This is a presentation by Mike Obert, managing partner-sales for Open Look Business Solutions based in Richardson, at the TCCJ Revenue Workshop via Zoom on Aug. 14.
TCCJ Revenue Workshop: Making Money in the “New Normal”
Welcome and introductions
Kathryn Jones and Dan Malone
TCCJ Co-directors, live from the Texan News broadcast studio at
Tarleton State University in Stephenville
“Re-Igniting the Post-Covid Sales Conversation With Advertisers”
Media sales consultant/ad coach and host of “Ad Sales Nation” podcast
COVID-19 was devastating for most local and regional business owners. So, how do we as sales pros sympathize, but get back to that much-needed marketing conversation? Media sales coach Ryan Dohrn will share 7 ways to re-ignite the conversation with style, ideas, and realistic expectations. From handling objections like COVID has killed our business to the objection of I am too busy now to explaining the “marketing bump” to email templates to perfect post-COVID prospecting times to revised pricing options. Come prepared to laugh and learn from a media sales pro that still sells today and has touched over half a billion dollars in ad sales over his 30-year career.
“New Strategies for a New Time”
Director of Special Projects Sales
Moser Community Media, LLC (Brenham)
Kevin will share “out of the box” success stories during this “new normal.” He describes himself as a “positive, upbeat, ‘make lemons out of lemonade’ kind of salesperson and leader,” so Kevin’s presentation will focus on creative ways to engage customers and make deals at a time when so many traditional advertisers face economic challenges themselves.
“The New Normal of Selling”
Managing Partner – Sales
Open-Look.com, Richardson, Texas
When so many people are working remotely, traditional workdays are upside down. For sales people, that means having a fluid schedule throughout the day to work in your hours of prospecting and maintaining existing clients. It also means looking for new means to reach readers on behalf of advertisers. Mike will discuss how to use video and leverage social media in the new normal of selling.
“A Year for the Record Books – What’s Working? What’s Not?”
Moderated by Dan Malone and Kathryn Jones
The pandemic and statewide lockdown of businesses crashed local economies and put intense new pressures on community journalism outlets and their bottom lines. Newspapers saw website traffic increase, but traditional ad sales plummet. Some were able to secure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, but that money ran out fast. Some were able to get new grants offered by Facebook and other sources. Some had to cut frequency of print publication. Many had to scramble and find creative ways to survive. Attendees are invited to share their stories about what worked, what did not, and how their business models are changing.
Ryan is the founder of media sales strategy firm Brain Swell Media and the creator of the 360 Ad Sales System taught to over 20,000 media sales professionals in 7 countries. Ryan works with over 200 newspapers per year and has a deep passion for the community newspaper business. Ryan’s 30-year media sales and marketing career includes leadership roles at PennWell Publishing, Morris Publishing, Disney/ABC TV and The NY Times Company. He is an Emmy Award winner, business book author and has been featured in USA Today and on Forbes.com.
Hailing from Greenville, Texas, the son of a newspaper pressman and a mother who faithfully read her hometown newspaper daily, Kevin has printer’s ink flowing in his veins. He joined MCM in January 2014 as Director of Special Projects, Digital, and Sales Training, and heads up a groupwide VIP initiative.
Although Kevin was heavily involved in his elementary, junior high and high school newspapers, he began his “official” newspaper career as a retail sales rep with the Rockwall Texas Journal-Success in 1993.
In 1997, Kevin was recruited to an advertising account executive opportunity with The Dallas Morning News, working print and digital advertising and focusing on the travel and tourism, real estate, faith-based accounts and automotive segments. After marrying an “Okie,” in 2003 he accepted a position with The Daily Oklahoman/NewsOK.com in Oklahoma City as a digital advertising specialist, developing their first-ever million-dollar digital sales territory.
