Production: How the Production and Ad Departments Can Team Up to Help Drive Revenue

By: Jerry Simpkins
Spadias offer advertisers premium front page position and is simple to run for any property with a single width press.
Spadias offer advertisers premium front page position and is simple to run for any property with a single width press.

For years, experts have been predicting the fall of newspapers. There are websites and blogs chronicling the decline of newspapers and rebirth of journalism. The Web is full of the horror stories about layoffs, the ax falling again and nails being pounded into print’s coffin. Granted, we’ve struggled, but we’re still around and providing an effective resource to our readers and advertisers alike.

In my opinion, this takes us to a point that we believe and accept that newspapers are not an effective vehicle for advertisers and journalists to reach the public, or stop feeling sorry for ourselves and produce a product that the public values and advertisers feel confident will get results.

Over the years, newspapers have tried various ideas to boost revenues and stay afloat. Some of these ideas have been ingenious, others not so much. I remember when newspapers would only accept full run preprints. Someone finally came up with zoning inserts and revenues soared for a while. Much the same happened when A/B runs became popular at larger metros.

Contrary to what many of these experts believe, the printing industry hasn’t completely fallen asleep at the wheel, but new innovative ideas for print are getting harder to come by. For this reason, I believe we should re-explore some basic revenue producing ideas that may be new to some and old-hat to others. Key to these revenue producers is teamwork. Within this article I hope to take a bit of a different spin outlining my thoughts on how production can partner with advertising to help drive revenues outside of our basic ROP realm.



Spadeas are simple to run on press and provide advertisers a unique product to get their message in the public eye. Just about every paper I’ve worked at, if we didn’t already run them, we’d start to. Simple spadeas come in two varieties: three quarter and one half Web spadeas. A three quarter spadea is a full page on the rear with a half page vertically on the front. This provides the opportunity to sell coupons (or any advertiser presentation) on the front that stands out, while also selling a full back page of conventional advertising, perhaps linking this entire spadea to a common theme.

A half page spadea is simply a “dinky” half-Web wrapped around the spine of the broadsheet. This allows for either a half page on the front and back or a full page “pull off” that can be sold.

A possible downside with the half page spadea can be inserts bumping into the back “flap” (half page) and causing challenges for distribution. More often than not, this doesn’t happen, but it can. Be sure to get your distribution folks onboard early in the process.

Running a hi-brite or offset grade paper on the spadea further helps it stand out and can produce additional revenue.

From the production side, this takes no more time and effort than running a full Web of paper and gives your advertising department one more sales tool.

Depending on roller configurations and press hardware, some properties can run gate-folds adding yet another vehicle for advertisers.

A note can provide advertisers with front-page position even when your property doesn’t have the necessary equipment to apply adhesive notes.
A note can provide advertisers with front-page position even when your property doesn’t have the necessary equipment to apply adhesive notes.

Post-It Notes

Call it what you will: Post-It notes, NewsNotes, Sticky Notes, NoteAds or just plain Notes. Typical Post-It notes come in two sizes: 3”x 3” and 3” x 4.” They can be die cut in various shapes: houses for realtors, cars for auto dealers, etc.

Base material is produced in large rolls, slit into smaller width rolls and sold to printers who specialize in providing the newspaper industry with adhesive note products. Base material can come in many different textures and thicknesses; adhesive patterns can be adjusted to meet your needs. Most times the property can request the adhesive pattern that works best for them. Companies such as NewsNotes in Middleton, Wisc. provide a full range of quality base product. They provide full adhesive coverage, top only, sides, dots, stripes; the sky’s the limit.

With a strong technical and quality control background, they are able to adjust the tackiness of the product on the front-end to provide a note that sticks to your paper without tearing the product when removed (often a big complaint with readers).

Post-It Notes are popular with advertisers who trust these notes end up on refrigerators throughout our coverage area. Applied on the front-page or section front, they will not be missed by readers.

Given the right equipment, notes are easily applied in production. Note applicators are available through many vendors. I’ve found one of the more popular and easiest units to operate made by Profit Packaging. I’ve operated this unit at several properties and found it to be user friendly, reliable and solidly built. It can be mounted in a fixed position on any delivery conveyor or is fully portable and can move from inserter to inserter, even placed on the end of your stitcher trimmer or mailing machine—basically anywhere there is a conveyor line. For many presses, this unit can run on your pressline at press speed, although I’d advise you to incorporate it into your insert line to prevent press shut downs during the occasional misstep you might have.

If you don’t have the equipment to apply notes, you still have an option to help advertising sell these popular items. Faux (pronounced “foe”) Post-It notes can be printed on the front page. Everyone is accustomed to a yellow Post-It note. Simply reproduce the image on your front page and market this to advertisers. This provides a simple way to offer notes without the initial equipment investment and cost of material.



With many small print shops closing their doors, it’s easy to inexpensively pick up a small folder. Having a folder on-site not only gives you the ability to help your distribution department by folding oversized inserts, but also can give you a revenue stream by charging for folding of oversized and out of spec inserts.

You can also pick-up a small sheet-fed press to print outside single sheet commercial work and also help your circulation department by printing rack cards at a moment’s notice to cover breaking news and increase rack sales.


Revenue from Waste Streams

Hard as we try to keep press waste to a minimum, we will still have paper waste. Most properties simply throw paper together and wait for that big fat check from the recycler.

Managing and organizing waste can contribute to your overall revenue. There are several ways to increase what you are paid for your waste.

