News

Jed Williams, LMA Chief Innovation Officer

@williamsjed | jed.williams@localmedia.org

Over the past several years, local media companies have aggressively pushed into selling digital marketing services, in many cases even going so far as to build completely separate business units with distinct brands. And with good reason – Borrell Associates data pegged digital marketing services as an $84.5 billion market opportunity in 2016 (and that doesn’t include any digital advertising products).

The “what” and “why” of forming agencies to sell digital products and services are well established. What continues to elude many media operators is the “how”: how to cultivate consistent top-line revenue growth while netting healthier profit margins, all the while creating a sustaining competitive advantage in an industry rife with competition.

Recent Texas regional Innovation Mission visits to the Dallas Morning News, Nexstar / LIN Digital and Advocate Digital Media highlighted shared traits of breakthrough agencies, including successful sales and fulfillment structures and key considerations for building, buying, and partnering to achieve sustainable growth.

 Dallas Morning News: Comprehensive Digital Agency Portfolio Owns the Full Buying Funnel

The Dallas Morning News offers one of the best examples of a media company utilizing a combination of build, buy and partner strategies to completely redefine its core business while offsetting traditional revenue losses. DMN President Grant Moise calls these “the 3 pillars of innovation.” The company has leveraged each in unison to position itself not as a single digital agency, but rather as a portfolio of brands with complementary competencies that enable DMN to address a full spectrum of customer needs.

Want to Learn More about How to Grow Your Digital Agency? Join Us in Boston, June 26-28!


LMA’s next regional Innovation Mission is headed to Boston for 3 days of dynamic meetings with progressive media and disruptive technology companies. If you’re looking to create sustainable revenue growth for your digital agency, this is the trip for you! GateHouse Media / Propel Marketing will lead a half-day strategy session, and we’ll also meet with the digital leadership team at Entercom Communications to learn about how these industry leaders are driving agency growth. You’ll head home with lots of big ideas! 

 

See the full agenda here! (sign up now and get a private tour of Fenway Park, plus Red Sox tickets!)

 

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DMN has purchased six businesses in five years, while also building a high-touch marketing agency (Speakeasy) and its own programmatic advertising trading desk (Connect). However, as Moise advised, “we don’t think of these as brands, but as marketing tactics. Our sales teams focus on specific parts of the purchase funnel depending on the needs of the customer.”

Mike Orren, the President of Speakeasy, provided concrete examples of “full-ecosystem campaigns” that span the entire customer lifecycle, from acquisition to consideration to actual purchase, followed by retention and ultimately, advocacy.

Different products and services tied to different DMN brands solve specific client needs at each step. The agency units specialize in a handful of verticals such as health care, luxury retail, major events, and fast-casual restaurants. Typically 13-month retainers are signed (one month setup), with an average program at $5,000 per month. ARPA (average revenue per account) will grow this year as DMN pushes up-market, a common theme we detect across the industry as more local media focus “upstream.”

Nexstar / LIN Digital: Massive Broadcaster Builds Internal Technology to Scale Efficiently

Much like DMN, LIN Digital- the recently-acquired central fulfillment arm for all of Nexstar Broadcasting’s local television properties- has also stitched together a comprehensive suite of agency brands and services. LIN Digital VP Operations

Nerissa Brooke explained that using the same fulfillment process and structure across the portfolio has provided a critical path to success. LIN Digital built many of these automated internal processes, augmented by high-touch client delivery services.

The central tool is PHNX, a fully-integrated workflow and task management system that automatically marks up campaigns for individual markets, handles order fulfillment, and provides tracking and billing. Meanwhile, Argos powers automated campaign optimization for smaller clients (under $1,000/month) to drive better results with lower touch. The company has also built external tools such as HYPH8, a full-service social media management platform.

Advocate Digital Media: Becoming the Agency of Record

Some local media may have the conception that large metro markets and deep corporate pockets are required to build successful digital agencies. Not so! Advocate Digital Media (ADM), the branded digital agency connected to the Victoria (TX) Advocate newspaper, is located in the 203rd largest DMA (hours from Austin, Houston and San Antonio) yet now represents nearly 30 percent of all advertising revenue (in additional to digital marketing services) in the market. General Manager Jason Holmes highlighted the biggest keys to ADM’s success:

  • “Agency in a box doesn’t work. We’ve positioned ourselves as a digitally-focused marketing company versus a digital agency. We take a high-touch, consultative approach, with the goal of managing the client’s entire marketing budget.” Note: ADM does not outsource fulfillment. Why? “In order for people to believe we are marketing experts, we actually have to be marketing experts!”
  • “Everything about ADM is separate: separate team, separate P&L, separate physical location. The culture within this company is completely different.”

Holmes and Victoria Advocate Publisher Dan Easton challenged the IM group to think more strategically about their digital agencies. For ADM, this means focusing on fulfillment as a competitive advantage, and clear customer segmentation to ensure they are solving the right problems and delivering strong results for different customer sets. “You’re not just buying cash flow with digital,” Holmes advised. “Forget about protecting your business model from innovation.”