Moving to Austin 2010 for personal/family reasons, Kevin accepted a multi-media executive position with Cox Media Group/ The Austin American-Statesman where he earned several awards and honors. In 2012 he was recruited to rebuild a major and key accounts territory with Hearst Media/San Antonio Express-News.
In 2013, Kevin was recruited by Stephens Media Corporate Division in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a digital sales consultant/catalyst for their training and sales efforts for their papers nationwide. Kevin worked with such papers as The Las Vegas Review Journal; The Daily World in Aberdeen, Washington; The Sherman Herald-Democrat in Sherman, Texas; The Examiner-Enterprise in Bartlesville, OK; and the Ashboro Courier-Tribune in Ashboro, North Carolina.
Kevin also has served as advertising directors for two local Texas papers – his hometown newspaper, The Greenville Herald Banner (2001), and The Williamson County Sun in Georgetown (2011-2012).
Mike began his publishing career in 1992 and has specialized in monetizing magazines through ad sales, distribution and other creative revenue streams. In 2009, Mike began developing offshore publishing solutions for a US-based niche media company out of the Philippines. In three short years, Mike noticed a void in the industry and lack of reliable outsourced options for all publishers, which ignited the vision to create Open Look.
In 2012, Mike and partners formed Open Look, turning void into opportunity. Two years later, Mike created a neighborhood network of community publications that is directly mailed and driven by ad sales. Currently, Mike drives the direction and innovation of Open Look, ensuring the services remain valuable and relevant for the ever-evolving niche media industry.
The annual Summer Revenue Workshop conducted by the Texas Center for Community Journalism has been moved to a virtual format for Friday, Aug. 14. It will no longer be held in person at the Hangar Hotel Conference Center in Fredericksburg due to the spread of COVID-19 throughout Texas. However, we’re planning an excellent workshop that you can tune into online. It also will be recorded and archived on the TCCJ website.
This year’s timely theme is “Making Money in the ‘New Normal.’”
As businesses reopen, it’s time to get back to sales conversations. But when so many people are working remotely, their days are upside down. The pandemic and statewide lockdown of businesses crashed local economies and put intense new pressures on community journalism outlets and their bottom lines. Newspapers saw website traffic increase, but traditional ad sales plummet. Some were able to secure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, that money ran out fast. Some were able to get new grants offered by Facebook and other sources. Some had to cut frequency of print publication. Many had to scramble and find creative ways to survive.
To address these concerns, the line-up of speakers will include Kevin James, director of Special Projects Sales, Moser Community Media, LLC (Brenham); Mike Obert of Open-Look.com in Richardson; and via Skype, Ryan Dohrn, media sales consultant/coach and host of “Ad Sales Nation” podcast. They and TCCJ Co-directors Dan Malone and Kathryn Jones Malone will share insights and advice on new strategies for selling in the “new normal,” latest trends in digital traffic and online ad sales; social media vs. digital revenues, and alternative sources of revenue.
The workshop will end with an open discussion about some of the creative products and strategies Texas newspapers and their websites have used in this extraordinary time of change. Please share what you’ve tried that worked, what didn’t, and how business models are changing. We can all learn from each other. Email Kathryn front or inside pages, advertising, promotions or links to pages: [email protected]
WHERE: We’re looking at video conferencing options.
WHEN: Friday, Aug. 14; times TBA
COST: FREE. Just fill out the registration form below so we can send you information about the workshop and how to sign on.
REGISTER HERE: Please fill out the registration form. If more than one person from a news organization plans to attend, please register individually.
Does your newspaper have a motto? Or a slogan? Do you know the difference?
Mottoes, slogans and marketing pitches were common in the days when most big newspapers had competition, as they tried to give themselves a distinguishing character. As the big newspaper markets became monopolized, there was less need for them, but now, when every information source competes for audience with every other source, even in small towns, slogans and mottoes are worth reviving, and some papers are doing it.
