General Session 1: News Media Innovators with Bold Initiatives

In the first general session of the morning, six speakers shared solutions to challenges faced by newspapers as advertisers shift to digital marketing. As online giants Google and Facebook dominate the digital ad space, newspaper and media companies are adopting innovative revenue streams.

Native advertising existed before The Globe and Mail started using it, but the newspaper's marketing and advertising department adapted the strategy for its print and online platforms.

The Globe operates a separate team of journalists who work with business/brand partners to create sponsored content. Connie Corner, manager of brand partnerships at The Globe, emphasized the distinction between the marketing and editorial teams.

Criticism of native advertising in journalism focuses on the potential to jeopardize the journalist's or newspaper's credibility, but Corner said there is no interaction between the two departments.

Sponsored content online and in the newspaper is labelled as such without a journalist's byline. The articles, infographics, images and other multimedia content are credited to the company. Corner spent the last few seconds of her seven minutes sharing evidence of native advertising's success at The Globe. Sponsored articles average three minutes of reading and account for more than half a percent of click-through.

The Winnipeg Free Press shared their approach to increase revenues through circulation. Newspapers rely more on readers paying for content so WFP publisher Bob Cox hired a team of young non-managers to create a model that would appeal to millennials.

The team discovered that unbundling subscriptions and charging readers per article they read attracted more users. Articles cost 27 cents each, charged cumulatively at the end of each month.

The system requires readers to create a username and password and register credit card information for seamless access and payment. Creating an account personalizes the front page of your digital newspaper based on your reading history. Articles you read are saved to your account and access to them does not expire. Cox noted that updates to articles, such as breaking news, do not cost more after the initial purchase.

The system is still in its trial phase but has reached 115,000 users. An added perk for the newspaper from implementing registration is the information gathered about who readers.

Ronit White, manager of strategic partnerships at Metroland Media Toronto presented a marketing project that benefited from bundling print and online advertisements.

White organized a trade show for family caregivers. Metroland Media partnered with 80 percent new businesses to participate in The Caregiver Show. Businesses bought packages of online and print ad space to promote their presence at the show. The ad revenues supported the newspaper and the investment by the businesses and vendors was returned at the show.

White said organizing the show required a lot of work, but businesses and caregivers who attended the trade show both reported 97 percent satisfaction with the event.

Susan Azzopardi, director of digital at the Hamilton Spectator, shared the paper's digital marketing success story. The newspaper trained and offered incentives to digital marketing reps. By setting a minimum sales goal and offering education sessions to help the reps sell, The Spec saw huge growth in their digital marketing revenues. This was also helped by offering incentives to clients to attend info sessions on what the newspaper can provide to businesses through their digital marketing.

Social Spiral founder and CEO Chris Fossenier also presented his company's method of adding value to a business's ads on various media platforms.

Social Spiral tracks consumer engagement with interactive ads on smartphones. By texting a code to a certain number listed on an ad in a newspaper or visiting a vanity URL mentioned in a radio broadcast, consumers can claim an offer advertised by a business.

Social Spiral monitors the offers being claimed, gathers information on an ad's activity and presents it to the business owner to see which ads are most effective. Social Spiral also follows through to redemption to see how many people actually redeem the offer claimed through a particular ad.

The last presenter, Terry Kukle, demonstrated a new app called Tradyo attempting to regain market share in the online classifieds market.

Newspapers lost significant amounts of revenue from classifieds when websites such as kijiji and Craigslist offered free space to advertise products and services. Tradyo resembles those websites as a public domain to post an ad.

Kukle, vice president of business development and acquisitions at Metroland Media Group, emphasized a couple of key features about Tradyo. The first is the app's use of location services to list items that are closest in proximity to your location. The second is the app's chat tool. Kukle said building the chat into the app makes it easier to communicate with buyers and sellers.