First, separate paper stocks; recyclers pay a premium for clean/white waste verses printed waste.

If you have a baler, you really have an advantage. Baled waste commands a higher price than loose waste.

Keeping cardboard separate and tying it in neat “bale-like” units also pays a nice reward.

Plastic wrap and strapping is a little known revenue opportunity to many. I only recently figured this one out myself. Every paper I’ve ever worked at has thrown plastic in the trash. I’ve never had a recycler tell me anything different. Not only were we losing recycle revenue from plastic, but were also paying “trash” disposal for the plastic.

Now we separate all plastic in a specific container and are selling our old plastic to the recycler. All the used strapping, plastic wrap, plastic banding material, most companies pay to dispose of has now become revenue instead of expense. It all adds up.

In addition, we recycle our waste plates. Although the market jumps around quite a bit, we all use plates and have to sell them to a recycler. Find a company you trust that operates above board. Check weights or waste quantity (however you’re paid out) before the recycler leaves. Always get receipts and keep track of how inventory ties back to your waste (this may not be possible if you sell by the pound as many of us do). Don’t get wrapped up with the guys who “will pay you top dollar because we need them for roofing.” There is a degree of liability selling to local individuals or anyone other than your trusted recycler. Waste ink on the plates, sharp edges causing injury, etc. Deal with a trusted recycler only.


Review Your Inserting/Preprint Costs

Although we strive to treat our customers fairly, it’s a two-way street. Out of spec preprints cost mailrooms additional labor. Discussing these challenges with your advertising department in advance and having them explain insert specifications to customers can often avoid problems on the back end. If after pointing out requirements to customers you then receive out of spec inserts, it can justify an upcharge in preprint costs and additional revenue.

At a property I managed in Texas, our advertising department sold a client on our ability to insert “just about anything.” When we had a full-run insert of powdered drink mix packets, things didn’t end well. While it really was quite comical I have nightmares about it to this day.

Inserting booklets, oversized product, or any out of spec product should be priced accordingly and additional revenue (fairly) should be figured into the mix and handed down to the advertiser.


Plate Changes

While on-the-fly plate changes will contribute to paper waste, when properly priced out and sold accordingly, plate changes for advertisers within the run can mean an additional source of advertising revenue. Take into account time, waste, and zoning considerations in distribution before undertaking this. While it can be a bit of extra work for the press crew, it can also provide an additional source of revenue to your advertising department.


A/B Runs

Referred to earlier, A/B runs seem to be making a comeback at some properties with collect/two-around presses. Explained clearly to advertisers this can become an attractive alternative offering yet another option to increase revenue.


Front Page Advertising

Perhaps more of a topic for advertising and editorial to work out and overstepping the production slant of this article, front page advertising has become more and more popular in our industry. Front page banners are now common place. While once upon a time editors would strongly object, they have now jumped on-board and realize any revenue is good revenue and front page advertising doesn’t seriously compromise the journalistic integrity of the product.

Outside commercial printing and special sections is one way many newspapers have increased profits.
Outside commercial printing and special sections is one way many newspapers have increased profits.

Commercial Printing

I can’t say enough about how commercial printing can enhance your bottom line and increase revenues. For many properties it can be the difference between losing money and making money at month-end.

If you have a press, you had better be actively selling commercial printing. I won’t go into detail here, but I strongly advise you to check out our June 2015 issue and review my article on commercial printing ( I believe it can help improve the bottom line in most print organizations.

Provide exemplary customer service. Keep a clean pressroom and encourage your advertising department to conduct tours with advertisers. Keep a solid archive of sample products and encourage customer feedback to improve your crews’ performance.

Assist your commercial sales division by inviting customer press proofing for particular clients.

Outsource gloss/enamel printing for covers (if you don’t have U/V or heatset ability), stitch and trim and perfect bound booklets. If you’re lucky enough to have a Diddie or similar U/V press, work closely with advertising and commercial to actively sell this ability.

If you have a commercial opportunity that exceeds the capabilities of your production department, don’t be afraid to broker jobs. Managed properly and priced accordingly, advertisers and/or print customers will pay for your services in composing and overall management of the printing process. Mark-up the job, and with the simple organization and management of the processes, it can easily contribute to your bottom line.

Focus on quality. Help your advertising department in every way you can. Print a quality product like you were paying for it yourself. Every complaint that our advertising departments have to address with customers affects our credibility as an organization and takes them away for doing their jobs.

There are several different ways that production can help increase revenue. Once regarded as “an expense department,” production can work hand-in-hand with advertising, circulation and commercial to generate new ideas and print opportunities to increase revenue, add strength to our franchises, and contribute to the overall bottom line of the company.

Jerry Simpkins is the general manager at Hi-Desert Publishing in Yucca Valley, Calif. Contact him on or at

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Published: April 18, 2016

3 thoughts on “Production: How the Production and Ad Departments Can Team Up to Help Drive Revenue

  • April 18, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Ref: waste
    You may also find a recycler that has the ability to drop an empty
    trailer at your facility. This enable you fill the trailer with your scrap as you go and will help save some space. This requires you to have a raised dock with slot open however. A recycler that takes all scrap, like newspaper, plastic and cardboard, can be a good fit for you to generate a solid stream of recycling income.

  • June 19, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Mike Bird…
    Some great points on recycling. Another money maker production folks can do is to hold used plates in storage (if you have storage) and monitor the market. Aluminum prices, like all commodities, rise and fall. Hold on plates until the market appears to be paying highest and maximum your recycle revenues.



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