In a recent conversation I had with a news media company and its audience director and publisher, they were excited and proud they had been able to increase their audience pricing in both print and online successfully. Additionally, they had been able to implement these increases while reducing their print footprint and maintaining their digital footprint with little damage. They viewed these actions as saving them their newsprint and delivery expenses while holding firm on the bottom-line. While my initial thought was to ask them if their elevator went to the top floor, I refrained from sarcasm and simply asked them what they believed was the number one component in their business that would secure their future. After a little bit of conversation, we mutually determined that maintaining and growing one’s total audience is the most critical metric to future financial success. Their strategy had managed to shrink their most critical metric in exchange for their short-term financial gain. The sad part of this is there are many news media companies that currently actually incorporate this philosophy into their business model and are selling their long-term financial well-being for those short-term gains.
While our industry has its share of challenges, our industry has a history of self-inflicted pain, the above is a great example of that. Instead of figuring out how we can milk our audience further, let’s spend the same effort strategizing how we can grow our quantity in digital and maintaining what we can in print. We have come to the point where we view our content as prized, thus pricing our content as a premium product. Problem is that unless you are solely local, that isn’t the case. If you are ripe with AP stories, national and regional news, national sports and so forth, you are just another news or information commodity fighting for consumer eyeballs and mindshare. The financial bottom lines throughout the news media industry indicate this is a failed approach.
Outside of luxury items, which carry at a premium, the consumer marketplace is going in a completely different direction. Most successful businesses and industries understand you create long-term success by building your quantity of consumers at a lower acquisition cost rather than building the quality of the consumer at a higher acquisition cost. Think Walmart, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple, and the list goes on. Another route many businesses are taking and finding success with, as are a few news media companies, is that of offering value-added incentives through loyalty, rewards or membership clubs or offerings. Consumers love and are attracted to value-added programs. In fact, studies show most consumers are members and utilize at least six loyalty clubs, while being members are many more than that. Fact of the matter, value-added programs are rapidly becoming an expectation in the consumer world. It has simply become the minimum cost of entry for success in many industries.
News media companies are well-positioned to not only offer these reward programs to their audience, but they have the unique ability to offer and promote these types of programs easier than most businesses in any other industry. There is a plethora of value-added offerings news media companies can provide costing them absolutely nothing. Having created many of these value-added programs over the years in many markets, I have personally utilized dozens of items that have high perceived value in the eyes of the consumer as a part of successful value-added rewards programs. Here are just a few I have seen over the years to get your creative juices flowing:
Free national magazine print/digital subscriptions. I have used national magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Better Homes & Gardens, Golf Digest and dozens of others. We only used those that could be provided for free, and there were many. You might provide one magazine selection for enrolling in EZ-Pay, another selection for paying for an extended period of time. Provide one to any consumer that signs-up a friend and so forth. These make great tools for retention as well.
Provide free prescription cards to all your paying customers. Many may not need them, but many will. These can actually become revenue streams as well.
If your news media company isn’t producing full-color, full-glossy magazines, you are missing the revenue boat on many fronts. Create your own special and topical magazines, tourism usually works great, but there are many topics that produce great revenue streams. These make great added-value items as well.
By utilizing your advertisers and even non-advertisers, create a special coupon book for your market. Allow schools to utilize this special product as a fundraiser to also use it as a value-added. This also establishes a perceived value as well. Put together a section made up of famous front pages through the years. Place it for sale throughout the market while providing your audience the product at no cost.
The trick to a successful rewards program is to provide many options to your audience. No one perk will appeal to everyone, but if you have a dozen, the odds are one or two might resonate with each of your audience.
John Newby is the founder of the 360 Media Alliance. He also authors the weekly column, “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” which focuses on bringing local media and their communities closer together through common synergies and causes to grow revenue. He can be reached at john@360MediaAlliance.net.