How Toronto Star is bringing in new revenue through NIE (yes, NIE)

By Nadine Chevolleau

The Toronto Star

Toronto, Canada


A year ago, I wrote a blog post for INMA about whether a regional news media company could have a national reach.

To refresh your memory, the answer was yes. I shared the results of a national school campaign we ran through our Newspapers in Education programme, which included promoting a Toronto Star-branded education resource to teachers. I told you about the positive response we had from schools across Canada that opted in to receive copies of this programme for their students.

Toronto Star distributed these student guides to more than 120,000 students across Canada.
Toronto Star distributed these student guides to more than 120,000 students across Canada.

The reason we wanted to know whether teachers outside our market would participate in our programme was to determine if we could actually deliver national exposure for corporate sponsors through NIE custom content campaigns. This test proved that we could, in fact, deliver.

Great! So what?

Having an engaged audience is great. But we knew from past experience that to make these initiatives profitable, we had to go the corporate sponsorship route and not rely on educators to fund these programmes.

We put together a sponsorship package that offered a lot of brand exposure to advertisers, while respecting that the content we produced was being distributed to schools and would be used by tweens and teens.

We capitalised on our ability to promote the programme nationally through Star Metro Media including a print buy in eight metro news markets across Canada, plus the Toronto Star.

Next, we met with our advertising sales team to sell them on the idea of presenting this opportunity to their clients. Our sales team was excited to have a programme that had high visibility in schools and reached Generation Z in a unique, low-disruption space (aka the classroom).

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most advertisers wouldn’t think of the newspaper as a vehicle for reaching tweens and teens.

According to many marketing experts, Gen Z-ers are harder to reach and lock in than their Gen Y folks. A common description online for this cohort is “Millennials on steroids.” They are emerging as the next big thing for advertisers, market researchers, cultural observers, and trend forecasters.

The results

Within a few weeks, we had two corporate partners on board who were keen to participate in what really is a unique and uncluttered way of reaching youth, not to mention educators. We developed custom content resources for both clients and a national marketing campaign that included print ads, direct mail, e-mail marketing, social media promotion, ad units on our e-paper to schools, and online ads.

The newspaper-style, student guides were distributed to more than 120,000 students across Canada.

We extended our reach by translating one of the programmes to French so that French-speaking schools in Quebec could participate.

Awesome! Now what?

The revenue generated from these programmes was just one of many steps we’ve taken to transition NIE into a profitable area of our business. For this to be a sustainable new revenue stream, we need to dig deeper and come up with other initiatives that meet a need for teachers, youth, and parents, while offering our advertising partners real value that will justify allocating marketing budget to NIE-run programmes.

The New York Times is another good example of a media organisation that is investing in the education sector. NYT recently launched nytEducation: The School of the New York Times. According to NYT’s Web site, the programme is designed for both pre-collegiate and professional audiences. And this is not the only news media company focusing on this market.

We believe there are a number of opportunities to grow our audience and revenue targeting Gen Z using NIE. We are currently looking into special workshops/events for students that will help them get an inside look at a variety of professions as they get close to making a decision on what they want to do after high school.

Stay tuned.

About Nadine Chevolleau

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