Baseball Team’s Successful Sales Pitches May Be Hit for Publishers

For a while, selling subscriptions seemed like enough. It’s a good product, your content is unique, and the price point reasonable. And then the Internet exploded, free content abounded, and subscriptions got tougher to sell. And publishers added stuff.

For the Washington Nationals baseball team—the top seed in the upcoming National League playoffs and coming off the first no-hitter in franchise history yesterday—they reached this point last year. For them, the “Internet” equates to the explosion of so many things to do in the Washington, D.C. area. The “free content” that now abounds is all the games that are televised—theirs and others. And because of this—and cost—their season ticket subscriptions went down last year.

So what did they do? What would any good “publisher” do? Marketed. Here are ideas as chronicled by Thomas Heath’s Value Added column in today’s Washington Post.

- The Nationals created a membership club called Nats Plus. “People were saying, ‘Why do I need a plan? There’s StubHub,’” said Valerie Camillo, the team’s chief marketing and revenue officer. Now fans can get on-field photos, autographs, batting practice passes, tickets to exhibition games. Would publisher equivalents be special access to writers and bloggers, and “gold” passes to one or more of your events?

- “[Camillo] knew the key was getting fans face-to-face with Nationals salesmen,” writes Heath. So the team invited fans to certain games this year to upsell them on season ticket plans, using conference rooms in the stadium. For the Nationals, a ticket to a game does not cost much, and the potential upsell can be great. Given the cost of most publishers’ live events, it’s hard to give that away for a possible upsell. But still, the value of that “face-to-face” should not be underestimated. Maybe there are lower-cost, in-person events that you can put on to get new people out.

- The Nationals didn’t offer the shorter ticket plans (5, 10 and 20 games) until later in the year so fans would not be tempted to buy those instead of a full or half season.

- Camillo “boosted bonuses for her sales staff if they sold Nats Plus plans.”

- The sales staff was taught better public speaking and given the option to call on the general manager (their publisher?) to close the deal. The sales staff connected the dollars fans spent to the ability to get better players. Publishing equivalent might be to find a very specific interest of a potential subscriber and say that their subscription/membership would enable further work into that microsite.

- Season ticket holders now have cards that they use to get into the stadium, buy food, buy a cap, etc. (And special lines to get in, and then buy food.) Those cards allow the team to amass loads of data on them and then market to similar people. “We have data that shows new buyers for 2015 are getting younger, more diverse and more family-oriented,” Camillo said. The publisher equivalent might be awards programs—those can draw lots of data—surveys, and other “benefits”-for-info programs.

- There are also special areas at the stadium where certain season ticket holders can go that regular ticket holders can’t. You feel like you’re missing out. Similarly, you might try levels on your website or with your benefits that can only be accessed by your biggest supporters. SIPA member Pro Farmer offers a Classic Membership, a Preferred Membership and a VIP Membership. VIP members get the “most comprehensive news, analysis and advice package available.”

- Looking at the comments, one season ticket holder points to how nice all the staff is at the game. That never hurts. And another writes that he is happy that giveaways are at all gates now. So those things do seem to matter.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Test Your Knowledge With This BIMS Quiz

Test your publishing expertise with this quiz. Each question involves a speaker at SIIA’s upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Miami Beach, Nov. 10-12. Answers are below.

1. Which is not one of Jim Sinkinson’s 11 commandments for direct response copy that moves people?
a. Must be a message from one person to another.
b. Start with “you”—use twice as many second persons as first persons.
c. Tell a story about the reader (not the product).
d. Be clever: use lots of jokes and puns.
Sinkinson, publisher, Infocom Group, will present How to Write Killer Promo Copy, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 4 pm

2. True or False? Matt Bailey believes that young people just out of school and/or interns should always be in charge of your social media “because they’re young and they know the stuff.”
Bailey, author of the new book Wired to Be Wowed: Great Marketing Isn’t an Accident, will present Online Testing Techniques, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. and a Social Media Boot Camp, Monday, Nov. 10, 9 a.m.

3. “Information companies are extending more deeply into their customer bases, offering ___________ rather than standalone products and services,” writes Denzil Rankine, executive chairman of AMR International.
a. free subscriptions
b. solutions
c. coupons
d. lemonade

Rankine will moderate the session, Valuations and Your Company, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2:30 p.m..

4. Jodi Grizzel, operations director for FDAnews, says, “Always remember that B2B is still P2P.” What does her P2P stand for?
a. publisher to publisher
b. person to person
c. practitioner to practitioner
d. parent to parent
Grizzel and Helen Hoart, president of Yikes! Media, will present Segmenting and Targeting for Better Marketing, Monday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m.

5. Which is not one of David Foster’s 9 essential steps for growing new products?
a. The growth increases your range of price points.
b. The growth improves your technological “nimbleness.”
c. The growth allows you to accelerate content creation by integrating customer content.
d. The growth increases your average time from conception to first revenues.
Foster, CEO of Business Valuation Resources, will moderate A CEOs Guide to Technology Strategy & Investment, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m.