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dallas-im-logoThe inaugural regional Local Media Innovation Mission headed to Texas last month and met with executives at 11 dynamic companies from the media and tech sectors. Participants were blown away by the depth and breadth of the companies visited and the intelligence gleaned.

Takeaways

Top takeaways focused on culture, data, digital agencies and purpose-driven work and these topics are explored in-depth in the report. The trip included visits to four of the country’s most progressive local media companies: Dallas Morning News, Advocate Digital Media, LIN Digital/Nexstar Broadcasting and Incite/Emmis Communications. They all serve as role models for our industry. Other visits included: The Texas Tribune, UnderArmour Connected Fitness, Umbel, University of Texas at Austin – Engaging News Project, OwnLocal, Simpli.fi and Tiger Pistol.

“LMA’s first regional Innovation Mission in Texas was worth the investment in time and dollars…what an incredible experience,” said Meg Boyer, publisher, Summit Daily News & Sky-Hi News. “The Texas mini-Innovation tour was anything but small in its scale of new ideas shared,” commented Gary W. Rust, director, rustmedia.

Read in-depth on the road takeaways from Texas IM participants.

“It is almost always the unexpected that sticks. And the Texas mini-Innovation tour was anything but small in its scale of new ideas shared. More than one thing, the cause-marketing, purpose-driven, “do good” approach to ROI were genuine. My takeaways – were inspired by the non-profit generating honest revenue of the Texas Tribune, Incite and its cause marketing, and UT Austin research relevant to digital media. There is a path. Owning big data to the engagement of users and advertisers on a micro level with smaller media companies also settled. We must own it. Sure, you can read a lot online. And I encourage all to visit the homepage of each visit. But actual sharing the room, discussing the takeaways with co-workers, all make the innovation mission the ongoing success it is. Thank you LMA and its organizers Jed, Nancy and team.” – Gary W.Rust, director, rustmedia

Subsequent Regional IMs

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LMA’s next regional Innovation Mission is headed to Boston June 26-28! We’ll spend 3 days in this dynamic city meeting with progressive media companies that are transforming their businesses and disruptive technology companies that are shaking things up. The trip is perfect for media executives looking to experience innovation in action and empower growth at their companies. This premium experience is all about ROI!

Visits to include –

  • Boston Globe: Private Dinner with CEO 
  • GateHouse Media / Propel Marketing: half-day strategy session
  • HubSpot
  • Entercom
  • Brightcove
  • WGBH Public Radio/TV
  • Bonus! Red Sox game + Fenway Park private tour 

Special Bonus! Be one of the first 12 to register and receive tickets to a Red Sox game, plus a private tour of Fenway Park!

More information and a complete agenda can be found here.

“LMA’s first regional Innovation Mission in Texas was worth the investment in time and dollars. What an incredible experience. It was all so well-planned, and there were certainly lessons to be learned from every stop along the way, as well as from the other participants. The list of takeaways could be a mile long, but I’d like to prioritize data, search and culture:

  • We need to be strategic in compiling data about our readers and advertisers and, more importantly, we need to be sure that that data is actionable.
  • With 50% of digital marketing dollars going to search, SEO and SEM should be the foundation of every digital campaign we sell.
  • At nearly every innovative company we visited, it was obvious that an emphasis was placed on culture. It’s important that we share why we do the work we do. I can’t say enough about the Innovation Mission. I’m grateful for the experience and better for it! “ -Meg Boyer, publisher, Summit Daily News & Sky-Hi News

“This IM was critical to understanding trends and technology that is available as it relates to our industry. The fast-paced boot-camp approach was really ideal and fostered collaboration and real conversation between participants to create everlasting connections and future partnerships. The schedule was well thought out, with overarching themes with the companies we visited and the three-day window was very workable for the busy executive running a digital business. As for my takeaways, I have a few: The importance of culture in the digital industry, innovation comes from the team that is committed and allowed to fail fast; and data is the newest currency, in that both clients, technology, and vendors are becoming smarter in how they benchmark and deliver data. Owning snackable and actionable data is more valuable than the quantity of data in your warehouse. Using data to drive cultural change and future strategy being linked to success was apparent.” – Nerissa Brooke, vice president, operations Nexstar TV

Learn more & registration

When you put summer in Chicago together with the most innovative minds in local media, you know you have a winning combination. Media Transformation 2017 will take place August 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place. This event is special and different.

  • The keynote will be a moderated industry discussion on disruptive innovation based on Clay Christensen’s book, Competing Against Luck
  • Jason White, head of partnerships in the U.S. for Facebook, will conduct a two-hour workshop customized for LMA (specifically developed for senior-level local media executives)
  • R&D partners will host 15-minute “speed dating” meetings on Tuesday – media executives that sign up for 5 visits will save $150 off their registration fee • A three-hour workshop will be dedicated to “Blowing Up the Sales Model”
  • Two 90-minute workshops will cover “Developing a Comprehensive Video Strategy” and “Setting Up Innovation Teams or Centers”
  • The first 150 that register will receive a free copy of Christensen’s Competing Against Luck book • The first 200 to register will receive a ticket to the Cubs vs. Reds game

paul-wangDr. Paul Wang, associate professor, Medill IMC Program, Northwestern University is a big thinker in a humble man’s body and will kick off Media Transformation 2017 with a session built on the intelligence in the book Competing Against Luck by Clay Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David S. Duncan.

