Here are 4 successful ideas I’ve come across lately.
1. Humor and video. “Hi, I’m Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France,” says Armstrong in a new Outside video, echoing the words we see on the screen. Then we hear a ding and an asterisk pops up after “Tour de France.” “Hey, I didn’t write the script,” he says. The video has him showing us how to fix a flat so he’s dressed like a bike mechanic. He finishes the relatively easy job and says with a little frustration, “Broke a sweat doing that.” Very clever.
The takeaway. Video can move mountains, or at least cyclists who had help getting up them. This would not have worked in any other medium. Also, humor is tough but when you can pull it off, the rewards are ample. Check out the session Leveraging Video at the SIPA 2014 Conference.
2. Sponsorships. The Chattanooga Times Free Press brought McDonald’s on board as a sponsor through their Kid’s Expo, and that “opened up other doors to new marketing budget revenue from McDonald’s,” according to an article on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. The Expo proved so successful that the paper launched a new kids magazine, with a 45,000 monthly press run, leveraging new readership and advertisers. Another side benefit Chattanooga is learning: “strengthen underperforming audiences.”
The takeaway. Be open and flexible for sponsorships. Mike Grebb of CableFax told me that they will accept a sponsorship for a special section or report—and even a suggestion from that sponsor for the topic—as long as that sponsor has no say in editorial. Donna Jefferson of Jefferson Communications and Cindy Mironovich of Family Magazine will present Finding and Expanding Your Ad and Sponsorships Program at SIPA 2014.
3. Free to build paid. Digiday recently reported on The New Yorker magazine’s strategy to sell more print subscriptions by bringing more people to the website. Said NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson: “What makes us money is taking someone who’s never read The New Yorker, showing them what it is, and convincing them that it’s such a great thing that they have to subscribe and read everything” The site now features the “Daily Cartoon,” a fun blog called “Page-Turner,” a more serious “Daily Comment” by a top staff writer, and a business column called “Currency.” The strategy has worked. “Unique visitors to NewYorker.com averaged 3 million in 2013, thanks in large part to the site’s increased metabolism.”
The takeaway. Free content can lead to increased sales if it’s good and timely. Test with original snippets—on a daily basis—of what you do best. Season Crawford of Modern Markets Intelligence told me that their free strategy—informative headlines and well-written opening sentences leading to a paywall—has been quite successful. SIPA 2014 has a great speaker for From Free to Paid and Everything in Between: Helmut Graf, CEO of one of Germany’s largest publishing companies.
4. Data and digital. Rafat Ali, founder of Paid Content and more recently SIIA member Skift—a pioneering site for travel industry news—was recently featured in the popular Reflections of a Newsosaur blog. At SIIA’s Breakthrough, he showed his propensity to think big. By not using industry jargon, they “can syndicate for larger audiences” and speak “in a larger voice.” He spoke of new “mega trends” that have helped guide Skift. One is the blurring of our personal and professional lives. Ali called it the rise of “bleasure” travel—adding time to a business trip. A second is millennials being raised on open web services. They are demanding better usability for their business travel. And a third is the rise of the “prosumer” or “fan boy,” consumers who come to a vertical quite well-informed. “We speak to them in the lingo they know,” he said.
The takaeaway: Think 2014 and beyond. Skift has a data product they sell for $99 a month called SkiftIQ. They grade travel companies on their social marketing. They publish two premium research reports each month in a $99 package. And they sell high-CPM advertising. Two great data sessions are set for SIPA 2014—Informing Decisions With Data and Strategies to Grow Your Data Business.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009