local media insider
Case study

DMNmedia Connect uses audience extension for major revenue gains

A key partnership with AdTaxi simplifies targeted reach across multi-media

Alisa Cromer
Audience extension, an integrated dashboard, and a variety of other services are supplied via a white label partnership with AdTaxi.
Click to enlarge the pie chart for recommended product mix

Media: Dallas Morning News, and its sales and marketing group, DMNmedia 

Media: Dallas Morning News, and its sales and marketing group, DMNmedia

Key Executives: Dan Phelan, Chief Revenue Officer; Richard Jones, General Manager, Digital DMNmedia 

Initiative: DMNmedia Connect, a partnership with AdTaxi Networks

Background:  An early adapter of digital products, the Dallas Morning News has changed its business model dramatically over the past five years.

In 2012 a partnership with Hearst's LocalEdge created 508 Digital to target small and medium sized businesses. The company then launched Speakeasy, a higher end social media services business in partnership with a local agency. Speakeasy manages social media strategy, reputation management, relevant content, promotions, and can make Dallas News content available for clients' social media. 

In 2013, the group took one step further, launching DMNmedia Connect in partnership with Digital First Media's Ad Taxi.

DMNmedia Connect adds a simplified approach to enhance advertisers' media mix.  These audience extension programs blending premium buys on DallasNews.com with targeted buys on other sites via AdTaxi's ad network. Audience extension includes display, search, email, social and mobile. Connect also provides a Clickfuel-powered dashboard provided by AdTaxi to track results across platforms and optimize campaigns. 

Challenge:  With two agency partnerships underway, DMNMedia needed simplified way to create, optimize and report multi-media buys that are highly focused on results. 

It also wanted more robust audience extension capabilities to target more effectively, and integrate all products into a simplified dashboard. 

Strategy:   To address these needs. Dallas Morning News entered into a white label partnership with AdTaxi Networks (contact here) , a digital agency owned by Digital First Media. In mobile and display ad networks, AdTaxi supplements targeted email, and can provide a number of other agency services, such as SEM, SEO and optimization. it also uses a dashboard (via ClickFuel (contact here) to track results. 

DMN executives say advantages include:

• Inventory network strong enough to fulfill large highly targeted buys, including mobile geo-targeting

• "One stop" fulfillment of additional products such as mobile web sites, SEM, SEO, and email. 

• Assigned support staff who optimize campaigns across multiple channels weekly and even daily.

• AB testing for SEM campaigns.

• A real time dashboard (provided via ClickFuel) to track campaigns, including comparison of multiple ads per campaign, and break downs of calls per campaign and per channel,  accessible  from the client side. Previously, digital campaign tracking (still used for smaller accounts) required waiting for weekly or monthly reports.

• Improved targeting capabilities such as re-targeting, contextual and behavioral targeting, which has become "a huge selling point." The additional network is layered on to existing Yahoo targeting programs.

• A larger, more robust email database to support DMNMedia's already extensive email list. AdTaxi supports targeted email by age, geography and other "very specific" factors. 

"AdTaxi's platform allowed for a more integrated solution with our existing products and allowed us to simplify the process. The other critical consideration is their commitment to improved advertiser results which lead to the dashboard integration, and tracking of key metrics all to help us drive a better client experience and result," Jones said. 

Launch strategy

The team called the new program DMNmedia Connect, and gives all sales reps access to sell all products provided by the AdTaxi partnership, challenging all sellers to sell DMNmedia Connect each month.

"If they don't it's more of an indication they aren't servicing their client's media and marketing needs. Our focus is on client results and solutions - not just selling the product," said Richard Jones, General Manager. 

The launch requires two full days of training; half the 100+ sales staff attended on one day and half on the other. An AdTaxi representative and a manager from the Denver Post presented the products, spending a half day on product, and a half day on  actual selling scenarios and  best practices. 

An AdTaxi employee also works full-time in-house at The Dallas Morning News as the DMNmedia Connect product champion. This position helps with training through the DMN University training program, goes on client calls, and accumulates best practices and case studies.

Goals and compensation

Sales goals at The Dallas Morning News have also evolved over the years. Initially reps that sold different categories -  ROP, niche, or national - had goals for each of  those products. Then digital goals were added. Today sales goals "are aligned to reflect our portfolio and to motivate the best practices to drive client results," Jones said. 