6. True or False? In a recent blog post, Andy Swindler, president of Astek, said, “I don’t think the iPhone 6 will radically change the way we design websites any time soon. After all, the beauty of responsive design is that it adapts to new screen sizes for those of us who plan ahead since the design is done independently of specific physical devices.”
Swindler will lead Search Engine Marketing Update, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1:30 p.m.

7. Which is not one of the 3 Laws for Building Effective Landing Pages, according to the blog of Randall-Reilly, a publisher in the construction and trucking business?
a. Get rid of the clutter. There is such a thing as information overload.
b. Create a clear call-to-action.
c. Make sure you include lots of ads.
d. Think like the customer. People buy from other people; therefore, you should write like a human to humans.

Brent Reilly, president of Randall-Reilly, will present a keynote, Radically Transforming an Organization: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 8:40 a.m. A session titled Design and Optimize Your Landing Pages will take place Wednesday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m.

ANSWERS: 1d; 2. False. Bailey believes it is just as important to know how to identify target markets and that takes “experience to get the most out of it.” 3b; 4b - She said lead gen is not about technology. It’s about offering prospects something of value, so they will give you that value—their details—in return. 5d – it should decrease it; 6. True. He also predicts that “web designers may tip toward adding another responsive break point in their designs as a general accommodation of the phablet devices, if they’re inclined to change at all.” 7c – the design should be simple.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Looking Back Can Prove Very Forward Thinking

At a concert here last night of an Italian group called Trio Lennon, their cello-violin-viola arrangements of famous Beatles songs like Help and Yesterday had me revisiting happy memories of growing up with an older brother playing non-stop Beatles. It also had me gladly pulling out my wallet to buy a CD.

Sure enough, an article on BBC recently reported on a study in the Journal of Consumer Research that says that “an atmosphere of nostalgia has a capacity to ‘weaken consumers’ grasp on their money’. Their ability to prioritise and keep [financial] control becomes less pressing.

“Cultivating past memories and bygone eras promotes a sense of social connectedness, say the researchers, in which old-fashioned community values and relationships with other people are seen as being more important”.

This is part of the magic of attending a conference such as Business Media Insights 2014, 22 October in London. It allows you to connect with your colleagues in a relaxed setting, something that’s old-fashioned and hard to do these days. A preview of sorts took place last month in London at an IIN Networking Event. If you have a minute, check out this video from that night.  

In that same vein, I recently read an interview with Lisa Barone, vice president of strategy at Overit, a web design and development company. Asked the greatest SEO/SEM challenges we currently face, she replied: “…the biggest challenge for most business is prioritization, especially if you’re a small business. There’s so much to do and so much that you COULD do that it’s easy to get lost in the possibilities (or go broke trying everything). Everything you do to your site should be done with purpose and with a clear benefit in mind.

“Map out your site and business goals and work backwards to how you’re going to get there. If you’re doing something that doesn’t have a fat line leading back to its purpose, don’t do it.“

There is something illuminating to starting with your result—in this case a desired one—and then working back to see the steps involved. Harold Pinter once wrote a play called Betrayal that begins at the end of the story and works its way “back” to the beginning. It’s very powerful. I also once heard author John Irving describe how he came up with his novel A Prayer for Owen Meany; he pictured the very last scene and then asked himself, how did this character get there? Wow.

So, moving back to business, if your desired result is a new vertical with a new product, you would plot backwards something like this:

12. Carry out, say, a well-attended, one-day live event for your new vertical.
11. Promote on social media – “Blogs and social publishing platforms are access points to your customers,“ says Barone.
10. Blog about an aspect of the information from the event.
9. Announce the launch.
8. Create a powerful landing page.
7. Build a social media community around your vertical—“We know that Google is using social signals as part of its ranking algorithm,“ says Barone.
6. Start a blog – “If you’re not blogging, you should be. And you should have started yesterday,“ Barone says.
5. Write valuable content using that research.
4. Do SEO and keyword research.
3. Get every department involved.
2. Build a website for that vertical.
1. Research your customer and subject data to develop a new vertical.

Maurice Ashley, a chess grandmaster, also spoke about this during his talk at TEDYouth 2012. He called it “retrograde analysis” which states that “in order to look ahead it pays to look backwards.” He said that chess players will examine their end games to see how they got to that point and what they can improve upon next time. He also posted this for the audience:

After reading this sentence, you will
realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize
a second the.

“There’s something about the human mind,” he said. “We’re very logical creatures. If you read this sentence backwards, you would automatically catch it. But forward…” He said that’s also a good reason to proofread backwards sometimes. (I’ve said that before as well, but my reason is that we get tired near the end. Someone should start reading fresh from the end.)

