Three industry professionals shared their digital expertise in this informative session. Jared Bean, vice president of digital at MediaOnePA, Mario Diez, CEO of quadrantONE, and Daniel Sarko, vice president of digital sales development for The Morning Call and The Baltimore Sun took turns addressing many of the digitally-focused topics affecting the newspaper industry. MANSI Media's Lisa Knight served as moderator.
The panel first addressed the topic of subscription models and advertisers' reactions. Sarko and Bean talked about how their organizations incorporated metered strategies. Both said that the response from advertisers was almost non-existent, and the subscription model has become a new incremental revenue stream. Diez suggested taking the metered strategy a step further by using it in a way that allows the news organization to harness data about who's viewing and consuming the content and advertisements on the website.
The panelists also discussed possible sales team structures - a dedicated team to sell digital products vs. a sales team well-versed in both print and digital. According to Bean, ninety percent of his sales team is fluent in both digital and print, while 10% of the sales staff are considered specialists. To him, it's about recognizing the strengths of your sales individuals and encouraging growth. Sarko's sales team incorporates what he calls a "hybrid-hybrid style." Everyone has a digital goal that he or she must meet. They also have staff specialists to sell specific products.
The group agreed that it is important for news companies to have a variety of platforms (online, mobile, tablets, apps, etc.) in their portfolios. Diez also suggested holding webinars and/or conferences with businesses within your market to educate them on their digital options.
As the newspaper industry continues to evolve, can newspaper companies effectively sell services like reputation management and website development to small business? "Not only can we sell this, but we have to. It's not a choice," said Sarko. He added that if newspaper companies don't sell these services, someone else will. News media companies are in a particularly good position to work with businesses in this capacity, because they already have a rapport with their advertisers.
Sarko offered a final piece of advice: "Digital can't be thought of as a special section." It needs to be a significant and continuously growing part of your organization’s advertising efforts. As more and more readers get their news from a blend of products, from newspapers to mobile apps, it's important for news organizations to recognize and respond to their readers' preferences.