Digital subscription growth-personalization is the key.

Depending on where you are in your newspaper’s paymeter life cycle, you may still be experiencing significant growth in digital subscriptions. If you were an early adopter, you’ve probably experienced a slow down in acquisition. Slow enough that, in some cases, the stops are outpacing the starts. Yes, digital subscription churn is a challenge much the same way it is in print.  If you’re like a lot of other newspapers, it may even be more challenging to retain digital-only subscribers through normal retention channels. While we’re much better at it now than we were when we started, the data we originally collected on a digital subscriber might have only consisted of a name and email address.

In other words, simply putting a meter in place and setting it at at an eight-pageview limit (the average among over 200 newspapers with a meter in place), worked very well in the beginning, but the number of subscribers you’ll get this way could be approaching the limit.

Typical efforts that most of us have used to combat the slowdown are:

  1. Introductory offers-at one point almost every newspaper was offering the $0.99 introductory offer. This idea worked well for quite a long time but, depending on what your full price conversion price was, it loses some of its luster in long term retention rates.
  2. Annual discounts-offering very large discounts to lock subscribers in has also proven to generate new subscribers but puts quite a dent in the revenue needs of your organization.
  3. Premiums or giveaways-in my experience these programs have worked, but not to the degree introductory offers or annual discounts have in terms of acquiring new subscribers.
  4. Day passes have been a very effective way to introduce readers to our content and more importantly, turn them from reader to customer. The data collected through the day passing process is more important than the actual revenue generated from this single transaction and allows you to create marketing messages that are specific to the day pass subscriber. Many media companies have used this strategy very effectively.
  5.  The use of data for acquisition and retention is, from a long-term perspective, the best way to locate, acquire and retain subscribers. Larger newspaper companies have developed their own solutions to use data while others have partnered with experts to not only use the data to identify those most likely to subscribe, but to know how best to communicate with them. Either way (build or buy) isn’t inexpensive, but it’s the investment we’re going to have to make to grow.

As stated above, this ‘one size fits all’ approach worked well and got us this far, but beyond these traditional strategies for marketing and the advantage a CRM gives us, what’s the next step in the metering process that we need to move to in order to continue to grow our subscriber base?

Personalizing the reader experience. In my opinion, having the ability to adjust meter levels based on different factors is critical to continued growth.  Targeting by user group, what content is being consumed, what part of your market the reader resides or in some cases, what country they live in, is critical to increasing conversion rates.  Knowing what content resonates with our reader base allows us to be much more strategic with how we interact and what experiences we serve to them. This includes the ability to have multiple messaging options and offers based on specific criteria, including entry to the site from social media platforms.

Many newspaper companies have already deployed personalization strategies and are seeing  the benefits in terms of higher conversion and retention rates. Several of the companies that provide metering technology offer this ability and are adding new features with every release. They get it and so should we.

The bottom line.  If you believe digital subscription growth is a key component of revenue growth going forward, then we’re going to have to continually upgrade our strategy and technology to get to goal.

Personalizing the reader experience through the use of continually evolving technology and user focused strategy is the key.






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Is digital subscriber growth topping out?

Most of us have been aggressively selling digital subscriptions for several years now and charthave enjoyed continued growth in this category for quite some time. In many newspapers however, growth has slowed dramatically. Some of this is our own doing as we’ve cut back on the aggressive discounting we used to drive the number, but even in markets that weren’t discounting, growth has slowed or even vanished.

I’m putting together a post about this and could use your help. Below is a simple poll concerning this. Please participate and I will share the results in the upcoming blog post. No data other than your answer is captured when completing this poll.






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Eight simple recruitment ideas to find the best sales executives.

Since publishing my post on recruiting and retaining sales executives,  I’ve received some awesome feedback from several experts in the newspaper industry. In light of that, I’m adding more recruitment ideas from those contributors in this latest post. Don’t forget, better recruitment means better retention of sales executives. Higher quality sales, at a higher volume, will follow.

Testimonials from your current sales executives are a key part of your recruitment strategy. Several newspapers I’ve talked with agree this can be very effective. Promote them on all platforms. If you need examples, let me know.

Check job boards (including LinkedIn) at least weekly. Many recruitment platforms     (like Indeed) have filtering options so qualified candidates can be pushed to you.

Develop relationships with the colleges in your market in order to target recent college graduates. In many cases, graduates may have had a sales job of some type during college and are ready for a career position. They’re new to the industry and open to new ideas and challenges.

Pay your own sales executives a referral bonus. My suggestion would be half at hire and then the second half at the 90 day mark. If you haven’t, give it a try.

Recruit your competitors. You know who the best ones are on their team, so go after them.

Hold at least one valuable interview each week. Always be recruiting and building your bench.