The Washington Post’s nameplate got an underline on Feb.: the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” That’s the most prominent example of newspapers adding a promotional explanation of what they do or what they stand for. Two papers from Warren Buffett’s BH Media Group have similar slogans: The Bristol Herald Courier says it offers “Truth. Accuracy. Fairness” and the Omaha World-Herald says it is “Real. Fair. Accurate.”
Such slogans or mottoes are needed at a time when the very idea of independent, professional journalism is under attack from the highest levels of government and partisan media. Print circulation is down, but newspapers still have broad audiences and provide most of the accountability journalism that the writers of the First Amendment had in mind. Slogans and mottoes can not only remind the public of newspapers’ importance, but remind newspaper staff of ideals and principles they should follow.
Executive Editor Marty Baron’s “first principle” for the Post staff is “Tell the truth as nearly as it may be ascertained.” He said the paper started working on a slogan before the last election, “trying to come up with some words that would capture the essence of our mission in a way that you might even put it on a T-shirt. We had a lot of ideas and it was all over the place.” The choice was made by new owner Jeff Bezos; Baron told me he thought the line was “a little dark.” Yes, but it displays nicely in the reverse type the Post uses on its mobile site. The line had been used by Bob Woodward, the Post associate editor who as a reporter with Carl Bernstein broke open the Watergate scandal.
What’s the difference? The Post’s slogan brought to mind other newspaper mottoes or slogans, many at rural or community newspapers, and I wrote about it on The Rural Blog recently. The blog post is at http://bit.ly/2f1cWqs. It linked to an explanation of the difference between a motto and a slogan; here’s a capsule version:
A motto contains a belief or an ideal that can serve as a guiding principle and the identity of a newspaper. The Amarillo Globe-News still uses a saying coined by publisher Gene Howe, who died in 1952: “A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom, but never for lack of courage.”
Slogans can serve the same purpose, but tend to be simpler and catchier, and used more as marketing tools. The best are those that serve not only as a slogan for the public, but a motto, perhaps implicit, for the staff. One of my favorites is used by The Blackshear Times, a Georgia weekly: “Liked by many, cussed by some, read by them all.”
Some slogans or mottoes are implicit, as in the simple warning of hard-nosed editorial policy at the Aspen (Colo.) Daily News: “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.”
Whether you call it a motto or a slogan matters less than having a line that accurately describes your newspaper. The most common slogans for rural papers are like the one used by the Mason Valley News in Nevada: “The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about Yerington.” It’s a natural; most newspapers’ reason for existence is to publish news of their locality, and in most cases they own that franchise. The Greene County Democrat in Alabama, which competes with the Greene County Independent, puts it more subtly: “Serving Greene County Like No Other Newspaper.”
Some mottoes are blunt and simple, like that of The Star in Johannesburg, South Africa: “Tell it like it is.” Another conveys the same principle, but in more friendly, flowery fashion. It was written by British poet and politician Lord Byron (1788-1824): “Without or with offense to friends or foes, we sketch your world exactly as it goes.” Andrew Jackson Norfleet adopted it when he founded The Times Journal in Russell Springs, Ky., in 1949. The weekly still posts it on its editorial page.
Another idea: Speaking of editorial pages, that’s where newspapers can best explain who they are, even if they don’t have regular editorials.
If I were a newspaper editor again, my paper’s home page would have a button called “How We Work,” taking readers to a policy statement on the editorial page, explaining our editorial philosophy, policies such as correcting errors and separating news from opinion, a call for readers to let us know when we fall short, and a link to The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, with a few examples, such as:
Our first obligation is to the truth, not in an absolute, philosophical or scientific sense, but “the truths by which we can operate on a day-to-day basis;” and the essence of journalism is a discipline of verification, using an objective method. The authors explain: “Being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. Because the journalist must make decisions, he or she is not and cannot be objective. But journalistic methods are objective.” I doubt most readers understand those important distinctions, so we need to explain them at every opportunity. They need to know we’re on their side, and how we work.
