Generating New Revenue: Great Ideas

Nov 1, 2016

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

“The purpose of the National Newspaper Association’s Great Idea Exchange,” said Robert M. Williams Jr., “is to collect an idea or ideas that you can take home and either generate new revenue or save you money.”

Williams, owner of Southfire Newspapers in Blackshear, GA, moderated the exchange during NNA’s 130th Convention & Trade Show in Franklin, TN. Even though the session came at the end of the convention, the room was packed with attendees eager to share and learn from their peers. Here are just a few of the ideas that were shared during this session.


History Project

Sharon DiMauro, the 2016 winner of the NNA Emma McKinney Award, produced a publication that contained 150 years of headline news from the Fort Bragg (CA) Advocate-News. The publication reproduced the newspaper’s flag from throughout the years. DiMauro said she hired a person to come in and search through the paper’s archives to select interesting stories from the publication’s pages.

“At the time that we did this, we made about $15,000,” she said. The history publication was priced at $12.95, and her staff sold about 5,000 copies. The publication also included paid advertising.

“They picked out some wonderful stories, including some fabulous advertisements,” she added about the person who searched her archives.


Contractors Guide

In addition to the history publication, DiMauro said her staff put together a contractors guide. The newspaper company she works for, MediaNews Group, owns publications in adjoining towns, so they produced a Mendocino County Contractor Guide.

“All the material was gathered through the State Contractor Board,” she said. Because contractors are not typically advertisers in newspapers, DiMauro noted, this guide helps secure ads from them for at least one publication. This year, the guide earned the company $12,000. Along with the samples she brought to share with the audience, DiMauro provided a house ad her staff used to solicit advertising and a pricing guide.


Backward Newspaper

If a newspaper publishes an issue close to or on April 1, said Allen Beermann, this idea is for you. Beermann, executive director of the Nebraska Press Association, noted that this idea was done by one of the member newspapers in his association.

Whenever someone reads a newspaper, he demonstrated, he or she opens it moving the page from right to left.

On April Fools, the publisher printed the paper so that it opened the opposite way.

“And it was so popular,” Beermann said, “that (the publisher) had to print two additional runs. And there were still lines out the door at 6 p.m., and she got requests for this paper all the way from Hong Kong.”

Williams added that he did an edition at his newspaper in Georgia during Sunshine Week that had one big question mark under the flag on the front page. Under that, it said, “If it wasn’t for newspapers, this is what you would know about what the government did this week.” But when you turned it over, the real front page was on the back page.

At the Chronicle-Progress in Delta, UT, Shelly Dutson said that the high school basketball teams in the two towns in the county they cover, both won state championships. She said she knew that it would be impossible to please everyone, so she put the Delta team on the front page one way, and when readers turned the paper in the other direction, the Filmore, UT, team appeared on its own front page.

“Either way, they both got a front page,” she said.


Front-page Ad Packages

Recently, Terry Carlisle, general manager of the Ellsworth (ME) American and the Mount Desert Islander, sold two new ad packages. One was a flex-form ad, running every issue on Page 2 of the paper, which generated $54,000, and a front-page ad package to a car dealership that ran in both papers for $45,000.

“This was the first front-page ad that has ever run in the papers,” she said. Combined, the ads generated about $100,000 in revenue for the two papers.

The two papers combined have a circulation of 14,000.


News/Ads for car dealerships

In Blackshear, GA, Williams said a local car dealership had been in the same hands for decades and had finally been sold to someone who wanted to bulldoze the old building and put in a new building.

“So I said to him, ‘Let us tell your story about this great new building.’” Williams put together a 24-page tab of ads and advertorials. He told the new dealership owner that if he bought three full pages in the tab, Williams would sell ads to pay for the rest of the publication that would include the dealership’s story. All the contractors on the new building, everyone the dealership owner did business with, were represented in the tab.

“He bought the center spread and the back page,” Williams said. The Blackshear Times has a circulation of 3,700. Williams said the dealership owner wanted greater distribution of the tab, and asked if extra copies could be printed to go in a nearby daily newspaper. Then he asked about another paper in the area.

“We ended up printing 35,000 copies of this tab,” he said. “He paid for all of it, and got a big bang for his buck.”


Circulation Promotion

Susan Rowell, publisher and regional manager for the Lancaster News and Carolina Gateway in Lancaster, SC, said she was looking for a way to pay for saturation coverage in her area to promote circulation for the 7,500-circulation paper.

Her staff sold a front-page strip ad and the back page to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Every day in September, the paper put a KFC logo somewhere in the paper. Readers could cut it out and bring it into the paper and put it in a KFC bucket on the newspaper’s front counter to be eligible for a $500 drawing. There were forms on the counter for people to fill out for the contest if they were not interested in buying the newspaper. The price for this contest allowed Rowell to send out 20,000 copies of the paper to non-subscribers.

Rowell also used rack cards to promote the contest and drive single-copy sales.

“We’ve gotten thousands of these entries,” she said.


Farm Safety Section

Mark Stone, publisher of the Times-Argus in Kentucky, said the most successful special section he’s ever published was a farm safety section, which is now in its seventh year. All he and his staff sell are quarter-page, half-page or full-page ads in color. Increasing in size almost every year, starting at 10 pages. It is 16 pages and has been for the last three years.

The section, which runs during Farm Safety Week, earned the Times-Argus an additional $6,000. The week runs the third week of September every year.

“We also do (a special section) for National Ad Week, which is the third week in March. We call on a lot of the same customers for this one.” The majority of these advertisers are from out of town, he noted—car dealerships, etc., that don’t normally advertise in the newspaper.

“This way, we get two ads that we would not have had,” he said.


Syndicated Content

Community newspapers are always being inundated by companies offering various types of content, Williams said.

“We’ve never done much of that,” he noted, until this year when he used a health and fitness section from GreenShoot Media, which he and his staff customized with a couple of local stories and then sold ads into it. He earned between $7,000 and $8,000 with the section, but only paid about $250 for the content.

“When you talk about health and fitness living,” he said, “there’s lots of money in this particular area.”


School Special Section

Michael Paschall with TriDelta publications in Southern Junction, AK, did a four-page broadsheet publication for the school district. It contained information about the school system and was inserted in his publication and was also used as a stand-alone publication individual schools could hand out. The state provided all the content and the school district paid for it, providing about $800 in profit for the newspaper.

There was so much information the second year, Paschall said, he didn’t think it would look good to squeeze it all into four pages. He was able to persuade the school district to go to eight pages and allow half-page ads to fill out the school section.

“We didn’t sell the ads,” he explained. “We got the school to sell them for us. They made the contact to their supporters. All we did was the ad layouts.”

With the additional revenue from the ads coming in, Paschall said, he offered half that revenue back to the school system. The cost to print the publication was covered by the sale of the first two ads.

It was a goodwill gesture that the school district appreciated.