Networking at events can also be a great way to discover potential recruits. This idea has paid off for several that I’ve talked to.

Many of the best recruits come from the hospitality industry. They are multi-taskers, the have great memories, and they understand the concept of being rewarded for good service. Be on the lookout for them.


I’d like to hear from you on this important issue as it is one for almost every newspaper. What other ideas can you share? If you have time, complete the poll below.



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Newspapers Digital Summary-9/2/16

Which Media Companies Are Winning the Battle for Millennials? Last week marked the entry of still another new media entity into the Millennials market. What do the numbers tell us about the highly sought-after terrain?

Google warns it will crack down on “intrusive interstitials” in January Google will reinforce its emphasis on the mobile search experience with a new penalty affecting “intrusive interstitials” on mobile web pages.

Four basic follow up strategies after the sale. Just as important as making sure everything in the sales funnel is as it should be, we need to always remember to follow up after the sale.

The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s newspaper, fought floods to get the news out  “That’s how unprepared we all were for it,” said Ferstel, night metro editor at The Advocate in Baton Rouge.

Micropayments won’t save journalism Given the carnage in digital display advertising it’s not surprising that a seemingly successful ‘Reader Pays’ model is creating a lot of excitement in the publishing press.

Two ways to determine what’s next for your top sales reps. We’ve all been there. You’ve got a superstar sales executive that is ready to continue growing in their career.

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Two ways to determine what’s next for your top sales reps.

We’ve all been there. You’ve got a superstar sales executive that is ready to continue sales leader
growing in their career. They’ve topped out on the number of accounts they can effectively handle but they’re maximizing the majority of them. Excellent work, excellent effort, every month…and they want more. More responsibility, more money, more of a challenge.

If you have a sales executive in this situation, how can you help them to grow and ensure their success at the next level?

The default answer for many is to move this superstar into a sales manager slot. This can work. Your top sales person can successfully transition to management and instill their principles, work ethic and attitude in the rest of the sales force. Successfully done, you’ve deepened the expertise of your management team and minimized potential revenue loss and impact on the account base. You may have even found your successor which puts you in a better place in your own career.

But I’ve also seen it fail miserably. A neighbor of mine sells Toyota cars and trucks.  For as long as I can remember, he was the number one sales guy for his dealership. Sales came to him naturally, he wrote his own paycheck and his return business was ridiculous.  The logical decision by ownership was to take advantage of his knowledge and sales prowess in the hope he could create a sales force full of people just like him. So they moved him out of the sales force and into a sales manager position. He was on board with it in the beginning as it offered better compensation and hours.  However, he learned quickly that being in management brought its own set of challenges and to make a long story much shorter, he was back on the sales floor in no time at all. Selling was where his heart was and where he excelled.

So moving sales people into a management role can work, just not for everyone. Determining that can be tricky. One way to get a glimpse into the possibilities is to test it.

So here are two ways you might consider using to test this strategy:

  1. Making them an insider can be a way to gauge their interest in what being a manager is all about. For example, teaching them how the revenue budget was built or how the commission structure was developed can give them insight into what management life is all about. As an insider, they can also prove to be vitally important in helping develop sales products  and in gauging the sales staff’s opinion of certain initiatives. Their input into product development and the subsequent buy-in that comes with it can lead the rest of the staff in the right direction.
  2. Asking them to lead a sales project can also give both of you the insight needed to see if leadership/management is the right direction for them to go in. Asking your top sales exec to lead the sales effort for a special section, niche product or digital initiative can be just the thing to expose both strengths and challenges in project leadership. This one step will expand their view of sales leadership and let them know if this is where their passion lies.

There are many more ways to see if this can work for you and your organization, but guiding your sales leaders on the right career path is critical. Their success should always be our goal.

Do you have other suggestions? Please share them in the comments.



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Four basic follow up strategies after the sale.

In a past life, where print was the only option available for our sales executives to sell, wefollow up did a pretty good job of measuring their performance. In today’s sales environment with digital products and services in our tool belts, we measure everything. From needs assessments completed, to proposals in the pipeline, to  contracts signed, we live and die in the numbers and in the CRM. In my opinion, it works very well and we should’ve been using the same approach much earlier in the game.

But just as important as making sure everything in the sales funnel is as it should be, we need to always remember to follow up after the sale. This used to be as simple as making sure a customer’s print ad was correct (and we definitely still need to do that). In today’s world of print and digital, following up with a customer throughout the campaign is critical to their success and repeat business.

