Revenue-generating special editions can’t be replicated in digital space


Print is dying. Digital is the future. Mobile is where you need to focus.

Isn’t that what we hear every week in the media news world? And to some extent, that may be true.

In a story from Digiday on the New York Times’ Innovation report leaked last year, we found that digital subscriptions have grown 700% in only three years, and that added revenue has helped to offset print losses to produce an increase in total circulation revenue.

However, as fun as digital may seem, print still fills the coffers at most media companies. According to an NAA Newspaper Revenue report, digital revenue accounted for only 12% of total industry revenue in 2013. While I am sure that number grew in 2014, print revenue still accounts for around 70% of total revenue.

Consumers still like the print media; it is something tangible that can help them remember an event.

In France this week, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, a print run of one million copies sold out in hours. This is from a magazine that may sell on most weeks 30,000 copies, and now they are looking at selling 5 million copies.

This demand has stemmed from many things, mostly from a sense of national pride and patriotism, but also from wanting to hold onto this commemorative issue.

Avid fans of sports teams tend to rush to buy issues of the local newspaper after a large championship. Here in Tacoma, after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year, we sold around 30,000 copies on a Monday when we normally sold 5,000.

After the recent NCAA Football Championship game, the Columbus Dispatch could be seen in players’ hands within minutes of the end of the game. The Dispatch also reports it printed 180,000 copies planning for a big seller, and still had to go back to press to print another 50,000.

When events like this do happen, have fun with some content by working with your editorial and advertising teams. During the last couple of weeks, we have been running Seahawks posters to celebrate their second playoff run in a row.

These posters have boosted our single-copy numbers by about 15-20% each day they have run. We also ran a fun cutout of a Seahawks team bus that readers can put together.

Not only did we see an audience boost from these fun items, advertising was able to monetise these with sponsors on these pieces.

These kind of events don’t happen every day. However, every day moments are happening in your market, and your sales teams need to capitalise on them. Newspapers still offer more in-depth coverage of local news and sports than other media, and that is something you should shout from the rooftops.

While your budget may not sustain doing a large multi-media marketing campaign, you can most likely work out some trade with local radio stations.

If you don’t have someone with a great voice, work with a company like Speedy Spots to come up with a quick 30- to 60-second commercial. It will cost you less than US$100 per spot, and they provide a less than 24-hour turnaround on most projects. Even better, you can pick the voice you want them to use, and they will read the script you provide.

While digital coupons are becoming more and more popular, print coupons are still something that your newspaper should be promoting. Even more than that, promote the grocery ads that may run in your newspaper every week. This may be with the use of point-of-purchase for a single copy, or even on the masthead of the newspaper.

At my newspapers, we still notice a 10%-15% lift in single copy sales when we have a large coupon value in the Sunday newspaper. We have also begun to tie the value both to the coupons as well as the main story on Sunday.

E-mail blasts also go out each week to promote the Sunday newspaper, and unless the coupon value is a really large one, we always tie a content element in as well. We send two sets of e-mail blasts, one to subscribers and one to non-subscribers. The non-subscriber e-mail blast always incorporates a subscription offer as well, and we get 20-25 orders per week from that channel.

These aren’t new ideas by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes we just need to be reminded that our industry is not all gloom and doom. There still are successes out there.

While you may not have big wins every day, it can be an accumulation of the small wins that keeps us moving forward and developing new ideas to reach the print readers of tomorrow.

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