Q&A: Get to know Matt Davison, Regional Publisher of The Idaho Press-Tribune

Name: Matt Davison

Title: Regional Publisher (The Idaho Press-Tribune, Adams Publishing Group)

Tell us a little about how you are thinking about consumer revenues today?

We are thinking about consumer revenue in a few different ways – some are evolutions of traditional revenue streams and others are a bit more radical.

We have been working for a while to create the next generation of classified revenue. While it won’t likely bring back the business from days-of-old, if we can leverage technology and the on-demand consumer marketplace perhaps we can re-engage the customers who knew us as a source for merchandise and services. We have run some early tests, specifically around short, product-themed auctions of specific merchandise and the results have been encouraging.

We have also been refining our subscriber pricing models, but at some point those channels top out. We are now exploring the concept of enhanced membership models – programs that aren’t new to the publishing world, but now that our audiences are accustomed to paying membership fees for free shipping or expanded video content, the dynamic is changing. We have been looking at those value propositions – providing digital tablets, Hulu memberships, oil changes – but realize that one solution won’t likely suit all.

Why has this area of the business become so important to you?

As more traditional newspaper revenue categories decline we simply must pursue new revenue streams.  Tapping back into consumer revenues is an opportunity that we think holds significant revenue potential for the Idaho Press-Tribune and the industry.

Is there a single digital success you are most proud of?

Today I’m most proud of the fact that our local digital ad revenue is still growing.  We continue to have success selling Digital Services (SEM, Web Development, Programmatic, Reputation Management, etc.), but competition in this space is fierce.

Every other media company in our MSA (The IPT is located 15 miles outside of Boise, ID) is selling very similar digital services to our local SMB’s.  We continue to develop new ideas that help keep us one step ahead of the competition and ensure our customers get the best possible ROI on their digital advertising investments with the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Is there a new area that your paper is stepping in this year, whether product or service that you are really excited about?

Testing of our Classifieds 2.0 model has produced good initial results.  Without getting too deep into the details the basic premise is to convert traditional classifieds into an auction based local e-commerce platform complete with next day delivery using our existing carrier force.

So far, we’ve launched short, themed online auctions with the paper seeding the inventory with “b-stock” products from large retailers such as Costco, Home Depot, Target, etc.  These companies have a growing challenge to handle e-commerce returns (often referred to as b-stock) and Classifieds 2.0 could be the solution.

e-Commerce sales are expected to exceed $750 billion by 2021.  According to national statistics 30% of those online purchases are returned.  That’s $225 billion worth of b-stock inventory that could move through our Classified 2.0 model.

The next phase of our plan brings in auction inventory from local business partners.  If successful we’ll have a complete local e-commerce platform that is full of great deals, local inventory from our SMB partners, and includes a next-day delivery option for our customers.

What’s the hardest thing about being a publisher today?

I love this job and believe that our future is full of new opportunities.  That said, some days it can look rather bleak.  Newspaper Publishers today are all facing the same or very similar challenges.  It’s critical that we find time to play some offense in addition to the defensive strategies we’ve been executing to reduce and control costs.

What’s got you most excited about the future?

It’s been said by many that “we don’t have an audience problem, we have a revenue problem.”  I use this quote often.  I’m excited to be exploring as many new revenue initiatives as possible to balance that equation. Pursuing new revenue is a lot more fun than reducing staff and/or publishing days.

It’s time for newspapers to get their swagger back!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I want to encourage people reading this to get involved with the LMA.  My experience in the Chief Digital Club has been extremely valuable.  It’s worth every penny.