Some newspapers are earning up to 5 percent of their total annual revenue from online products. But many newspapers have Internet revenues that are - in the words of one group CEO - "just an asterisk on our annual report."
I think the core problem - and it is easily remedied - is that newspaper executives simply don't demand enough from their online departments.
You can remedy this problem by adding line items in your annual budgets. Insist that online revenue come from classified liners, classified display, ROP display, special sections, banner ads and sponsorships, and mini-verticals, such as Top Cars, Top Homes and Top Jobs.
Too many papers rely entirely on classified line ads for their Web revenue. The typical model is to add a $1 or $2 surcharge for publishing all liners to the Internet. This then makes up to 100 percent of a newspaper's online revenue. All other revenue potential is too often ignored.
Classified liners attract about one-third of all web traffic for online newspapers. This means customers like to read classifieds online. Yet most newspapers don't even post the classified display ads online. The technology to post searchable classified display ads in-column with classified line ads is very simple and inexpensive. For less than $1 per ad, newspapers can easily make 10-15 percent more for the classified display ads.
ROP display ads can easily be posted to the Web for a substantial surcharge. We have one client that lost its K-Mart store and $250,000 a year in insert revenue. They now post all ROP and classified display ads to the web - and will make an estimated $285,000 this year in Web surcharges.
Question: How much revenue would it mean to your newspaper or group if all display ads were posted to the Internet for a 10 percent surcharge?
The TownNews.com SWAT team has been very successful (over $5 million in sales in the last 18 months) because we've identified what newspapers often failed to identify as easy-to-sell advertising. We refer to this as "low-hanging fruit." This mostly is banners, badges and sponsorships on newspaper web sites. Newspapers often have more electronic reach than local radio stations. Customers who want electronic advertising are best served buying online advertising from the local newspaper. Our SWAT team average over $37,000 a week in Internet sales.
Much newspaper revenue comes from special sections. Most special sections are NOT posted to the web, even though such sections (visitor guides, Progress editions, back-to-school, medical directories, etc.) can make great web content. We now have software that allows newspapers to publish their special sections to the web in an attractive format in less than one hour per special section. Newspapers can get a 10-20 percent increase in their special section revenue for less than $50 and less than one hour's work.
Question: How much revenue would it mean to your newspaper(s) if all special sections were posted to the Internet for a 10 percent surcharge?
Why don‘t newspapers use these revenue-generators more fully? Part of the problem is just plain resistance to change. One idea might be to build more pressure on newspapers to generate online revenue during the budget process.
If you lie awake at night wondering how to grow revenues, consider adding pressure through your budgeting process. Make your online products produce solid revenue!
P.S., If you think the Web isn't important to young readers, check out this. Media Post reported this story Thursday afternoon:
Yahoo! Inc. and Carat North America today (7-24-03) announced the results of a groundbreaking research study commissioned by both companies, which reveals new findings about media consumption by teens and young adults (ages 13-24).
Among the key findings of the two-phased market research program conducted by Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), was that the Internet has surpassed television in overall time spent to become the primary medium of choice among the young. Additional findings show the younger generation uses the Internet as their media "hub" and they feel empowered by the abundant media choices available to them.
According to the data, while teens and young adults consume many different types of media, the Internet surpasses them all in the amount of time spent, which in an average week is as follows: (1) 16.7 hours online (excluding email), (2) 13.6 hours watching TV, (3) 12 hours listening to the radio, (4) 7.7 hours talking on the phone, (5) Six hours reading books and magazines (personal, not scholastic).
The study, which polled more than 2,500 teens and young adults (ages 13-24) using both qualitative and quantitative methods, revealed that "control" - the ability to personalize and manage the media experience and content - emerged as the primary reason this group chooses the Internet over other forms of media. Survey findings also showed that teens use the Internet as a "hub" - or primary media - while other media are used as a starting point for the online experience. While other generations are more likely to be wed to a single type of media, the study revealed that today's teens and young adults are not overwhelmed by the abundance of media choices like cable stations, networks, magazines and radio, but rather feel empowered by it and are able to multi-task - using more than one form of media at a time - more than any other generation.
On a typical day, a young person is faced with a universe full of media which includes 200+ cable television networks, 5,500 consumer magazine titles, 10,500 radio stations, 30 million+ websites, and 122,000 newly published books. To many adults, this is a daunting, fragmented media landscape. Not so among today's youth generation. They were literally born to a world of media choice that places them firmly in control of their media environment.