers. 

Whether we’re talking about developing software, creating great content, or building a multi-channel media strategy, it always starts by getting our feet moving and keeping them in motion. Just like in hockey, achieving momentum in business is all about:

  1. Creating and executing a game plan.

  2. Seizing opportunities to score.

  3. Responding to competitive pressures.

  4.  Always focusing on teamwork.

It’s Newton’s law. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. So, let’s get moving and keep on moving until we hear the whistle blow — or even better — until the puck ends up in our opponents’ net.

About Peter G. Marsh

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