Critical Thinking: How to Increase Revenue by 10 Percent in Six Months

By: Deena Higgs Nenad

Q:If you had six months to increase the revenue of your newspaper by 10 percent, how would you do it?

Jamie Ratermann: 21, senior at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University

Ratermann is pursuing a degree in magazine journalism and a minor in Spanish. She is president of the award-winning Ohio University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and editor-in-chief and founder of Thread magazine, an online digital flipbook. She graduates in June and hopes to find work in New York.

A: A successful online component will boost revenue. However, the online formula for paid and unpaid content is tricky. I believe this formula will be profitable through compelling online features and related investigative multimedia for which my newspaper can charge.

Readers should be able to read 50 percent of my newspaper’s content online without a price but would need to buy a one-day or a full-year subscription to have access to all news. Content that can be found on other media sources, such as sports scores, nationally covered news, and local government decisions, should be free.

However, content that is priced should be content only my newspaper can provide, such as an investigative series, a popular column, or extra multimedia features.

Through this type of subscription, a reader would have two options – a full-year subscription or a one-day subscription. The one-day subscription would come with the purchase of the print newspaper or, if he or she is solely an online reader, a specific price per day. The content will bring traffic to the site by using tags on social media sites or the print newspaper, by advertising more features or through a related story.

The multimedia components will be a new method for more advertising revenue. A 30-second commercial (compelling video) before the feature begins could be a higher-priced advertising option. Online advertisements along the page or in between photos in an online photo feature would be another advertising channel.

Ultimately, finding the right formula for paid online content for each newspaper is important for revenue in this new media economy. With an all-inclusive site, online advertising can be easier and used more effectively.

Peter Bhatia: 57, Editor, The (Portland) Oregonian

This 36-year veteran journalist has helped lead reporters at several West Coast newspapers to win seven Pulitzer Prizes, including four at the Oregonian. Former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, he serves as president of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

A: As an editor, I wouldn’t presume to suggest revenue strategies. But I would certainly try to create high-quality news efforts online and in print that create opportunities for increased sales.

First, consider a format change for the print paper. Berliner, compact, tab. Send the community the message that the newspaper is willing to change with the times. Reinvent the presentation of print journalism to get more out of the news hole. Give the paper more of a magazine flow. Handle the routine routinely. Master the art of the digest, and save space for substance and stories that advance the discussion; don’t just repeat what happened yesterday. Reinvent how the staff works to focus on enterprise and watchdog journalism – reporting depth for your market that isn’t available elsewhere – so it becomes the emphasis. Let go of trying to be all things to all people, and cover the most important beats in your community well. Substance still matters, but it is a matter of where we focus.

In the online space, own local news. Really cover communities. Position our news organization as the central place to come for local news, whether it is generated by our staff or from the community. Aggressively seek out partnerships with local startup sites and others who are providing content. Understand that the definition of news has expanded, and embrace it.

Newsrooms, at least in big cities, tend to look down on news-you-can-use and information that people use in their everyday lives. It is far past time to get over that. If it happens in your community, care about it. Find a way to get it onto your site.

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Published: May 19, 2011

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