BIA/Kelsey ILM West: 12

Papers: Diverse Rev Streams Key To Survival

Two prominent newspaper publishers speaking at BIA/Kelsey's ILM West conference had one simple message: In order to bridge the gap between declining print revenue and sluggish digital ad revenue, papers must find diverse revenue streams. Jim Moroney of The Dallas Morning News and Mike Hodges of U-T San Diego agreed that while digital advertising was essential, newspapers need to branch out in innovative and sometimes unusual ways to boost revenue.
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LOS ANGELES -- Newspapers can bridge the gap between their falling print revenue and their slow-to-grow digital ad revenue by diversifying their businesses, two prominent publishers said on Wednesday.

"I do believe that digital advertising is absolutely essential for a newspaper company to go after," but it's still not enough to curb losses from print, said Jim Moroney, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News at the ILM West conference here.

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Moroney's own solution at his newspaper has been to spawn a cluster of vertical businesses including two — 508 Digital and Speakeasy — targeting digital marketing services to SMBs and larger businesses, respectively.

Not that the path there will be easy, he acknowledged. Those new companies, launched earlier this year, join a local field already crowded with Yodle, ReachLocal, SuperMedia and YellowPages.com already playing in the SMB services space.

The Morning News also operates an events company, CrowdSource, leveraging one of the brand's core strengths — "we're pretty good at getting butts in seats," Moroney said.

He said that content marketing — generating relevant content that has value for a targeted audience — was a crucial asset for newspapers to leverage.

Brand Connections

At U-T San Diego, Mike Hodges, president and CEO, agreed that only 10%-15% of revenue from digital was not enough to bank on and shared some more unconventional diversification moves that the newspaper was making.

"At the end of the day, most newspapers still have the biggest sales force in any one market," he said. "How can we leverage that asset?"

One answer is selling video ads and sponsorships against the paper's 24/7 online TV channel, U-T TV. "We take our daily news reports to TV because there's revenue there," Hodges said, noting that all of the content segments produced for weekend activities, sports and weather have sponsors.

He added that clips from the TV channel can also be distributed to social media including YouTube to pull in additional audiences.

Hodges said that more diversification is in the works including a digital agency, real estate and mortgage brokerage services and even a coffee delivery service.

Coffee?

"We've got people driving down the street every day in San Diego," Hodges said. "What else can they deliver?"

Hodges said the paper has also found success through its iPad app, which is behind a paywall.

"The ads have more impact," he expressed, with better engagement and click through rates than on the paper's website itself. The app successfully monetizes with four rotating sponsors, he said.

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