Polls have long been common devices at metropolitan daily newspapers, but are rare at community weeklies – and I’m not counting those unscientific, self-selected surveys on papers’ websites, which ought to carry disclaimers saying they’re not good barometers of public opinion.
The weekly Rappahannock News in rural Northern Virginia got a marvelous opportunity to see what the people of Rappahannock County think about important issues this year, when a local nonprofit funded a professional survey and hired top-notch journalists to write it up, edit the stories and illustrate them.
The survey by the nonprofit Foothills Forum was mailed to every address in the county of 7,400 people, and got responses from 42 percent, more than double expectations and enough to make it as reliable as a random-sample poll.
“The Foothills survey offers a statistically accurate snapshot about the issues our community cares about most,” the News said in an editorial. “We feel this is valuable information — unbiased, non-agenda-driven data. . . . In the weeks and months ahead, we will explore some of the top issues highlighted in the survey by featuring in-depth stories, with the help of resources provided by Foothills Forum. This partnership allows us to deliver coverage that a small community newspaper could not afford to do otherwise.”
The Foothills Forum was created in response to comments at a coffee chat hosted by the News, “urging broader deeper coverage,” Larry “Bud” Meyer, chair of the group, wrote for the paper. “All manner of interests now have real numbers to back their causes. Not speculation. Not assumption.”
The nonprofit raised $43,000 for the survey and worked with the paper “because the Rappahannock News remains the best source of reported, vetted and edited news,” Meyer wrote. “More important, the survey finds folks are roughly twice as likely to rely on the weekly for their news as all local internet sources.”
The nonprofit gave the News $5,000 for enhanced design, news graphic/data reporting, and the paper made additional investments in design and printing multiple open pages for the series, which also increased its postage costs. “Everyone’s desire has been to deliver in-depth reporting that is beyond the capacity of a very small community news organization,” Publisher Dennis Brack told me. “The survey stories proved the value of this partnership.”
As we reported this project on the Rural Blog, we said the poll showed that Rappahannock County “may be a classic case of a rural place that wants to maintain its environmental qualities while having more urban conveniences,” then quoted from the stories of former Associated Press reporter and editor Chris Connell.
Polls are just one form of data, and we’re big on localized data as a way to help illustrate and explain local issues. A key part of using data is presenting it visually, and a recent Rural Blog item highlighted Data USA, which calls itself “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data.” The same item drew from our friends at Journalist’s Resource to list several sources of help for using data.
Regular readers of this column know we’re also big on national maps that show county-level data, and we’ve had several examples in the blog recently. The Washington Post created a map that shows how home values changed, by ZIP code, from 2004 to 2015, in most counties (those that had enough data to be reliable).
Buried in a New York Times story about employers having trouble finding workers who could pass a drug test was a tragic set of maps, showing county by county the growth in drug-overdose deaths from 2003 to 2014 – a trend so fatal that it is now resembles the HIV-AIDS in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The crisis in Flint, Michigan, over lead in water supplies has caused concern in other places, but the risk of lead exposure “is surprisingly difficult to estimate, due to a variety of state-by-state differences in reporting standards,” Sarah Frostenson and Sarah Kliff reported for Vox. They worked with epidemiologists in the Washington state health department to add housing and poverty data to the mix to create a county-level map of the estimated risk.
Because some health-insurance companies are reducing their participation in health-insurance exchanges, more than 650 mostly rural counties will have only one Obamacare option in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported.
There have been doubts about the quality of care at some rural hospitals, and that has hurt them financially. But a recent study found that surgeries are safer and cheaper at critical-access hospitals, which by definition are rural.
The financial problems are rural hospitals are getting little attention from Congress and the Obama administration, Shannon Muchmore reported for Modern Healthcare.
The Rural Blog has started excerpting the “Thinking About Health” columns of Trudy Lieberman, distributed by the Rural Health News Service, which use specific examples to illustrate issues in health care from a consumer viewpoint. Her latest piece reported that consumers get little help resolving their complaints.