DMNmedia Connect is currently included in the digital goal, with an expectation of 100% participation in both the core product and Connect; basic participation is defined as at least a sale a month.  

While everyone sells all products, "Each team is evolving and moving towards  a more complex seller - meaning they put themselves in the client's seat and assess what media and marketing tools do they need to drive business...It's a constant evolution and requires assessment of emerging media and marketing options," Jones said. 

The inside sales team is included and also sells all products. 

Go to market strategy

The go to market strategy starts with a customer needs analysis. But the team also had to "create a comprehensive and easier to understand multi-product solution which addressed the customer journey of each client."

The product portfolio, including 508 digital, SpeakEasy and DMNmedia Connect, now includes bundles from $500 to $100,000 and more. DMN Connect is designed to provide better ways to reach clients at the $2000 a month level.

"Client's don't buy advertising, they are buying expected results...You can't get a $20,000 campaign result with a $500 buy, so we need to set proper expectations and in most cases, clients have increased their spend beyond the offered bundle when they understand what it takes to drive the results they are looking for."

One innovative packaging that integrates DMN Connect with other products is a recommended media mix for each category illustrated by a pie chart (top right). For a copy of the deck,  please email alisacromer@localmediainsider.som).

To create the right mix for each category, managers review the top 250 accounts to find where they are spending, and conduct a business reviews to see what advertisers perceive about products that work or don't work.

Today product mix recommendations have been developed for luxory retail, auto, entertainment and real estate,  and include the three or four of the  top products for each category and a two to three pricing options.

Other, smaller packages were created within each sales group; each team came up with their own group of packages. The packages, which were under rate card, had to be submitted to financial for approval.

Another pricing innovation is a whole dollar number that can be spent in any configuration during the year. 

"We always had a  frequency rate, but not everyone can commit to 52 times. The (package) rate is one set price for x amount of space, to use whenever you want and pay as it runs. It allowed us to extend big contracts to seasonal customers, not just regular advertisers," according to one inside sales manager. 

Jones emphasized that each call is still based on a needs analysis and offerings customized to include each of the three products (508 Digital, DMNMedia Connect and Speakeasy) along with Yahoo and the media web sites. The category bundles provide simplified pricing and some overall product mix recommendations.

Promotional materials

The team needed new marketing materials to talk about the new products, and started by taking marketing materials other AdTaxi internal media partners used and combining them to incorporate the new brand and market specific data. The results is an evolving internal deck. 

Business model

The business model for the ad network side of the program is a revenue share. To protect margins, DMN holds the ecpm rate on premium buys. 


•  DMNmedia sales managers say the new AdTaxi network has significantly simplified their ability to sell result-oriented multi-media campaigns. Audience extension via the ad network and email has also added horsepower for custom targeting, and generally improved CTR's, allowing them to fulfill more highly targeted campaigns that was previously possible.

• Revenues from the partnership are significantly higher than $50,000 a month, according to LMI estimates. 

• Top performing categories are Auto, Real Estate, Retail, Entertainment with all categories participating and growing each month.  

• Auto has been a heavy purchaser of targeted emails, which typically achieve a 10 to 15% open rates. 

• After starting to sell DMNmedia Connect in Q1 with a 20% participation rate, DMN expects to have 100% participation by the end of the year. 

• The reduction of turn-around time for SEO and SEM proposals and reporting has made a huge difference, according to sales managers.

• AdTaxi's internal staff assigned to optimize campaigns have also been a huge benefit, changing the conversation with clients to "how we can make this campaign work better." 

• LMI estimates this initiative will account for revenues above $1 million level at maturity.

Our take

Meaningful partnerships like the one's The Dallas Morning News has with 508 Digital, Speakeasy, and Digital First Media's AdTaxi demonstrate how a common focus on the client's experience and results can improve business overall. AdTaxi is a great way to add deep audience extension programs is the media is looking for other agency services at the same time, and better strategies for higher end advertisers. For more AdNetwork partnership opportunities see more rated reviewed network partners on our partner site, MediaExecsTech. 

Alisa Cromer

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.

Dallas Morning News, Speakeasy, 508 Digital, DMNmedia, agency, SEO, SEM, email, AdTaxi, Digital First, DMNmedia Connect