Live from the Ohio Newspaper Association Convention
February 6, 2014
By Nancy Lane, President, Local Media Association
A major snowstorm didn’t stop newspaper executives from all over the state from attending the annual convention of the Ohio Newspaper Association.
One of the opening sessions took a look at digital agencies. GateHouse Ventures President Peter Newton (left in picture) provided an update on Propel Marketing, the digital advertising agency launched by GateHouse Media a few years ago.
Propel launched as a standalone business in 2011. At the core of their business model is SEM, SEO, website development and mobile sites. Their value proposition is “to provide digital marketing solutions by trusted local experts.”
Training is critical to their success. They currently employ three full-time trainers at Propel.
They offer three main product types: “Presence,” “Get Found” and “Engage.” “Presence” is website development (desktop and mobile), data directory listing and cleansing. “Get Found” includes search, display, call-tracking, SEO, and reputation management. “Engage” includes social DIY, social marketing management and email marketing. Propel recently built their own in-house dashboard to provide meaningful data back to their clients.
Sales structure consists of GateHouse newspaper reps, direct Propel reps and third-party resellers. Most of the direct reps are located in Boston. They are true digital experts hired from companies like ReachLocal or Yodel. Their third-party resellers include the Chicago Sun-Times and Calkins Newspapers.
They use salesforce.com as their CMS. They believe that a good CMS is essential to properly manage a digital agency.
Key considerations in starting a digital agency:
• What scale is your business, or could it be?
• How digital-savvy are your current sales reps? (Note: If you don’t have digital-only reps on your team now, it’s a stretch to then launch a digital agency.)
• Is this a new program, or a key strategy?
• Start slowly, with just a few key products/packages?
• Focus more on delivering customer results than on generating revenue
• Don’t underestimate fulfillment challenge
• Pay attention to the impact of digital marketing services on customer churn
If you want to start slow, just start with offering presence packages or just managing social campaigns for local SMBs. The primary focus needs to be “Are we able to deliver results to our clients?” and not “How much revenue can we generate in the first year?”
Joe DeBiak, CEO and founder of the Center for Advertising Effectiveness (right in picture), also participated in this session. DeBiak believes that whether you launch a digital agency or not, there are certain products that you should be offering to local SMBs.
Email marketing, in his opinion, is a must for all local media companies. He views Constant Contact as a competitor. He also thinks that loyalty programs offer another opportunity for local media companies (this concept was discussed in the LMA Innovation Mission report last year as a major emerging opportunity).
DeBiak thinks that landing pages for SMB clients are an easy way to get into “digital agency services” and are easy for sales reps to sell. On the mobile side, he is a fan of text messaging campaigns (Dick Larkin will present a $5 million case study from the directory publishing industry on this at the upcoming Mega-Conference). Finally, he is a big fan of SMB workshops and bringing in outside experts to conduct them. (Note: Local Media Revenue Summit attendees will attend a SMB workshop hosted by the Sun-Times this May in Chicago – details at www.revsummit.com.)
The bottom-line is that local media companies need to be offering digital agency services whether they launch a full-blown agency or not. Either way, digital experts are required to make it successful. In addition, the focus must be on the customer and delivering results and not initially on profit.