A pair of studies concluded that abstinence pledges don’t keep young people from having sex, contracting sexually transmitted diseases or avoiding pregnancy.
If you do or see good work that deserves national notice or could help other rural journalists, by appearing on The Rural Blog, email me at [email protected] so we can publish it at irjci.blogspot.com.
Learn how community newspaper sportswriters can improve their coverage and better engage their readers by using social media while covering sports.
Once again, both a National Newspaper Association study and a Newspaper Association of America study recently released reinforce the continued strength and vitality of newspapers and newspaper websites, whether community, weekly, or daily.
In the newly released NNA study (conducted in September and November 2013), two – thirds of community residents in small towns and cities read their local newspaper at least once and up to seven times a week!
Almost five out of ten (47 percent) residents indicated that their community’s newspaper and newspaper website were their preferred or primary source of information. About 78 percent of adults are quite attached to following local news and information, and local newspapers are by far the source they rely on for much of the local information they need, reinforcing the perceived value and strengths of local newspapers as a community asset.
Throughout their community, local newspapers are shared and passed along with an average pass along rate of 2.48 — up from previous years’ studies. Likewise, 54 percent of readers have clipped a newspaper story or shared a link with someone else in their community. And 49 percent of a community’s online users would choose their newspaper’s website as their favored source of information for local news — almost twice as many as the next identified local media source.
Complementing the NNA findings, the NAA found that 56 percent of Millennial, those young adults age 18 to 34, still want newspaper media content in a typical week, in print or online.
Newspapers and newspaper web sites are the “value collection” — a content combination of local news and advertising, interacting with the community in a timely manner, with a unique, trusted and well-established brand that delivers identifiable and measurable results day after day or week after week.
Why? Because newspapers, whether in print or online, have a distinct local audience that trusts them.
Loyalty is print's strongest selling point. People choose to spend dedicated, uninterrupted time focused on your newspaper.
It is all about the quality of the audience. Our newspaper web site visitors are loyal and interactive returning to their newspaper web site several times per day. Newspaper web site visitors continue spending more and more time on your newspaper web site rather than as eyeballs darting around the Internet!
Newspapers’ web sites, much like their print products, deliver original, high-quality content that continually attracts a highly educated audience, building a powerful and engaged audience.
Who typically has the largest Internet media footprint in a community and in the local marketplace? You do!
Through a local environment of news and advertising, your newspaper and your newspaper web site create the marketplace for your community.
Newspapers are still the one! Does everyone at your newspaper know? Do your friends, community associates, advertisers and potential advertisers know? Let’s not be the best-kept secret in our community.
This blog post was adapted from remarks the author made at the midwinter meeting of the Texas Press Association in Frisco in January 2014.
Thank you for missing dinner two nights recently because you were attending a county commission or school board meeting. You were there so you could inform thousands of readers who didn't want to be bothered.
You did. And you do. Week after week. Thank you.
Or maybe you were at a Relay for Life meeting where, in addition to reporting on all those volunteers, you probably also coordinated your own volunteer team. Thank you for contributing to the fabric of your community.
Thank you for making three telephone calls over several hours just to be sure the little girl who won a blue ribbon at the horse show spells "Christie" with a "c" and an "ie" instead of a "k" and two e's — or any other of about 20 variations for how Christie can be spelled.
Accuracy matters. It matters to Christie’s mama and daddy. It matters to all our readers. And it matters to you. Thank you.
Thank you for offering space to friends of a cancer victim washing cars to raise money to buy gas to get that lady to chemotherapy treatments. Your coverage made the difference between raising $1,500 instead of only $150. Thank you.
Thank you for being the greatest link — and the strongest protection — between your readers and those with the power to tax and govern — and the few who abuse that power. Thank you for speaking truth to power. Newspapers are often the only ones to do that.
