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Books, sports merchandise offer compelling e-commerce opportunities

By Phil Schroder

McClatchy

Sacramento, California, USA

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Local media companies have a distinct advantage to maximise e-commerce opportunities in their markets because they have access to exclusive local content and a large pool of consumer data. However, too few actually take advantage of these resources and are missing out on an important revenue channel.

A few years ago, when I worked for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washingon, I wrote a blog post about how we maximised sales of books and merchandise around a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win. We have been able to continue this success around other championship wins and events. Below, I am going to detail a few that we have taken advantage of here at McClatchy.

A hardcover book about Patrick Mahomes has sold more than 45,000 copies.
A hardcover book about Patrick Mahomes has sold more than 45,000 copies.

Newspaper sales

While the sale of print newspapers may be declining around the world, when there is a large event or celebration, human beings still love to have a printed newspaper to commemorate that event. We saw that firsthand in our Kansas City market over the last few years when the Kansas City Chiefs were in the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl.

With the rise of easy-to-stand-up e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce, and others, it has become simpler than ever to sell our products to consumers. These sites also have a myriad of plugins that allow you to make payments, marketing, and fulfillment cost effective and simple.

There are several key learnings from the multiple times that we have run newspaper sales through our e-commerce channels.

  1. Make sure you print enough copies to sell at the store. We never had enough and during the Super Bowl win, we went back to press twice to print more newspapers just for our store.
  2. Have a fulfillment partner. Our first year, we tried to fulfill on our own and it was a mistake. It took weeks to fulfill some orders, which led to customer service challenges. After that, we partnered with a fulfillment vendor that happened to have a warehouse a couple of miles from our plant. Most of these partners will have software that integrates with e-commerce systems to make the process almost seamless.

Books

Books for special events are also very popular and sell very well. In the last few years, we have published at least 10 books across our markets with our publishing partner. These books have ranged from historical anthologies on the local market to sports celebrations. Two unique books that we have done were both successful but in completely different ways.

For one book, we solicited readers for their favourite recipes for a special section we were producing around the holidays. However, we got so many recipes that we decide to publish a book of these. Our book publisher said the best cookbook it had ever sold hit about 1,000 copies. Our book, called Tastes Across the States, ended up selling more than 6,000 copies and is still for sale today.

Our most successful book to date was a partnership with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. A portion of the proceeds from each book sale went to his community foundation. We also partnered with a large regional grocery store to sell the books in their more than 250 locations in the Midwest. This book, Patrick Mahomes: The Rise of a Champion, sold more than 45,000 copies and is still on the market today.

The key to these books is a strong collaboration between the newsroom, the book publisher, and the marketing team. We have been able to keep this relationship strong by showing previous successes and making the process as easy as possible for the newsroom.

Other products

We also have seen success in our online stores by selling third-party products. As mentioned earlier, the e-commerce vendors will have plugins that can make this process easier as well.

Some of the third-party products we sold were actually integrated with some of these partners such as Printify, Printful, and Jondo. We also partnered with other third parties to produce specialty products. These ranged from premium-framed newspaper front pages to totes with the image of the newspaper on them. Another popular partner with big sporting events is the Highland Mint. It is the official NFL partner and produces the coin flipped at the Super Bowl.

There are many other ways to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities that we haven’t fully taken advantage of yet. Fanatics.com is one of the largest online retailers of sports clothing and memorabilia. It has an excellent affiliate marketing programme for publisher integration, either to advertise products or stock them in their own e-commerce platforms. There is a lot of potential for a publisher that is willing to go all in with programmes like this to generate incremental revenue with little effort.

Whatever path you decide to take, be sure to keep e-commerce in mind as an alternate source of revenue. While it may take some work to get a program like this going, if it is set up correctly, it can really function in the background and generate needed incremental revenue while we continue to focus on our core revenue streams.

About Phil Schroder

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