Company: Ruidoso News
Owner: MediaNews Group
Market: 11,000-population Lincoln County, NM
Audience: 5006 print circulation, 10,000 unique online monthly visitors
Contributors to this report: Ross Barrett, Ruidoso News General Manager, and Paul Camp, Content That Works Chief Evangelistic Officer
Initiative: Breast cancer awareness section for print and Web
Challenge: To replace an ongoing periodic dining section that was no longer profitable, with one that would show a profit, and quickly, with a limited time commmitment from news and production staff.
Strategy: Ruidoso News' executive team was faced with a familiar mid-year dilemna: How to replace what managers knew would be a faltering special section with a better idea, after budgets were done, and editorial commitments already agreed to. The team needed a quick solution that would not create more work for the news room, or over-burden the company as a whole with a shift in focus. They decided to use an outsourced content partner that supplies turnkey print and digital content.
“We generally write all our content,” Ruidoso News General Manager Ross Barrett told Local Media Insider. “But had I done that for this, instead of using Content That Works, I would have had an angry news room. I don’t like to give them a two-week deadline on something like this. I would have needed at least three of my reporters working for easily 10 hours each and then an editor in on the project, for about 32 hours, and production for 30 hours. And I only have one person in production.”
Pricing and packaging
The print product was schedule to run once time, the last Friday in September, to kick off October as the designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S., while the website remained on the site for the fall. All sales were print and Web combo, with no breakdown for the separate cost of each medium. Each ad was flat-rate priced by size, with an approximate price of $2770 per advertising page.
Selling the section
Barrett's team has implemented a special section sales process that makes it easy to promote and close new opportunities such as the "Surviving Breast Cancer" special section. Key components:
• All reps use iPads to present special sections. In this case ContentThatWorks' had the actual pre-paginated text and photo spec pages that include pre-set display ad positions (see image below right).
“Once we had the Breast Cancer section from Content that Works I used a low-res PDF form to Dropbox it to the outside advertising reps,” Barrett said.
“We’ve actually been doing that for all display ads for about a year – no more bulky laptops, and a really slick presentation. The customer can sign on to the ad space that he or she wants."
Once committed, display advertiser names are posted on their assigned positions on the layout, so that each subsequent prospect can see at a glance which advertisers have already committed to which positions.
•The iPad presentation also enables in-the-field ad space size / layout changes, so reps can upsell advertisers as needed.
"The iPad process gives them that urgency, especially when they see that their competitors have signed up. Then we upload a master to our cloud server. It’s all integrated so that when reps go back out in the field the update is all sent via RSS back to their iPads.”
•Ad Reps also communicated sales immediately to each other by way of a closed Google+ circle, so each could update their layout as sales occurred.
•Reps use personal, but client-only Facebook pages, to promote this and other projects.
“Our ad reps ...do a lot of selling on Facebook,” said Barrett. “All they have there are their customers – about 80 each. Dialogue also happens between customers - that is pretty cool and helps sell the products. The reps usually email blast them first and Tweet about the specials also.”
This system allows reps to keep in touch with prospects as content promotions change.
Other outsourced content is available. "I do their Christmas package every year – it’s a fantastic sale for us,” said Barrett. “Called Hometown Christmas, it covers giftology and decorating.”
For that section, the News purchases the holiday content from the vendor but changes the lay-out, breaking it apart to run each Wednesday and Friday as a blog up until Christmas.
• $25,000 profit after $900 print cost and $425 flat fee to Content That Works.
• Reps sold 9.5 pages of advertising in two weeks. Four of the 29 advertisers were new to the paper, and one of those four subsequently signed a $13,000 advertising contract.
• Newsroom costs saved approximated $1200. The section helped boost digital revenue to 167 percent of what it had been the same time last year.
“I was looking at a difficult October and this Cancer Awareness tab allowed us to not only meet our budget but blow it out of the water,” said Barrett.
• Rep-managed client-only Facebook pages work well; clients sometimes converse to upsell each other.
• A system of live updating the name of clients sold to the product spec page is a powerful way to encourage competitors to buy, and sometimes buy bigger - especially when iPads are used.
•Reps must stay in continual contact in the field or ad spaces could be oversold.
•A new special-section with a short turnaround (in this case two weeks), may work better outsourced; especially if the alternative is an over-tasked and unhappy news and production staff.
•Minimal staff and tiny circulation are not necessarily obstacles to profitable multimedia advertising projects.
We're not big fans of "canned content" but this has convinced us that for certain sections - and Breast Cancer Awareness is a great example - it's an easy way to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Holiday guides, bridal guides, health and home and garden are kinds of content that advertisers love, and editors hate, all supplied by Content That Works.
The best lesson in this case study, however, may be how the sales team used iPad to create urgency with realtime updates of positions selling out, and how to communicate with customers on Facebook Fan pages. This is a savvy team with much to teach, and demonstrates the ingenuity of small markets.
Much thanks to Ross Barrett and Paul Camp for their time and information.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.
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