“I am just a simple college professor,” says Wang but in fact, he is extremely well regarded by his students for his thought provoking style in the classroom. His approach to teaching at Northwestern University is born out of curiosity – he encourages his students to come to class prepared to ask 20 questions and his ultimate goal is to, collectively with his students, figure out what question 21 is. “The one that none of us even thought about until we worked through the first 20,” explains Wang.

He’ll take the same approach in Chicago with the sophisticated media minds he expects to encounter and encourages all to not only read Competing Against Luck beforehand but to come to the conference with many unanswered questions. “Together we will find and answer the elusive question #21,” hopes Wang.

Facebook Executive-Level Workshop

A lot has changed since Jason White conducted the kickoff session at last year’s Innovation Conference. In this two-hour workshop, Jason will outline the current opportunities for publishers to monetize content on Facebook. He’ll also provide updates on The Facebook Journalism Project. This is specifically designed for senior-level local media executives and will be customized for the LMA audience. There will be plenty of time for Q&A.

Registration & more info

R&D INNOVATION SHOWCASE Media Transformation 2017 will also include the R&D Innovation Showcase, offering the opportunity to meet with the industry’s top R&D partners and learn about the latest technology, case studies and research. Featuring a contemporary and much more engaging approach to the exhibit hall (think hip & cool with high top tables and flat screen monitors!), the Showcase will also include revenue stage presentations on OTT, video opportunities and emerging platforms.

BONUS: Meet & Save $150! Twenty progressive R&D partners will be conducting 15-minute meetings on Tuesday, August 15, from Noon to 5 PM. Be among the first 60 registrants to sign up for 5 meetings during this slot and save $150 off your registration fee (one discount per company please).

SESSION SPOTLIGHTS

Three Transformation Plans to Watch Do you have a transformation plan in place? If so, do you have a name for that plan? LMA will present three that are sure to get your attention. Prepare to be inspired!

  • 50/50 by 2020 is Morris Communication’s plan to seriously diversify revenue over the next three years.
  • Project Tomahawk is Graham Media’s local content aggregation strategy
  • EOS is focused on culture, vision, values and results at Big Fish Works

All three are solid plans that are transferable to other markets.

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Three take Top Innovator Awards

In addition to bestowing awards on companies for their collective enterprise in the world of digital media, LMA’s 2017 Digital Innovation Contest also honored three individuals for their distinguished accomplishments.

Sherry Jones, StarNews Media/GateHouse Media, received the Local Media Digital News Innovator of the Year award for her remarkable work at StarNews in Wilmington, N.C., a GateHouse Media property. Executive editor Pam Sanders calls her the underpinning for their newsroom’s digital innovation and sites an incredible array of initiatives that Jones is leading.

“We all occasionally talk about ‘who would be on our digital island’. No matter whom you ask in our newsroom (and some others), the first name would be Sherry Jones,” says Sanders.

Among the innovations that give Sherry digital rock star status:

News budget: Sherry developed a digital-focused budgeting system that’s been key to getting everyone on the same page.

Tracking and sharing: Sherry began a twice-daily web report that offers insight to others on

what’s working and what isn’t.

New website: Sherry led the web team in transitioning their site to a Mario Garcia template in

July. Most people in the building commented on the seamlessness of it.

Mobile, mobile: Sherry has converted the news team to alt-format storytelling and lists. A recent top-performing ASF was “By the numbers: 8 things to know about

Wilmington’s new Publix.” It had 10,966 page views with roughly 51 percent coming from

mobile.

Audience expansion: In August, StarNews began a Reporter Audience Growth program that

Incentivizes reporters to focus on growing their audience. Sherry tracks visitor and page view

numbers by reporter and reporter Facebook posts that link to content. Top performers are

honored each month.

Reaching core through digital: Sherry oversees the Cape Fear Connects project, geared toward

bringing back the old Neighbors section concept in digital form. Nowadays, the same content

that was clipped out and shared with family via snail mail is being shared via social. As this

hyper-local content gets new life, staffers are sending emails when an item is posted so the

sender can share.

Mining  The Archives: Sherry and her team implemented this program and continue to give

archived content new life.
Despite this long list of accomplishments, Jones says she doesn’t think of herself as a digital innovator. “What we’ve done to achieve success is less about the latest digital tool or multimedia enhancement but more about establishing processes for planning digital content,” she says. “I do consider our daily story budget to be quite innovative, though, because it truly focuses on digital content as a priority.”

Jon Accarrino, Executive Director of Business Development at Bonneville Salt Lake/KSL NewsRadio in Utah, took top honors as the Local Media Digital Innovator of the Year.

In this newly created role, Accarrino was tasked with creating and leading a team focused on new revenue generation and product growth for NBC KSL-TV, KSL NewsRadio, 103.5 The Arrow and FM100.3.

