Digital Services And The Opportunity For Weekly Newspapers

There’s no doubt that almost every daily newspaper has deployed a digital services program and they’re already seeing the benefits of such a program in terms of expanding their active account base and incremental revenue. From Gannett to Gatehouse and everyone in between, digital advertising revenue is at the top of the list of priorities in 2016 and it continues to become a larger part of the total advertising revenue picture. With global spending on newspaper print ads expected to decline 8.7% in 2016 (according to estimates from GroupM, the ad-buying firm owned by WPP PLC), it’s easy to understand why digital must be an essential component of every media company’s offerings. Yes, digital ad revenues aren’t growing fast enough to offset declines in print, but we have to push forward in expanding our offerings to our current customers and prospects. These programs do work for our customers and the incremental revenue created can grow quickly.

However, there are many weekly newspapers that haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity for themselves and their advertisers.  In conversations with several weekly newspapers,  I’ve heard some of the same reasons for not pushing this program forward in smaller/weekly markets:

  • We’re small and don’t have the resources to make it work.
  • The market isn’t large enough. Not enough prospects.
  • Our reps know print and won’t/can’t make the transition.
  • The mindset of the sales team isn’t where it should be about adding a more expansive digital product line.

While it might be more challenging, weekly newspapers can take advantage of this account growth/revenue opportunity more easily than one might think. The opportunity this product line creates is not bound by your print frequency or your core market.

I know this because I’m in the process of helping a very reputable media company (comprised of weekly newspapers) launch a digital services program from the ground up. They are excited about the opportunity this product line creates to better serve their customers.

Here are the highlights of what you need to know:

  • From the signing of the agreement with a digital services provider, your sales team can be selling digital services to current, former and never customers within approximately 45 days. Some companies can launch quicker, some take longer.
  • There are usually setup charges from the digital services provider along with a monthly fee, but the payback on these charges is quickly recovered with incremental sales once the program is launched. With many companies, regular monthly fees do not kick in until the program is actually launched and there is some flexibility in when the setup charges can be paid.
  • Training looks to be comprehensive and complete. The digital services provider I’m working with is walking side by side with the team in the development of an excellent training program. From product knowledge training to in-person sales calls to refresher training,  sales executives will get the tools they need to sell. Training is actually split into two on-site visits. First, the team gets trained and then they go into the field to use what they learned. The second training session is designed to identify challenges the sales team encountered in the field and work through them.
  • By working with the team, product bundles will developed that make the most sense for your market and for our team to sell. With so many products available, this process takes all the options and packages the right ones together. Single product options are also available.
  • Questions and concerned are addressed quickly. As you can imagine, starting at zero and building this program within any organization creates many questions. Since the success of the digital services partner is tied directly to yours, response rates (at least with the company I’m working with) and support have been excellent. Any team will need this, especially in the beginning.

Even though the process of launching any new product line is challenging, this very important one is one of the easier ones (and I’ve been involved in some pretty complicated ones over the years) and grows revenue for you and new customers for your advertisers. In discussions with our digital services provider/partner, the average amount of incremental revenue per new account averages between $350-$750 per month. Even at the low end of this range, you can see the potential.  You know your market better than anyone and if you do the math, you’ll see rolling out a digital services strategy is worth overcoming any questions or concerns you might have.

Last thing, someone in your market is going to take digital solutions to your client base. It should be you.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue to move through the process of rolling out this exciting program.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. My hope is this post provides enough information and encouragement to get you started.



About Jeff Hartley

Career Newspaper Executive specializing in Consumer Revenue Growth-both print and digital. Social Media and Mobile Enthusiast. Frequent speaker on consumer revenue and print/digital audience growth.
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1 Response to Digital Services And The Opportunity For Weekly Newspapers

  1. doug sumrell says:


    Where are you working now?


    Sent from my iPad


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