local media insider

Pricing and packaging to launch a Share of Voice model

Alisa Cromer
BangorDailyNews.com consolidated its sales force in January 2010.

Media: Bangor Daily News
Market: Bangor, Maine
Traffic: 5.6 million page views

Key Executives: Online sales manager, Nicole Stevens; Sales and Marketing Director, Mike Kearney; Sales consultant, Jane Bogue

Quick overview:
In January the Bangor Daily News reorganized; instead of splitting print/online teams all sales representatives would report to the advertising department. The main responsibility for selling digital products would now fall on formerly print-only reps. To facilitate the transition the company also promoted its co-op manager, Nicole Stevens, to its first ever "online sales manager" position, and hired sales consultant Jane Bogue to launch a new strategy "from scratch". Their step-by-step approach generated 20 online sales in the first two weeks from their team of eight sales people.

The key for the first initiative was to create a limited number of "Share of Voice" packages that the sales people believed in and sell them out. As AE's gained confidence they began to customize packages for more targeted buys.

The start-up package
The first Share of Voice program was relatively simple. The customer would receive two "mirrored ads," both the top leader-board and the content banner (300x250) on the home page of the site.  The packages also limited the  time slot  to "prime time," 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.  when trafflc is highest. A total of 100,000 impressions on  the day-part were divided into ten blocks. Each of the ten packages would run for three months and be sold on a first-come basis.

Each advertiser was guaranteed at least 2000 impressions a day, Monday through Friday. At the time editorial was also improving engagment so the team was able to "over-deliver" on its promise. Packages cost $500 for non-advertisers and $475 for advertisers per month.

Sales representatives  presented the offer using market statistics from a Belden Interactive report showing  the highly desirable demographic online that largely (only 30%) did not overlap with the print audience (This is true in most cases, so if you have these statistics be sure to use them on sales calls).   By the end of the first day, the packages had sold out and a wait list had formed.

The second package...and starting to customize

A second set of packages was created for afternoon time slot, with a minimum of 28,000 impressions each. These packages were considered less prime and priced at $400 a month for non-advertisers and $300 for advertisers. These ten blocks took "about a week" to sell.

With more training, including formal monthly sessions, the sales representatives are now engaged in customizing  campaigns for new clients.

Overall  click-through rates have run about .9%, in part due to the prime real estate (mirrored ads, condensed on key areas of the site), and in part because sales representatives are trained to ask for discounts or other offers from advertisers who are tracking click-throughs. About 25% of the campaigns have offers.

Results: The Bangor team now has about 40 online advertisers.  Of the original 20 advertisers, most are now sold on or are moving to customized campaigns, five still have the original packages. The original packages have also been altered away from the the SOV model to a 2000 a day guarantee  so that the home page has "room" for other large advertisers. "Now that the sales represenateives are comfortable and have a win under their bult, they are more interested in customized proposals," Stevens says. 

What initially seemed challenging for sale reps to grasp, that online advertisers would not merely switch their print buys, was proven in the field; none of the packages sold switched from print, all were additional buys, some of it pulled from other media.

Lessons learned:
The Bangor plan sounds simple, newspaper sites across the country have struggled with these launches. Here are some of the keys to success we've identified from this seemingly simple effort:

1. Go to market with a plan. Day-parting allowed the teams to sell out the first packages without taking up the full home page (although they did with package two!). The first packages had a lot of "easy to grasp"  sex appeal (both the mirrored ads and the home page made this buy "seem" fantastic to both reps and advertisers). The limited number also created urgency - a key to successful launches.

2. Keep it simple. Starting packages helped print reps who hadn't sold online before. With only ten to sell-out,  the quick win allowed reps to become more confident - and comfortable talking about online strategies and customizing campaigns.

"At first packages were the only thing they dared to sell, home page was only place they saw value. Now we have a lot of training on creating customized packages for advertisers. One of my sales reps handles the local university who wants to splace sports department on different areas of the site. They are having a lot more fun with selling it. " 

3. Simultaneous newsroom efforts to develop audience energized the sales effort. Since the initial launch site page views have grown from 5 to 7 million allowing the SOV buys to "overdeliver".

4. Concerns about "switching from print to digital" addressed. Concerns from sales people - and advertisers - about the viability of merely switching revenues from high dollar print to low dollar online were addressed upfront through showing market research on low rate of overlap and the attractive online demographics.

5. Two managers and a consultant supported the sales effort in the field. The ad director feels that having a dedicated online manager - separate from the retail manager - is instrumental in getting traction.

"Part of my day-to-day job is to meet with reps, brainstorm how much share of voice is enough on certain area os the site, go on sales calls, help with the needs analysis, spec ads and proposals.  The team also has online sales goals, requires, 5 multi-media calls every week. They also have access to laptops for sales presentations and monthly training meetings to support the efforts. 

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.

sales, jane bogue, advertising sales, consultants, bangor