In nominating Jon for this award, Emily Hunt, Director of Sales, praised him as a best-in-class sales and marketing expert and as a compassionate mentor. “When he creates marketing business strategies, he brings along his team, helping them to grow into leadership roles,” said Hunt.

“We had an incredible year at Bonneville Salt Lake and this award feels like the icing on the cake,” says Accarrino. ”The chemistry between departments at Bonneville Salt Lake is something I’ve never experienced before in my career. News, programming, sales, promotions, engineering and digital all rally together to help problem solve and execute big projects.”

Some of Accarrino’s accomplishments:

-Breaking the boundaries normally associated with a traditional radio station, Jon proposed a

new ‘radio you can see’ strategy that focused on visual content for audiences. By creating sales-driven video programming and video display advertising for live studio cameras, advertisers are able to reach radio audiences in completely new ways.

-For KSL NewsRadio’s digital audio inventory, Jon’s team led the search optimization and distribution of its podcast strategy. Their efforts helped grow downloads of existing on-air programs by 291 percent. And, the podcast ad inventory management system has created close to $1.1 million in new annual revenue.

– The Nightside Project, a decade long staple on KSL radio, transitioned from a terrestrial broadcast to a digital only offering. Jon’s team coordinated sales and programming efforts and the monthly downloads have skyrocketed from 5,000 (May) to 60,000 (December), leading to new revenue via an exclusive sponsorship.
-For Bonneville Salt Lake’s music stations, Jon’s team worked closely with sales, programming and Bonneville digital to create a new interactive music-streaming concept called “Dashboards.” An industry first, it creates a fun and branded experience companion to the stations’ digital audio streams, boosts engagement with talent and gives listeners access to song lyrics, album artwork and exclusive contests.

-Capping off 2016, Jon led the project management and business development of KSL’s new

suite of TV apps. Available on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and Fire TV, the apps create a new

platform to deliver broadcast content from KSL-TV and KSL NewsRadio to audiences without

traditional cable, satellite of broadcast TV access. The suite of apps launched late 2016

with over 400 pieces of content and live video streams, has increased audience access to content and opened new revenue opportunities.

John Peterson, account executive at Sinclair Broadcasting Group, was runner up as the Local Media Digital Innovator of the Year.

General Sales Manager Pam Simpson praised John as a truly innovative media specialist and an early adaptor to the assets and analytics the digital space offers to their clients. He is the first specialist within Sinclair to optimize the collateral assets and among his recent accomplishments; John closed a $2.5 million 2-year deal with a local Personal Injury Firm.

“Without a doubt, John continues to strive for excellence in offerings of service and results,” said Simpson.

Local Media Digital Innovation Awards Announced

More than 80 companies competed for top honors

February 2, 2017

Newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and digital news sites all competed in the Local Media Association’s first ever Digital Innovation Contest and the results are now in!

The faculty at the University of Texas at Austin/Engaging News Project judged the 14 categories and were thoroughly impressed with the quality of entries that came from more than 80 different companies. “We at the Engaging News Project were honored to judge this contest and get a first-hand look at the amazing work being done at news organizations across the country,” said Dr. Talia Stroud, director of the Engaging News Project and associate professor of communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin. “It was great to see the variety of ways in which local news outlets are engaging with their audiences, and we were particularly impressed with the overall quality and innovation that many organizations presented.”

The winners will conduct presentations at the LMA Digital Revenue Summit on May 9-10 in Chicago. They will showcase their award-winning work and share details on their strategies and implementation.

“This is a highly competitive contest that recognizes the best of local media when it comes to digital innovation,” said Nancy Lane, president of the Local Media Association. “There is no other contest like it. The bragging rights are huge for the winners.”

In total, twenty-two companies received awards. Deseret Digital Media/Bonneville Broadcast Group, GateHouse Media and Community Impact captured the most awards with four each. The McClatchy Company was next with three awards. Gray Television, Graham Media Group, Advocate Digital Media, Record Journal and Rust Communications had two awards each. Single award winners included Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Calkins Media, EO Media Group, Capitol Broadcasting Company, 2060 Digital, Shaw Media, Metroland Media, The Conway Daily Sun, The Post and Courier and People Newspapers.

For the first time ever, the best R&D partners were also recognized. Second Street won first place and Simpli.fi took second place honors.

The contest was free for local media companies to enter. This ensured a fair competition with no financial barriers. Ten of the industry’s most progressive R&D partners sponsored the contest including Second Street, Buzzboard, Social News Desk, Guarantee Digital, Simpli.fi, iPublish Media, Leap Media Solutions, UpScribed, CitySpark and Ppi Media.

