Revenue. Revenue. Revenue. Everyone in the newspaper business is talking about a downturn in revenue. All want to know how the Internet can save them - or at least help. There is low-hanging fruit that many papers have overlooked.
Research confirms that one of the prime reasons consumers go to newspapers - both in print and online - is to view advertising. Advertisers increasingly want Internet advertising. But some papers aren't stepping up to the plate.
Usually, more than 50 percent of a printed newspaper's product is advertising. Ask yourself: How much of that advertising is being posted on the Internet? If not all of it is, you have some great revenue growth potential.
Newspapers typically post all their classified liner ads, and there's no question that classifieds on the Internet are powerful. Consumers browse and search classifieds, and advertisers are willing to pay for this added exposure. Ask yourself: Are your classified display ads posted on the Internet? If not, why not. Just make sure they are interspersed with the classified liner ads and both your readers and your advertisers will be pleased.
Run-of-the-paper ads are a bit different, but they ARE part of the reason consumers read newspapers, in print and online. ROP ads should be digitized and posted online, possibly even mixed in with the classified and classified display ads. Make sure to drive eyeballs to these ads, either through distribution in classifieds or using a tool like Top Ads.
Your special sections should be posted online. Unless the special section is totally worthless - and we all know some are - these publications make good Web content. Advertisers see value in having special sections - and their ads - posted to the Internet.
Most papers have niche publications. These, too, ought to be published on the Internet - it's all good Web content, and gives you a good reason to charge more for your ads.
The more content you have on your Internet newspaper, the more eyeballs it will attract, and the more likely your online newspaper will be viewed as the best local Internet marketplace. Being the online marketplace in your community is of critical importance to your long-term survival.
On a related front, examine your deadlines. Almost all newspapers use their print deadlines to determine the posting of advertising on the Internet. So, for example, if your deadline for Sunday's printed edition is 5 p.m. Thursday, the ads taken Thursday won't be posted on the Internet until Sunday morning. How can you compete with the likes of Craigslist when you shackle your own products with such needless delays? Ask your team for a breakdown of your online deadlines.
Few papers are doing so, but now is the time to allow your customers to buy Internet-only ads. Allow customers to purchase advertising online, whenever they want. Empower your customers. They'll buy bigger ads with more attention getters and fewer abbreviations. It's not technology that's blocking such products - it's resistance inside newspaper management teams. This is low-hanging fruit (revenue) - if you will give your customers such choices.
There's a healthy debate in the newspaper industry about how much - and when - news content should be posted on the World Wide Web, and whether it should be free. But I don't think there should be any debate about the benefits of posting all your advertising on the Web. Readers want it, and advertisers are willing to pay more for this distribution.
There's low-hanging fruit out there. If you have revenue issues, this should help.