Here are four things you can do today to make following through after the sale much more effective:

  • Double checking everything before the campaign is launched is critical to getting starting on the right foot with a client, especially if digital services and targeted display are a part of the package. In most cases, we’re dealing with third-party partners that execute these programs on our behalf so making sure we’re all on the same page in terms of the specifics of a client’s program is paramount. This responsibility could be in the hands of the sales reps or a sales assistant (think client sales/services manager), but I’ve seen cases where simply going over the specifics in the beginning would have saved grief on the back end.
  • Make sure the customer knows what to expect once the campaign launches. What options did they choose and what they can expect from each? When can they expect an initial progress report? Clients want results just as soon as they’re available, however, a report 2 days (or even 2 weeks) into a campaign cannot be used to determine the future success of that campaign. The sales reps need to clarify with their client when insightful data will be available for review. Otherwise the client may pull the campaign before it ever has a chance to take off.Lastly, What needs to happen in order for them to determine the campaign was successful?
  • Monitoring performance during the campaign is so important. If you didn’t follow    step one (double check everything) and even if you did, monitoring the progress of a campaign early on allows for corrections and adjustments that can still deliver the results promised to the client. A campaign looks one way on paper and possibly another when launched. Trust me on this one…no matter how thorough you were in the setup, this one step can prevent problems and ensure a win.
  • Reviewing results with your customer and gaining their feedback is the last step. Did the campaign deliver what is was supposed to? Hopefully your pre-work made that possible. What did you learn that could have made it better? What did your customer learn? Lastly, what can you use from this successful effort to build the next one?

Our sales executives are being asked to do more, sell more and know more than ever before. In an earlier post, I’ve written about the importance of making sure we have qualified sales executives in place and follow-through should be a part of every sales effort. This demonstration of being invested in the success of our clients goes a long way and helps to build a relationship for the future.

right employees


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Four things you can do right now to find and keep newspaper sales reps.

I’ve been encouraged by the new digital tools we can offer our current print customers to further drive their success. These tools are equally important when we reach out to former and never prospects. While print is still number one for many of our customers, others have left that option far behind, while newer businesses haven’t even thought of print as an option to drive sales in their business.  Digital services and retargeting are perfect solutions to bring in these two types of customer. However, digital sales create their own set of challenges including the need for continuous and extensive training, better recruitment efforts and fast adaptation of newly-developing digital solutions that appear almost weekly. In many cases, the same outside sales rep may sell both print and digital solutions while in larger markets, digital-only sales reps are the norm. With either method, the opportunity in driving up the active account base and increased revenue is tremendous, even with the challenges in execution.

Speaking of challenges, all the new digital tools in the world won’t mean a thing without the right person on your team to sell them. Take a look at almost any newspaper company website and tell me what’s the most sought after group of candidates…sales executives. We’re asking more of our salespeople than ever before so finding (and keeping) the right one is more important than ever.

So how do you do that? Here’s four simple ideas that might improve your current strategy.

  1. Always be recruiting. In my days as a circulation director, a wise telemarketing manager once told me the best time to recruit is when you’re at full staff. That makes perfect sense today just like it did back then. Continuously build your bench. Commit to at least one interview a week. Take note of the people you run into in your daily travels. How do they present themselves to you? Didn’t the server at your favorite restaurant have a great personality, multitasked, listened and was able to memorize a whole product line-up just to serve you well? Keep your eyes open and be ready to ask if they might be interested in working with your team. Build the bench.
  2. Homework. Once you have narrowed the list of candidates down to the last few or the one, we typically go into hiring mode and rush to get the testing completed and get the new sales person on board. In many cases, once hired, they go straight into a lengthy training class or basecamp (two-four weeks). It’s only when they get into the field that we really find out what they’re worth. So if things don’t pan out, you’ve invested significant time in the wrong person.  Before making the final decision to hire, schedule a second interview. The goal of the second interview is to give them homework. Have them explain the difference between SEO and SEM (or something else) and how both could benefit a business. Let them choose the presentation vehicle and schedule a return appointment for the next day. By doing this, you’ll get an idea of their presentation skills, willingness to learn and a better feel for their desire to secure this position.
  3. The ride-along. Figure out a way to gain clearance to do this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will give a prospective sales person more insight into the job than a day in the field with a seasoned sales person. Not only will they get an idea of what it’s like to be hoofing it all day in 90-degree heat , they’ll also get honest feedback and insight from the sales person they’re teamed with.
  4. Talk them out of the job. The last stop on the interview tour is with the top sales executive or the publisher. Their job at this stage is to make sure the prospect understands the goals associated with the position and the challenges/rewards that go with it. It should be an honest, yet optimistic discussion.

If they are still with you at this point, hire them.

Sure, these extra steps take more time and must be completed quickly (before the prospect finds another job), but could pay off in the end with better retention and sales.

What do you think? Will it work? Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions to help others.


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