 

Local Media Digital Innovation Award Winners:

Best Local Website

Under 250,000 monthly unique visitors:

1st Place – Record Journal – www.myrecordjournal.com

2nd Place – Community Impact – www.communityimpact.com

Over 250,001 monthly unique visitors:

1st Place – Deseret Digital Media – www.deseretnews.com

 

Best New Digital Initiative

Under 750,000 monthly unique visitors:

1st Place – EO Media Group – local search engine for niche local sellers in the areas of agriculture, livestock and real estate. http://marketplace.capitalpress.com/

2nd Place – SpaceAlabama.com/WAAY TV – Calkins Media – spin-off site dedicated to breaking “space industry” stories with OTT interfaces for Roku, AppleTV and FireTV. www.SpaceAlabama.com

Over 750,000 monthly unique visitors:

1st Place – KGW-TV/Tegna – full live-streaming initiative for their newsroom www.kgw.com

2nd Place – Sacramento Bee/McClatchy – 360-degree video initiative for Sonoma Raceway www.sacbee.com

Best Digital Agency

Under $5 million in annual revenue

1st Place ­­- Advocate Digital Media – www.advocatedigital.com

2nd Place – Digital Elements/Capitol Broadcasting Company – www.cbcelements.com

Over $5 million in annual revenue

1st Place – Propel Marketing/GateHouse Media – www.propelmarketing.com

2nd Place – 2060 Digital – www.2060digital.com

Best R&D Partner

1st Place – Second Street – www.secondstreet.com

2nd Place – Simpli.fi – www.simplifi.com

Best Native Advertising Strategy

All classes combined:

1st Place – Shaw Media – www.shawmedia.com

2nd Place – Deseret Digital Media – www.deseretnews.com

Best Social Media Strategy

Under 250,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – Community Impact – www.communityimpact.com

2nd Place –  10/11 News -Gray Television – www.1011now.com

Over 250,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – Graham Media Group – www.clickondetroit.com

2nd Place – KFYR-TV/Gray Television – www.yournewsleader.com

Best Native Advertising/Sponsored Content Campaign

Under 750,000 Monthly Unique Visitors

1st Place – Advocate Digital Media – www.victoriaadvocate.com

2nd Place – Southeast Missourian/Rust Communications – http://www.semissourian.com/lifewithout

Over 750,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – The News Tribune/McClatchy – www.thenewstribune.com

2nd Place – Metroland Media – www.metroland.com

Best Mobile Strategy

All Classes Combined

1st Place – Deseret Digital Media – www.ksl.com/homes

Best Use of Video

All Classes Combined

1st Place: Star-Telegram/McClatchy – www.star-telegram.com

2nd Place – Semoball/Rust Communications – www.semoball.com

Best Strategy to Grow Digital Audience

All Classes Combined

1st Place – StarNews Media/GateHouse Media www.starnewsonline.com

2nd Place – Community Impact – www.communityimpact.com

Best Contest and/or Promotion

Under 250,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – The Conway Daily Sun – www.conwaydailysun.com

250,001 – 750,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place- Northwest Florida Daily News/GateHouse Media – www.nfwdailynews.com

Over 750,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – The Post and Courier – www.postandcourier.com

Best Overall Local News Strategy

Under 250,000 monthly unique visitors

1st Place – Community Impact – www.communityimpact.com

2nd Place – People Newspapers – www.parkcitiespeople.com

Over 250,000 Monthly Unique Visitors

1st Place – WDIV/Graham Media Group – www.clickondetroit.com

2nd Place – Record-Journal – www.myrecordjournal.com

Local Media Digital News Innovator of the Year

Sherry Jones, StarNews Media/GateHouse Media (below left)

Local Media Digital Innovator of the Year

1st Place – Jon Accarino, Bonneville Broadcast Group (below center)

2nd Place – John Peterson, Sinclair Broadcast Group (below right)

For more information on each award, click here.

The Facebook Journalism Project
Program to Establish Stronger Ties Between Facebook 
and the News Industry
Facebook announced a new project today that will focus on the collaborative development of news products along with training and tools for journalists and the public.
Local news in particular will be a major focus of the Facebook Journalism Project. “Local news is the starting place for great journalism – it brings communities together around issues that are closest to home,” said Director of Product Fidji Simo, in the release, “We’re interested in exploring what we can build together with our partners to support local news and promote independent media. This initiative is in its earliest stages; we want to talk about it now so that we can get as much input from newsrooms and journalists as possible, working together to shape what local news on Facebook could look like.”
The Local Media Association has been working with the Facebook news partnership team for 6 months now to share industry concerns and work on mutually beneficial partnership terms.
The LMA board of directors had a private meeting with Jason White, head of news partnerships in the U.S., in September that resulted in the creation of an industry committee to work more closely with Jason and his team. The committee, led by Tom Sly from E.W. Scripps, includes representatives from Nexstar, McClatchy, Sinclair, Tribune, Deseret Digital, Digital First Media, GateHouse and more. The group conducted their first meeting in December with the Facebook news partnership team in New York City. It was a very productive meeting with a lot of positive outcomes.
“We are excited about the creation of the Facebook Journalism Project,” said Local Media Association President Nancy Lane. “Our committee is eager to work on collaborative news products with the team at Facebook. We especially like the focus on local news. This work is important to the mission at LMA and will be a top priority for our organization going forward.”

LMA Chairman of the Board Gordon Borrell added, “Local newspapers, TV, and radio have much to offer in terms of content and marketing, and they’re deeply interwoven in their communities.  It’s heartening to see a relationship between Facebook and local media companies being cultivated. It strengthens both parties.

