Creative ways for newspapers to generate revenue

In a challenging industry environment, newspaper publishers are getting creative and tapping into new and innovative ways to generate revenue.

During a panel discussion at the INK+BEYOND conference titled “Growing Revenues: More Ideas to Take Home,” representatives from newspapers and digital companies spoke about the different ways in which their businesses are employing new revenue opportunities and using unique channels, both online and offline, to increase sales.

Tim Corcoran of Toronto Community News, discussed how his publication capitalized on the popularity of group buying to gain a new source of revenue. His company supports group buying site WagJag by advertising products and services at deep discounts if a minimum number of people buy them.

Also present was Marlon Rodrigues of Polar Mobile, a company that creates and delivers mobile apps for businesses on a global level. During the panel, he discussed how publications can boost earnings through their mobile apps. Smartphone users are willing to invest in mobile and tablet apps and subscriptions to access enhanced digital content.

“Mobile apps are disrupting the web,” Rodrigues said. “It’s really no surprise that people are spending more time on their mobile devices than on a web browser.”

Panelist Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press, took the opportunity to discuss his newspaper’s dynamic revenue-generating initiative: the Winnipeg Free Press News Café.

Open since March 2011, Cox described the publication’s year-old news café as a social hub in Winnipeg. Sponsored by the Winnipeg Free Press, the news café is an attempt by the publication to put journalism in the middle of the community, to gather news and allow people to connect with other locals.

Inspired by a similar news café project in Czechoslovakia, the Winnipeg Free Press partnered with local restaurateur Domenic Amatuzio to create a meeting place for newspaper readers and staff members.

Today, the café hosts a number of community events, such as town halls, mini-concerts and book readings, which are then offered as live-streaming content on the newspaper’s website. The café also has a mini-newsroom for Free Press staffers where readers have the opportunity to talk to reporters, ask questions and engage in the news gathering process.

Cox describes the program as a great success so far; “the café has been well received and remains quite busy,” he remarked. The publication received the first place prize in the Newspaper Marketing and Promotion category at the 2012 Great Idea Awards for the café initiative.

“It’s non-traditional, it’s creative,” said Cox, noting that the restaurant is a fresh way to gain revenues. “It’s not like the Free Press at all…it gets people thinking differently.”

Cox told delegates at the conference that since the café’s opening, the publication is more active in the community than ever before.

“I think it’s the tip of the iceberg of what we can do with the company,” Cox said. “It can open a lot of doors when you do it.”