With so much energy devoted to discovering the next best revenue generator in the newspaper business, it’s easy for publishers to lose sight of advertising strategies that are working for them right now. These publishers know they need to focus on business models that are making money this very moment. No longer are newspapers tied to just print revenue. Publishers are exploring opportunities in video, digital, native advertising, event marketing, and much more in order to stay ahead of the game.
Below, E&P examines a few of these innovative and successful advertising strategies that are making a difference for publishers and their budgets today.
Is Native Advertising the Future?
Native advertising, sponsored content, content marketing—however you want to call it—has stirred up some heated arguments in the media industry over the last few years. Publishers are confused, hesitant, and some even recoil when asked about the controversial selling strategy.
According to Business Insider, native advertising revenue will grow to $21 billion by 2018, and this year alone, it is reported to generate $7.9 billion.
For newspapers like the Elkhart Truth in Indiana, revamping its existing sponsored content model has turned its native advertising campaign into a revenue stream that resonates with readers and also serves its advertisers.
After realizing their basic advertorial style native ads weren’t working, the staff decided to rename the ads to content marketing to shake off any perception associated with sponsored content or native advertising, said Gwen Ragno, editorial project manager.
Now, rather than write a basic ad about the business, Ragno said her team of content marketers work with advertisers to decide on a topic that is useful to readers. Recently, the Truth partnered with a car washing business and tied its content marketing campaign on an upcoming environmental awareness day, featuring the company’s push to operate more environmentally friendly.
“The reader’s learning about something, but they’re also learning from somebody local who is making that a priority,” said Ragno.
She added the greatest challenge the paper faced with their content marketing was educating the sales staff and their clients. However, since last year, the Truth’s program has expanded from their niche publications to the printed newspaper and website (elkharttruth.com). Even though Ragno couldn’t share revenue numbers, she said demand has been so high that she has had to hire more content marketing writers to keep up with the work.
At Utah’s Deseret Digital Media’s Publisher Solutions, Jake Berry serves as business development manager at Brand Forge, the company’s native advertising arm.
Berry said the greatest lessons in native advertising are “You can’t violate your brand’s promise to your audience …You must respect your readers…Your content must be as good as or better than the content coming out of your newsroom—otherwise, you’re not building a sustainable or valuable product for your readers and advertisers.”
Berry said they focus on five pillars for a successful native advertisement: quality content; a mix with editorial, where Berry explained native ads cannot be banished to the side of the paper; it should match the paper’s website’s look and feel; native ads must be clearly labeled; and native ads should behave like editorial content. Follow the same merchandising and mirror onsite and offsite promotional efforts, he said.
With its projected growth and more creative native ad strategies on the horizon, Berry said he believes native advertising has a bright future in the industry.
Changing the Data Conversation
With so much discussion centered on data recently, it’s difficult knowing what to do with all that information once it’s gathered. But the Financial Times and Chartbeat (chartbeat.com) are changing the conversation from “clicks, likes and numbers reached to the quality of engagement,” said Brendan Spain, U.S. commercial director for the FT.
While the FT and Chartbeat have a long working relationship, they began running trials for a new cost per hour (CPH) model last fall, which works with data analytics based on how long an ad is in active view of the readers as opposed to impressions (CPM). In May, the newspaper officially launched its CPH model for clients.
“We believe the longer someone is seeing an ad the more value there is to it,” Spain said.
Traditionally, time on a website is measured by when a Web page is opened and closed, regardless of whether a person is active on the page. With the FT’s new model, the paper can track the page’s activity in a number of ways: if it’s been minimized; if a reader’s cursor moved on the page; or whether the page was moved up and down, said Josh Schwartz, chief data scientist at Chartbeat.
Within the model’s yearlong trial period, the experiment generated more than $1 million in total incremental revenue. When E&P spoke with Spain, he said eight out of the 10 clients with the beta trials had already renewed their contracts, and two brand new clients had signed on to the CPH campaign.
“People who wouldn’t normally advertiser with us are coming to us to ask how we’re doing this,” he said.
The campaign’s success is measured based on ad recall, familiarity, association and brand consideration. Due to this, the FT is able to offer transparency by sharing deeper data insights with advertisers. They paper can optimize the value of its content based on how long an advertisement is in active view of the reader, resulting in a much better and accurate campaign compared to one that just measured CPMs.
Both Spain and Schwartz agree the difficulty with the CPH model is its newness since not many systems are currently built for a CPH model. Spain said that educating clients about the new digital metrics is the key to success and that they’ve worked with businesses without CPH capabilities before and produced successful models for them.
Based in San Francisco, Taptica (taptica.com) provides publishers data driven solutions for mobile and video advertising. CEO Hagai Tal said publishers today have to be able to collect data from users.
“As long as they learn the behavior, they can make the advertising much more personalized,” Tal said. “I think the best example is YouTube. You used to see a lot of ads on YouTube, but today you see very targeting quality advertising which goes directly to the user. Think about it, YouTube is a publisher, and now they have the ability to collect data on users and give the right video to the right user which allows them to charge more from the advertisers and to get more support from the user.”
The Rise of Video
This year, digital video advertisements are projected to create more than $7 billion in advertising revenue, according to Statista.com.
For the Post Register in Post Falls, Idaho, video has already proven to be successful. By partnering with a local medical center, the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC), the paper was able to help the center showcase the company’s commitment to its community. On the Register’s website (postregister.com), EIRMC has its own section of video advertisements ranging from tutorials about patient portal information, stories about why the EIRMC staff is proud to work for the medical center, and testimonials from patients sharing their ER experience.