 

To read the full announcement from Facebook, go to: https://media.fb.com/2017/01/11/facebook-journalism-project/

The Yellow Pages Transformation

Q&A with David Lebow
Chief Revenue Officer, YP Marketing Solutions
dlebow@yp.com

Conducted by Deb Shaw, Editor, Local Media Today

Tell us about your career path to date and your role at YP.

I started working in radio at a really young age and helped build two radio companies, Emmis and AMFM. AMFM ultimately sold to Clear Channel.

 

We had thousands of local salespeople, helping businesses grow. It helped me realize the value of that important role in local communities. Then I went to AOL. Both experiences were about getting great content in front of people and monetizing it through local advertising. Whether someone is looking for a house or trying to find a restaurant, local is all about focused activities in a specific area. My role at YP is to oversee all of our sales channels and revenue. We have multiple revenue channels and a massive sales organization locally and nationally.

 

The legacy Yellow Pages that we all had near our house phone has, like most local media, been wildly disrupted. Please describe what YP is today and give us some insights into YP’s evolution in the digital space.

 

Our mission at YP is to help connect local businesses to consumers wherever they are. The way we do that has changed in many ways and remains the same in others. Making that connection between local business and consumer is something we’ve been doing forever. Our heritage as YellowPages.com helps us stand out in a crowded marketplace, where being known is an advantage. We’ve evolved our suite of marketing solutions, systems and technologies to meet the changing needs of local businesses and shifted the service model to manage both real-time performance and customer service issues quickly and efficiently.

 

Mobile and search are prime YP strengths today – tell us about your reach and digital revenue trends. How does print factor in currently and in the future?

 

More of our business today is digital than print, but many of our clients still use print because it drives great results by generating calls and leads, which always surprises people. Of our nearly half million customers, there are a number who use both our print and digital products. We take pride in innovation and success in both areas. We’ve been focused on evolving our portfolio of solutions – search, display, mobile and print – to help business reach consumers across all the media and devices they use.

 

Your sales transformation story that led to $1 billion in digital revenue is incredible. You told Innovation Conference attendees that you looked at some of the best sales organizations in the world such as Salesforce, SAP, Cisco, UPS, Northwestern Mutual and many more. Can you tell us what you learned from them?

 

World-class organizations stay in sync with their markets. They know what the market wants in sales and support, and they invest in meeting future needs. At YP, we applied those insights to evolve how our sales and support team operate with clients, cross functional partners and each other. We also updated our technology, tools and processes to meet with demands and to facilitate communication.

 

What are the core sales structure elements at YP? What’s different now vs. how YP used to sell?

 

We started out more than 100 years ago as a company that sold one product – in our case, a print book – and because of that, we saw selling as a simple transaction that happened once a year. Clients bought for the year, their program ran and it worked.  Today there are still many clients who buy once a year.  However, they also choose to enhance their marketing programs sporadically throughout the year around their key selling seasons. So we are in touch with our clients much more than ever, either to review results or to offer additional campaigns that help their business grow.

 

To stay in sync with a changing market, we have shifted our mindset, skill set and toolset. That includes a more frequent sales and service model, and piloting many best-in-class processes including territory structure, role specialization among reps and much more focus on delivering insights to our clients. Moreover, we are investing heavily in learning, development of our people and in tools and technology.

 

How would you characterize YP’s competition?

 

It’s a different competitive set than it used to be. Anyone who has a local relationship with an advertiser is technically a competitor. This might be an agency or another local sales company, like a newspaper or radio company that sells digital. There are also vertical players that cater to the home services or legal verticals. We have much more scale and capability than they do.

 

What do you envision as the biggest challenges and best revenue opportunities in the digital space over the next 18 months or so?

 

Our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity. Like a lot of companies that started out as traditional media companies, we’re seeing the migration of our audience and advertisers to digital. We spend a lot of time working with our clients offering them insights about the marketplace, their competitors and their customers so that they can grow their business. At the end of the day, we succeed when local businesses succeed, and we view trust in our relationships and expertise in our offerings as foundational in our partnerships with clients.

 

Tell us something about YP that we might not know.

 

One of the things that surprises people all the time is our reach. YP has nearly 60 million monthly users across YP.com and the YP app. Our research shows that this audience is 20 percent more likely to buy than the average searcher.

 

Finally, turn back the clock a few years and the tides of social media and mobile have yet to fully come in.  What do you think is the next digital wave to hit?

 

Advertising used to be about building a brand. Then it was about generating leads and results. Increasingly it’s about the intersection of commerce and advertising. So that’s a big place where the market is moving – connecting to consumers as close to their point of sale as possible. We’ve also seen a lot about the use of data to target to consumers. Yet, I think there’s much more to come to enable advertisers to deliver consumers the right message at the right time. Ultimately, that’s what everyone wants, and that’s what will deliver the best ROI for advertisers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 15, 2016
Tim Hunter
Wallit
262.592.4533
tim.hunter@wallit.io

Ballantine Communications Partners with Wallit

–Local newspaper group introduces subscription model in partnership with Wallit– 

Milwaukee, WI, November, 15, 2016 – Ballantine Communications of Durango, CO, has recently partnered with Wallit, a complete subscription solution, to provide diverse purchasing options to readers in SW Colorado. The service has launched on The Durango Herald website, durangoherald.com.

