local media insider

Gatehouse doubled down on self-serve ads in 2017

Here's what happened


Media: Gatehouse

Initiative: Self-Serve advertising platforms

Technology: iPublishMedia

Key executive: Bob Birkentall, Director of Online Media, Gatehouse

Gatehouse is a large publisher with hundreds of small local markets, including dailies in the 5,000 to 10,000 circulation range, hundreds of weeklies and recent acquisition of Calkins and Morris Communications. The result is a maze of platforms and systems.

The company became interested in the benefits of self-serve to save costs on order entry ad creation and to build revenues and market share. However, they also wanted to find a single solution at the enterprise level. They selected AdPortal from iPublish Media Solutions as the platform of choice.

Strategy:   With so many markets, the strategy needed to roll out each platform across selected test markets, and then on to additional markets. Below is the 2017 implementation plan and results:

  1. Private party

Most Gatehouse newspapers struggled with out-of-control classifieds codes, which varied across the hundreds of markets. They also had no strategy for search, either for customers to search within classifieds, or to find them online.

The first platform implemented was iPublish Marketplace, an online search and display website application for consumers to find items of interest organized in classified categories and sub-classifications, followed by iPublish Classified—a self-serve order entry front end for private-party sellers to purchase their classified ads. The new system immediately standardized categories, provided a powerful built-in search engine, and a self-serve ecommerce solution. In addition, Gatehouse rethought their SEO strategy to increase traffic to the site by offering a classified marketplace from popular advertising categories and sub-classifications. The platform is now being upgraded adding legal notices and digital display to drive more revenue.

By the end of 2017, iPublish Marketplace is live in over 100 markets; and iPublish Classifieds is live in 70 markets—installing at the rate of ten sites per month.


A total $500,000 in 2017 in private party revenues is now placed online directly by customers; and is expected to triple as the implementations continue. The print/online combination allows newspapers to differentiate themselves from other competitors, account/ad management has been improved by use of a single database and the user experience was simplified.

     2. Recruitment

While recruitment is a highly competitive category in larger markets, Gatehouse has a lucrative but highly transactional business in its smaller markets that is dependent on multiple obsolete newspaper software and systems. To complicate things further, customer service needed to load every ad manually from print to Monster, their online recruitment partner. If that wasn’t enough, there were no upsells and limited content—further exposing a clear opportunity to enhance this valuable franchise.

Gatehouse chose a unique path for implementing the self-serve software. They began by first adapting iPublish in their call center—where they took recruitment orders over the phone and by email.

Call Center

It was the first time the iPublish Media platform had been used as the back end in the call center for recruitment, but it was immediately effective. Inbound order takers now have the opportunity to place ads in print and online - and offer an upsell, on a single-entry system.

Gatehouse has since decided to move from Monster to ZipRecruiter, and now offers integrated upsells such as Recruitology at the same time.

The ads themselves also have logos, better job descriptions and data. Postings are more timely—immediate in fact—and reports are easy to access across all markets. Call-center reps are more efficient, as they can now handle more calls in less time; and finally, revenues are beginning to increase.

Adding self-serve

The next step was to add self-serve recruitment packages that were low cost and included print, aiming for an increase in print recruitment ads for the first time in more than a decade. The prior packages were digital only.

The new packages will be rolled out over 50 markets in 2018, and the company is projecting an increase in print and adding recruitment revenues from the Recruitology upsell.

    3. Obituaries

A self-serve option for obituaries did not exist in any of the Gatehouse markets, so this was a natural next step. AdPortal Obituaries integrates with Legacy, so implementing this vertical created an immediate self-serve rate of over 50%, or 30,000 obits, in the first eight markets. The average overall for self-serve versus email or call in posting is 75% across all of iPublish’s install base.

About 85% of these orders are created via funeral homes; the rest are created by individual families. Eight more markets have been scheduled to implement AdPortal Obituaries.

The results of the 2017 implementation is saving three full time equivalents (FTE) and a revenue gain of $750,000 on $15 million in obituaries revenue. This gain is projected to double when all 20 markets are implemented.

Quarterly print obituary special section

In addition to the self-serve platform, these Gatehouse markets produce a special obituaries section using the obits content stored in the AdPortal Obituaries that publishes quarterly. For $20 to $25 the family receives a memorial tribute listing in the multi-page insert of the newspaper. AdPortal Obits exports the content and GateHouse allows each market to paginate their special obituaries section in an easy-to-use workflow.  

The five markets that have implemented this project have created $500,000 in new obits revenue in 2017. When extended to other markets they will see in excess of one million dollars in new obits revenue in 2018.

The total in new revenue for this category will be in one to two million dollars annually as additional markets are added.  

Gatehouse is also now interested in two products on the iPublish roadmap, including support for Legacy’s free-to-paid upcharge, and a Facebook upsell for the obituary category.    


Gatehouse Media’s initiatives to implement self-serve options have had a variety of first year benefits that will be enhanced as the initiatives continue to roll out across additional markets:

  • Savings of 3 FTE’s

  • Revenue increases of $1.25 million projected to grow into several millions during 2018

  • Improved customer experience

  • Better internal consistency and reporting

  • Ability to create new mix media products that include print, growing print revenues and providing key differentiators