If you’re a small to medium sized newspaper, this type of local video advertising is what media analyst and CEO of Borrell Associates Gordon Borrell described as instrumental to their revenue growth.
“(They) should really look at video as a way to help advertisers tell their story in a multimedia way, and one little twist that makes it even more powerful is it’s extremely inexpensive to shoot a video,” he said.
In order for smaller newspapers to capitalize on video ads, Borrell recommended they focus on short infomercial-type videos between 90 seconds to two minutes long rather than the classic 15-second pre-roll video.
Brett Acor, Post Register director of sales, said EIRMC wanted to increase their online presence so the medical center decided to team up with the advertising staff to provide video ads.
“Our staff put their heads together and created a prototype (of the video channel). The client loved it, and it is producing solid results,” Acor said.
In addition to the dedicated EIRMC channel, the newspaper runs video ads within most of its online ad spaces.
Acor said they’ve learned that having time to perfect the product and being able to show the client a prototype of what they will be getting has helped make these kinds of ads become a success.
Coming up with new ideas is always a challenge, Acor said. However, working closely with the client and having them submit ideas and even content has helped create new strategies and stronger advertising partnerships.
“A Festival of Ideas”
Since 2011, the Texas Tribune brings the community together with its annual Texas Tribune Festival. This year’s three-day event in October features local politicians and community leaders discussing national and statewide issues and concerns.
Tanya Erlach, festival director, said the event was a success from the start. Editor-in-chief Evan Smith wanted to create an event component for the Tribune, and with Texas already a home to many festivals and community events, “he dreamed of a festival of ideas.”
She described the festival as an editorial event, in which advertisers and sponsors do not have any influence over. “We’ve stayed true to our roots, presenting serious content to the concerned citizens of Texas, but with a festive and fun touch.”
In order to grow the event, Erlach said they worked to expand programming, partnered with a wide range of sponsors, and focused on getting higher level statewide and national speakers to attend.
Now in its fifth year, attendance and sponsorship numbers continues to increase year-over-year from more than 1,300 to an expected 3,000. There are approximately 60 sponsors and there are 250 speakers already on board for this year with tickets priced at $200 and $150 for Tribune members.
While the event is successful, it hasn’t been without its challenges.
“Each festival and event sponsor comes to a Tribune event with a different purpose,” said April Hinkle, chief revenue officer. “We always want to understand what they need and want to achieve so that we may work with them to create the correct point of engagement and takeaway, delivering a great return on their event sponsorship investment.”
What community events such as the Texas Tribune Festival offer brands that traditional advertising cannot is face-to-face interaction with local citizens and the ability to invest in relevant discussion for that community, Hinkle said.
And for the Tribune, the festival has become a large part of its identity and a revenue source that’s helped to support its brand.
“When one is connected to the news in a personal way, one is much more likely to be involved — to vote, volunteer, donate or run for office. The Tribune’s goal for its event program is to educate and engage the community, to help produce citizens who will be active in their communities and enact a positive change,” said Erlach.
Print Advertising Lives On
While many newspapers struggle with print advertisements, the N’West Iowa REVIEW, a weekly newspaper in Sheldon, Iowa with a circulation of 6,600, is thriving—raking in almost $3 million in display advertising this year, thanks to community support pages and inserts.
Publisher Peter Wagner and his wife, Connie, founded the REVIEW in 1972. Since then, the REVIEW has expanded to publish DISCOVER, an entertainment tabloid; Herds and Plowshares, a monthly broadside; OKOBOJI, a lifestyles magazine; the Northwest Iowa Business and three semi-annual community magazines. Each one filled with lucrative print advertisements.
“We sell at least five special projects or sections in our various products every week,” Wagner said. “The promotions are directed to a different geographic area or business demographic…from week-to-week so we don’t exhaust our welcome to any customer.”
He said the last three years have been the most profitable for the REVIEW and he’s learned that advertising is the most important aspect to a newspaper’s future.
“I never get so involved in any other aspect of the publishing business that I can’t immediately respond to the request of an advertiser,” Wagner said. “More importantly, advertisers have to be sold, serviced and appreciated. Face-to-face calls result in exceptional sales.”
In order to cultivate success in their products, Wagner said the REVIEW sales staff focuses on their core products in addition to creating new ones. The REVIEW sales team consists of seven sales representatives, five ad designers and three graphic artists. He said the sales team isn’t involved with design or production, allowing more time to work with clients.
Wagner said investing in printed newspapers and advertisements brings the community together better than any other kind of media. He also believed the future of print advertising depends on the publisher’s commitment.
“We are the first writers of local history, the community check and balance…and the best way to reach the greatest number of individuals in the local market,” he said. “A passion and willingness to teach local businesses what and how to advertise will lead to greater increased sales, greater profits and true satisfaction.”
Advertising Facts and Figures
In 2014, digital advertising brought in $3.5 billion.
Online banner ad spending in the U.S. is projected to be $10.87 billion for 2015 and will increase to $11.29 billion by next year.
Digital ad spending worldwide will reach $170.5 billion for 2015 and will increase to $252.02 billion by 2018.
Digital ad spending in the U.S. will reach $58.6 billion for 2015 and will increase to $82.24 billion by 2018.
U.S. mobile display advertising spending will reach $14.67 billion in 2015 and will increase to $33.90 billion by 2019.
Digital video ad spending will continue to increase in the United States from $7.64 billion in 2015 to $12.27 billion in 2018.
Native ad spending will continue to increase, growing from $4.3 billion in 2015 and almost doubling to $8.8 billion by 2018.
Print ad spending reached $16.4 billion in 2014.
Sources: Statista, eMarketer, Pew Research Center