The Durango Herald partnered with Wallit as part of a larger strategy to develop innovative digital revenue avenues and create a more direct relationship with their loyal readers. By leveraging Wallit’s flexible account model, they hope to grow their digital audience by offering purchase options beyond a monthly or annual subscription.

“We made the decision to partner with Wallit during a major upgrade of our website to improve reader experience. Wallit’s paywall and purchasing offerings align with the look and feel we achieved for the website during our development, and their team has worked hard with ours to make it happen,” reports Doug Bennet, CEO of Ballantine Communications.

Wallit is a complete subscription solution, bringing content creators and consumers together in a way that is sustainable, innovative and profitable. They partner with publishers and content creators looking to add to their current digital revenues while also uncovering new opportunities. Registered Wallit users can access their accounts across all Wallit partner sites. This one account/one-click approach simplifies and improves the user experience.

Local Media Association Hires Strategist Jed Williams as Chief Innovation Officer

Two new initiatives to be led by Williams

The Local Media Association, which has become the predominant organization for all local media companies to unite, share information and network, has announced the hiring of Jed Williams for the newly created Chief Innovation Officer position. Most recently Williams was the Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for Vendasta.

Williams brings a deep understanding of the local media space having served for 4 years as a Senior Analyst and Vice President of Strategic Consulting for BIA/Kelsey. He also brings considerable growth-stage technology and startup experience from his time as Director of Business Development for Main Street Hub, as well as his tenure at Vendasta. Williams is a Roy H. Park Graduate Fellow with a Masters of Media Business degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His insights on media disruption and transformation have been cited by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and the BBC. His work has also been published by the Columbia Journalism School and the Yale School of Management.

“Jed is a game-changing hire for us,” said LMA President Nancy Lane. “He brings a unique background to the position and we couldn’t be more excited to have him join our team. We are also announcing two new initiatives today that will go a long way in helping local media companies with their transformation plans. One is the expansion of our Innovation Mission to include three shorter regional tours in 2017. The other is the creation of the LMA Chief Digital Club, a peer network that will foster industry idea sharing and collaboration. Jed will develop and lead both of these efforts.”

The Chief Digital Club will pair groups of 12 digital-leaders together (from like-size companies with similar levels of digital sophistication) for the purpose of sharing ideas, networking and learning. Local market competitors will not be placed in the same group. NDAs will be required and the groups will meet monthly via video calls. Williams will lead and moderate these groups. There will be opportunities for the groups to meet in-person. These groups will also have access to closed door calls with executives at companies, such as Facebook, to discuss issues of importance, opportunities and concerns. The cost is only $99/month and is capped at 48 people (four groups of 12) for 2017. For more information and to apply, click here.

The first 3-day regional Innovation Mission will take place February 6-8 in Austin and Dallas with visits scheduled to Facebook’s SMB headquarters, the Dallas Morning News, Texas Tribune, Incite (a division of Emmis Communications), GateHouse News & Design Center, Tiger Pistol, OwnLocal, Simpli.fi, and more. For more information and to register, click here. A second regional IM will take place in Silicon Valley and a third one in the Northeast. The flagship 6-day Innovation Mission takes place May 21-26 and is sold out (email lindsey.estes@localmedia.org to be added to the waiting list).

Williams said, “I am thrilled and humbled to join the Local Media Association, a dynamic group doing truly important work. Local media has always been my deepest passion. To have the opportunity to serve as a champion for innovation and transformation across the entire industry is a dream come true. It also carries a purpose-driven responsibility that I embrace with open arms. I’m eager to embark on new initiatives and programs that enable our members – and all local media organizations – to collaborate effectively to create a sustainable, profitable future.”

The Local Media Association is a thriving and innovative association that serves local media companies (newspapers, TV, radio, directories, pure plays, and more) as well as research and development partners in the industry. LMA assists local media companies with the digital transition via cutting-edge programs, conferences, webinars, research and training. It is intensely focused on helping local media companies discover new and sustainable business models. http://localmedia.org

mstt-chamberlinMatt Chamberlin
National Director of Digital Brand Strategy
2060 Digital

Interviewed by Deb Shaw, Editor, Local Media Today

Q. Tell us about 2060 Digital and the innovative process that led to its creation.

A. 2060 Digital’s roots stem back to 2009 when the Cincinnati radio cluster started offering Social Media Management to its radio customers.  Looking back, this was a very bold move as Facebook and Twitter were fledging companies at the time.  There were many more established digital services they could have offered, but this seemed like the most natural fit for a radio company, and so far, it was a great place to start.

Q. Can you give us some insight into the scope of digital services delivered by 2060 Digital? What’s hot?

A. We like to sell holistic, long term digital campaigns that follow the customer’s path to purchase.  The goal is to use digital products and services that start by attracting a targeted group and ends with those customers becoming advocates singing the praises of our clients.  To accomplish this we deploy an arsenal of digital products from websites to email and everything in between.  2060 Digital is a Google Premier Partner so we are always high on what Google can do for our clients including innovations in AdWords, Display, and YouTube. “Hot” for us is a successful campaign and happy clients!

