Greater Media’s ‘iPad Project’ Improves Ad Sales and Production
Posted: 5/9/2012 | By: Nu Yang
As publishers search for solutions to save on resources, the Greater Media Newspaper group, based in central New Jersey, has found an answer right in its own office. Known as the “iPad project,” the sales tool was developed in-house and has helped reduce paperwork and errors and speed up the production process.
The newspaper group puts out 10 weekly papers plus one online-only paper, and circulation is just under a quarter of a million. With a large geographical area to cover, the group’s sales representatives would spend much of their time traveling back and forth between the office and visiting clients.
“The goal of the iPad project was to give the outside sales reps a complete set of tools that would allow them to operate fully without ever coming back into the office,” said Gene Lennon, director of information technology, production, and interactive.
Lennon said there were talks about five years ago to give laptops to sales representatives, but from what he saw with other newspapers, laptops did not offer many benefits due to ongoing IT support costs and short battery life. But the idea stuck with Lennon.
He approached systems manager Jeff Messeroll with the idea of a virtual mobile office, and the two quickly went to work.
“We needed to construct an application that would give (sales reps) ad history, account history, the ability to enter ads into our order entry system, make changes to orders, do pickups and kills, and replace the traditional paper layout sheets,” Lennon said.
According to Lennon, the iPad — with its long battery life, high-resolution screen, and ability to work anyplace with no Wi-Fi required — was the perfect remote device.
Lennon and Messeroll decided to work on the project quietly behind the scenes, because they wanted to develop a working version before going to management. They used one iPad to conduct their beta testing, and a year later the graphic-based application was ready.
Lennon said the new system includes viewing and emailing of ads as PDFs and integrated tear-sheet management that allows sales reps to see all ads on the page as well as email tear sheets. The system also enables reps to draw layouts on their iPads and submit them to the production department.
“It used to take four or five days before the reps returned to the office with an order ticket,” Lennon said. “Now before they even walk out the customer’s door, production is working on the ad.”
The system also has reduced the number of errors. It automatically compares the data entered by the sales rep side by side with data from the finance system and places a red X in any field that isn’t in agreement.
Lennon said ad entry error rate has decreased from 13 percent to less than 1 percent, and since going live with the program about 10 months ago, Lennon said local display advertising has increased 30 percent in print dollars.
Lennon said there is still a laundry list of things to do to perfect the project, including a mapping system that will display clients by location. There are also plans to move the project into publishing, specifically for tablet and mobile users.