By: Jim Rosenberg
In 1990, creative services at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix consisted of staffers working on simple Apple Macintoshes with font problems, a few color printers that couldn’t match on-press colors, and customer files kept on index cards and calendars.
“Everybody was focused on their own goals,” said Dena Greenawalt, who has run the daily’s ad systems under both Central Newspapers Inc. and Gannett Co. Inc. The results, the senior manager said at a session at the recent Newspaper Association of America SuperConference, were that “advertising and finance reports often didn’t balance” and data was “not readily available for forecasting.”
That changed for the better after teams and new technologies were brought to bear. Results included “a major reduction in adjustments and credits,” said Greenawalt. (Though this was largely confirmed during a tour of the paper’s new headquarters the night before, an information-technology manager conceded that wrong-size ads still manage to sneak through until final checks are made prior to page-file transmissions to imagesetters at two remote printing plants.)
Ongoing process improvement at the Republic encompasses implementation of decision-support software systems; improvement of special-sections processing by the advertising department, which handles all its own prepress production tasks; reliance on AP AdSend and, especially, Wam!Net for electronic ad transmission; and use of preflighting software to ensure that files print as intended.
Supporting software includes a Lotus Notes-based marketing database of facts, figures, maps, customer information, and prepared presentations. Target-marketing toolkits aid in creating address-specific and carrier-route delivery options. Staffers now can create real-time reports from their integrated systems.
Ads and related transactional information originate and travel as digital data. “From an order perspective,” said Greenawalt, “we are a ticketless environment.”
Each sales team consists of a sales rep, assistant, artist, and customer-account executive. Their aim, said Greenawalt, is to create a satisfactory first proof. As a party to a sales call, she said, an artist has a stake in the success of a given ad and can make a sales rep aware of potential problems at the earliest stage.
The teams and their supporting information and technology help to foster an ad sales approach that is strategic rather than merely reactive, said Greenawalt. The operation nevertheless seeks to be even more market driven, she added.
And much like the ad sales teams, the paper has relied on cross-departmental teams to “make [its] projects much more effective,” said Greenawalt, citing a redesign of the classified section and conversion to narrower pages on a 50-inch web.
The Republic has been creating special advertising products — a home-rentals listing, for example — that it produces using Managing Editor Inc.’s CLS, whereas the daily’s classified pages are produced on the paper’s older System Integrators Inc. system and the section front is made up on the newer CCI Europe system.
The paper soon will convert, however, to classified-order-entry and pagination software from Mactive Inc. The single system will serve three newspapers in two cities because the sale included Tucson Newspapers Inc., the joint operating agency of Gannett’s Tucson Citizen and Pulitzer Inc.’s Arizona Daily Star. The 330-seat AdBase system (with fax software and interfaces to a credit-card clearinghouse and Autologic’s ad-tracking system) will add yet another capability to Phoenix: cross-selling ads with papers in the state’s second-largest market.
Other recent improvements on the ad side include Solo Mail Express direct mail, with address-specific delivery capability; data warehousing, for better category reporting and market analysis; press-calibrated color; and Pine Tree Systems’ Mosaic ad-management system, with automated file generation, proofing, and provision for customers to make corrections via the Web.
The Republic also is creating a Web site for advertising operations, which will keep customers current on their accounts (and includes an account history), provide electronic tear sheets, facilitate order and entry of classified ads, and allow online payment of bills.