Q. You were a presenter at the recent LMA/Borrell Associates Digital Agency summit and attendees really liked your sales structure and in particular, the expectation that all account executives set two qualified appointments per month. Can you tell us about your structure and elaborate about the appointment setting quota and process?

A. We believe in pipeline management vs. sales management.

The biggest difference between the two is the relentless management of activity vs. closed sales. If the activity is consistent a percentage of “sales” becomes not only inevitable, but it is predictable so basically we are creating a controlled sales environment.

The start of this activity management is each account executive setting two new qualified digital appointments per month.  It’s a paradigm shift for most sales teams and management as they have historically been “judged” by sales quotas.  But, with digital being a complimentary service to the primary media product we feel it takes some pressure off the sales team as we launched and now allows for consistent growth.

Q. You said that the digital brand strategist (DBS) is the lynchpin hire for your agency. What is their primary responsibility and why is this a key hire?

A. The primary responsibility of the Digital Brand Strategist is to be the digital expert in the room.  The Digital Brand Strategist is on every initial digital sales call our AE’s set.  Their job in the meeting is to educate the client about digital first, and then strategy. Many times we are educating the client about something they have purchased from another company and will continue buying from the competitor, but they really did not understand what it was, and we are perfectly fine with helping them.  The secondary responsibility of the DBS, along with our team of Digital Campaign Strategists, is to be a marketing strategy consultant.    They work with clients analyzing the marketing strategies the client is utilizing to grow their business, and mesh how digital can enhance and drive better results.

We could not figure out how to keep AE’s trained to the point of being a trusted digital advisor to our clients with the ever changing digital climate.  We believe that having a highly-trained DBS on staff is far less expensive than the constant training of both established and new AE’s to the level of expertise.

Q. At 2060 Digital, 40% of next year’s revenue is already booked. How are you able to keep churn low and recurring revenue high?

A. The ability to be able to book revenue into the coming year and to have low-churn, recurring revenue is really the result of three components coming together.

It’s a simple math problem, if you sell a 12-month contract in October you have 10-months of revenue booked into the coming year. We believe it is the DBS educating the client that is at the root of our success with getting these long term contracts.

The consistency of the two appointments every month from the AE yields predictable new sales revenue.
Hubbard has made a significant, long-term investment into a well-staffed campaign management team who launches, manages, maintains, and continuously works with our clients.

Q. What are the key drivers to your growth trajectory?

A. As described earlier our revenue forecasts are fairly consistent due to our model.  However, we are seeing a lot of clients who have been “burnt” by inexperienced media AE’s selling them something that did not work.  Because of our ability to sell more like an agency than a media company offering digital products on a Price List, we anticipate even faster growth as we clean up some messes.

Q. What was your biggest take-away from the recent LMA/Borrell Digital Agency Summit?

A. More questions, than answers.

Q. Tell us more about 2060 Digital’s three tenets: “Educate, don’t sell; offer long-term, holistic campaigns; and sell only what we’d sell our Grandma’s.”

A. We discussed a lot about the first two, so I will talk about the third; only sell what you would sell your Grandma.  When I was a Vice-President of Marketing for a large private held company, my boss/mentor put it a different way, “If it was your money, would you spend it this way (because it was literally his)?” Multiple times per day in our offices you will hear, “Would you sell that to your Grandma?” It’s a check to be sure we are doing something we believe will work for the client, not just to “sell” something.  This is made much easier by having activity vs. revenue quotas.  An unfortunate reality is “bad” sales happen when you are stressed to “close”.  We don’t feel that daily stress, so we can take our time and sell what will work.  We have walked away from our share of sales, as we refused to sell what was being asked of us because we wouldn’t sell it to our Grandma.

Q. Bright lights on please….what do you see coming down the road for digital services?

Q. I foresee a new dilemma around the corner, that being the continued rise of the local advertising agency selling digital services. This will offer an interesting paradox for many media companies to define who their actual client is.  Is it the advertising agency who buys traditional media products or the SMB who the agency now wants to sell digital services to?

Q. With more years under your belt than most media companies who are in the digital services business you probably have had many ‘aha moments along the way. Can you share any hindsight wisdom for newcomers to this business? Tips for avoiding certain pitfalls and accelerating success?

A. Although it may sound like we have a much defined go-to-market and sales strategy, the truth is most markets, clusters, local management, and sales teams are very different.  You need to be able to adjust your plan to each so you can reach your ultimate goal.  It’s evolution, not revolution.

Q. What does Matt Chamberlin’s digital diet consist of these days? Any websites or podcasts that you especially enjoy for work or pleasure?

A. I have three daughters that are highly involved in lacrosse, and the best place for lacrosse coverage is The Lacrosse Network.  TLN got its start as a YouTube channel and now has a great app. The hosts Colin and Samir are highly entertaining and the content delivered is innovative and well done.  It’s the future of TV.