Newspaper Association of America Conference: Topline


More than ever this conference focused on the future which mainly meant digital. Some speakers provided strategic insights while others provided practical, revenue driven ideas. A brief summary of both are provided.

What business are we in?
Many speakers posed this question. The answer sets the tone for how you run your business. Here are some observations:

“Content farm.” – Ian Schafer, Deep Focus; “The voice of the community.” – Susie Ellwood, CEO, Detroit Media Partnerships; “Facilitator and re-aggregator for the local community for commercial and retail purposes…a connection engine.” – Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, VivaKi.

Digital Revenue
How to make money in the digital space beyond traditional online ads was a hot topic. Newspapers are trying a variety of initiatives with the consensus being, there is no silver bullet.  

  1. Behavioural and geo-targeting– Reached new customers (garnered $750K) 1
  2. Real time advertising– Used Twitter to place ads on newspaper site (10 clients @ $200/month = $24K/year) 1
  3. Mobile coupons– Bundled with print & found new customers in Food Court for example (15 clients @ $200/month = $36K/year) 1
  4. Paid event listings– “Featured” ad (13 clients @ $250/month = $39K) but use pay-per-click and adjust pricing accordingly 1
  5. Photo contests– Participants competed to win $1K, advertiser sponsors and users+judges decide – 11/yr = $350K2
  6. Half price deals– Advertiser provided $50 gift cards for ad space, paper sells cards for $25 – 102 advertisers = $250K+2
  7. Training session in digital for advertisers– Sold $450K after session 2
  8. Tweet jobs– See where 8 employers are participating in a trial – first 6 months: 147,000 page views, 10,400 followers 3
  9. Facebook contests – For restaurant, readers submitted a recipe via newspaper facebook page to win your dinner recipe at the rest. – 7 accounts, 4 months, $80K annualized 4

As it has launched in the U.S., some at the conference had one so I talked to them and tried it!  It was slick and provides a beautiful image but there are shortcomings. It is heavier than expected, does not have USB slots and lacks a camera. While the industry has historically undercharged for online ads, this may provide the opportunity to garner more.
The next big thing!  It is a local social network that allows users to broadcast their current location. Metro in Canada has hooked up with Foursquare. Financial Times is using it to get subscriptions. Participants earn credit by going to local retailers and the credits can be used to get a subscription.

Food for thought
“All the big news finds me”5
“Smart visual design adds credibility to content.” 5
“What is your muchness?”6
“This is my dream and I will decide how it ends.” 6
“Most important thing that you can change (when turning around a business)?  Change the mood!” 7


1=Michael Fibison, Media General;&nb