4 single-copy opportunities for publishers


Single copy is one of my favourite parts of the job.

One of my first jobs coming up in the business was with Gannett as a single-copy manager. It was a new experience for me, having come from the home delivery side of the industry, but I loved it from day one.

There is something new with single copy every day, and the product sales are directly driven by marketing and positioning of the product.

An article I read last week made me cringe with this line: “The decline in single-copy sales is far outpacing that of subscriptions.” The article went on to mention large single-copy sales drops in key markets across the country.

I think this is a trend that publishers need to reverse. With the decline of home delivery at many newspapers, we should be promoting our store and rack sales even more to grab that occasional print buyer.

Dan Johnson, a fellow INMA blogger, wrote a recent post on single-copy sales innovations, and I want to expand on that some more.

1. Print meets digital: RedPost is one of the most innovative pieces of single-copy technology that has come about in the history of newspapers. This hybrid rack not only services the print readers with a smart-looking display, but also serves as a marketing tool for the newspaper itself.

Not only does it allow the newspaper to market the product with its vertical display unit, the space can be sold to advertisers and features real-time tweets and breaking news.

To quantify results for advertisers, “its software detects signals given off most mobile phones to measure foot traffic and how many of those shoppers are likely to see the RedPost’s screens.” 

Kerry Oslund, senior vice president of publishing and emerging media with Schurz Communications and co-creator of the RedPost display, says this: “These are rack cards on real-time steroids, triggering impulse purchasing by visually showcasing what’s inside the paper – the good hyper-local stuff, including deals, bargains, and coupons that never make it above the fold on page one."

The racks have caught the eye of locals in the market, as evidenced by this local television news report.

The displays were first launched in Schurz Communications’ markets, but RedPost has recently partnered with Desert News in Utah.

Clark Gilbert, CEO of the Deseret News Publishing Company and Deseret Digital Media, says that “newspaper leaders today are looking for ways to transform both the traditional newspaper business and the emerging digital business. RedPost provides us a way to re-energise our traditional newspaper sales while also strengthening our overall brand in the market. We are just piloting the solution now, but are optimistic.”

2. Free billboards: News racks should also not be overlooked. While many newspapers have cut their number of racks on the street by half, or in some cases pulled them entirely, this may not be the best option to enhance the newspapers’ brand.

These racks are miniature billboards that would cost thousands a month to get the exposure we get every day out of them. Of course, to make these the most effective as a marketing tool, the racks do need to look good. It does not do your brand any good to have old dilapidated racks on the street, or it portrays a perception that our brand is old and tired.

At The News Tribune and The Olympian, we had a photographer shoot key landmarks around the region that would have significance to our readers. We then added our logos to these photos and produced full-color side panel decals for the racks.

Our total cost of repainting the rack and adding these decals was around US$110 per rack, and it makes the rack look great on the street.

Not only does it look sharp, it also localises our brand and shows that we are a part of the community.

3. Beacon technology. Beacons have been around for a while, but they are becoming more and more mainstream. Publishers need to invest in this technology quickly to gather intelligence on their audiences and push content to the audiences where they are.

This can be used in many ways, but a key strategy would be to have a beacon on every rack that you have on the street. When a potential buyer passes near the rack, the publisher can push a message about the content in that day’s newspaper, or a promotional message about the Sunday inserts and coupons.

The uses for these beacons expand so much further than just this, but that can be a great beginning.

4. Digital single copy: With the new iPhone 6 containing NFC technology and Apple Pay coming to a retailer near you, it will be just a matter of time until a publisher finds its way into this space.

MCX, one of the largest tap-to-pay providers in the nation, already has a network of more than 110,000 stores. Add Apple Pay to that mix, and NFC-capable point-of-purchase will become a standard in every retail store.

Imagine walking into Starbucks, buying your favourite drink, and tapping your phone on the picture of the digital display of the newspaper’s front page that you want to read that day. You are given immediate access to that day’s edition, and now the publisher has captured information about its audience in ways it never could before.

While some newspapers across the country may be letting single-copy sales fall by the wayside, this is a critical piece of our business that we cannot give up. There is a future in single copy if we embrace change as we have on the home delivery side of the business.

We have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of locations every day, and need to develop products that will continue to bridge the divide between the print and digital world.

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