Thank you for being the first transcribers of the only history your communities may ever record. Words and photos we preserve today are the priceless artifacts of lives treasured for generations to come.
Thank you for providing a low-cost, effective and reliable connection between hundreds of sometimes struggling small businesses and the buying public. You are a vital link between buyer and seller and an invested partner in the success of friends and neighbors. Thank you for working hard to help them succeed.
The late Robert Woodruff, longtime CEO of Coca-Cola, said: "You can have anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want." This is what great community newspapers do. Thank you for that commitment.
Thank you for being veterans in the war against secrecy and lies and greed. It takes little courage to write about a stranger among thousands or millions in a metropolitan city, but it takes tremendous dignity, daring and fortitude to write about the woman who sits in the next pew with you at church or the man who sits across from you at Rotary. You do it week after week with sensitivity and caring and fairness and accuracy. Thank you for that.
Have newspapers suffered in recent years? Of course! Community newspapers are a direct reflection — a mirror — of the economy of the towns and cities we serve. The economic crash that sent stocks and development plummeting affected every business we serve — and our newspapers reflect that. Communities are hurting and when our towns are injured, newspapers bleed. There is nothing wrong with America’s community newspapers that an overall improvement in our nation’s economy will not fix.
Thank you for not blindly following doomsayers who say newspapers' best days are behind them. But what do they not say? Television viewership is being splintered into hundreds of channels — with far more of them focused on promoting sex and silliness than vital information that makes our families stronger, our values deeper, our home lives happier.
In Blackshear, Ga., and thousands of small communities just like it across America, community newspapers were “social media” before social media was cool! We’ve been connecting friends and neighbors and telling about who ate with who as far back as when country correspondents wrote about Mr. and Mrs. Jones "motoring" over to the next town last Sunday to have dinner. There's really not much new under the sun but we’ve told people about it all — for decades.
In my little town, if you want a Big Mac, there's only one place to get it: McDonald's. They have the franchise. You want a Whopper? There's only one place to get it: Burger King. They have the franchise. If you're in Blackshear, Ga., and you want local news there's only one place to get it: The Blackshear Times. We have the franchise. It's ours to lose. And we're not giving it up. It’s the same way in your town and thousands of others all over our nation. I know you’re not giving up your franchise as the place to find local news and information, either.
Warren Buffet said: “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper.” Welcome to our world, Mr. Buffett. It’s reassuring to have you here.
Newspapers are a mirror of our communities, but you cannot see a reflection in the dark. Newspapers have to provide the light. It is hard for a community to rise above the quality and commitment of its local newspaper. Good newspapers build strong communities.
In America we talk about the value and dignity of every individual. Nowhere are those ideals better displayed than in America’s community newspapers. We start at birth! Every child born should have his or her announcement plus a photo in the newspaper. That child’s first and succeeding birthdays are often marked in our newspaper.
We love to publish pictures of children’s first day of school. Through the years we document reading achievement, math competitions, steer shows, athletic victories and countless other milestones of life. Graduation is a big deal in every community. Our documentation of the value of each individual life goes on and on — through engagement, marriage, more births, anniversaries, job promotions. You name it and we travel life’s path right with the people who surround us, all the way to the grave — and even beyond, with Memorials!
Who cares more about the success, prosperity and happiness of people in your community than you? Nobody!
Are people going to stop loving high school football in Granbury? No! Are people going to stop caring whether their taxes go up or down in El Dorado? No! Are people going to stop wanting to see children's names on the honor roll in Decatur? No! Are people going to stop wondering who is going bankrupt or buying building permits in Port Aransas? No!
We believe people will always want to know about their taxes and what their governments are doing.
We believe people will always want to see children’s names and faces publicized for their triumphs and tributes.
We believe there will always be a desire for accountability in government!
We believe in the critical need for accuracy and fairness as demonstrated by professional journalists.
We believe in newspapers!
Thank you for being a part of this great and valuable industry.