He also gave this example: 6 cards are face down on a desk with one of the numbers 1-6 on them. The idea is to pick the highest card. You pick a 2. I pick a card and ask you to trade. Should you trade your 2? At first, it seems logical to do so. But working backwards it doesn’t. (I wouldn’t trade a 6, 5, 4 or even 3, so I most likely want to trade a 1.

One more note about looking back. A recent article in Associations Now said that we don’t approach our former subscribers/members the way we should. Even if they have lapsed for a year or two or four, there may have been a reason for it. And it may be different now. So we should make sure to stay in touch and tailor the messages we send to embrace that past relationship.

“Response rates to a marketing campaign for former members, when it’s done right, can be four to five times that of a campaign reaching out to new prospects,” said Kevin Whorton, president of Whorton Marketing & Research. “…[the past] still matters in the mindset of the person. I will probably never forget that I belonged to an organization that I paid dues to 12 years ago. When they write me, I’ll be reminded of it.”

Just like last night’s Beatles songs reminded for me.


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Report on Webinars Can Help Guide Your Future Efforts

Carola York of Jellyfish Publishing in London presented an excellent webinar for us this morning on digital marketing for publishers, and it will be posted soon for members in our webinar archives. I really liked the parts about Remarketing—reconnecting with the people who visit you but don’t buy—the new PPC ads in Google, and her emphasis on testing (and more testing).

With more members putting on webinars and wanting to get better at them, it seems a good time to go over the results from ON24’s 2014 Webinar Benchmarks Report:

1. Almost 58% of webinar participants sign up within a week of the event—here’s the full rundown: 16% more than 21 days out, 26% 7-14 days out, 30% 1-7 days out and 28% the day of. Send your emails out accordingly.

2. Speaking of which, Thursday has become the best day to send out promotional emails (going by when the registrants signed up). Tuesday and Wednesday are close behind, followed by Monday and Friday.

3. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all tie at 27% for the best day to hold your webinar. Monday goes down to 10% and Friday 7%.

4. We had a discussion at the always-energizing publishers roundtable yesterday about the numbers who actually attend vs. those who register. It was a bit surprising to hear from two leading publishers that their free webinars are getting close to 80% attendance. (Their paid webinars are close to 100%.) So it probably depends on your industry, but the report says the benchmark is only 43% on what I believe are free, marketing-driven webinars.

5. Our webinar that just concluded timed at about 56 minutes, and that is exactly the average viewing time. In 2010 that number was just 38 minutes, so viewers are getting more comfortable listening, staying until the end, and valuing what they hear. Said the report: “This data counters the common assumption that viewers have short attention spans and are hungry only for short form, or ‘snackable,’ content.

6. We had a lot of great questions after Carola’s presentation, and I always contend that is an extremely valuable portion. About 85% of webinars now have Q&As, and 5% of the audience ask questions. Interestingly, 22% have polling and 10% surveys, and 21% respond to those polls. Only 12% of the audience downloads resources or the presentation which is a bit surprising. Maybe we should push that more. I don’t think we did in this webinar.

7. Only 9% integrate video into their webcast. No surprise there though it should be on the rise.

8. It’s worthwhile to continue to promote the webinar after it takes place. Said the report: “…noteworthy is the ‘long tail’ of people who are responding to post-live promotions and are registering for webinars after the live webinar is over. While the majority of post-live registrations occurs in the four weeks following the live webinar, registrations continue steadily beyond 12 weeks.”

One thing people don’t seem to do is watch live and then watch again later. Those who do watch the taped version watch for less time—26 minutes vs. the 56 minutes people watch it live for. There are a few reasons for that—multiple viewings, fast forwarding. I’ve read good suggestions about editing your webinar recordings to remove fluff, or break them up into shorter topic-specific segments. But like everything else, that takes time. Interns…

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

OkCupid Co-Founder Waxes Excitedly on Marketing and Data

Monday night, Christian Rudder, author of the new bestselling book, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) and co-founder of the popular online dating site OkCupid, came, saw a huge crowd—books in hand, of course—and conquered with a slightly geeked, slightly cool approach to data in the 21st century.

 He talked algorithms, testing and experimentation—with apologies sprinkled in for people’s behavior—to explain OkCupid’s success. In 2011, Match bought them for $50 million. “Our whole goal is to get people to send messages,” he said. “That makes us successful. Of course, it’s a miracle for a woman to send a message without getting one first, but…” his voice trailed off amid the laughter.

About one of every 10 Americans has used a dating website or mobile app, according to a 2013 Pew Research report. The Match Group earned revenue of $788 million last year. So when it comes to marketing, these folks are doing something right. Here are 10 elements of their success.

1. Meticulous uses of data. “OkCupid keeps track not only of what messages you send to your potential dates, but of the characters you type and then erase while you compose your little satchels of intriguingness,” wrote Jordan Ellenberg in a Washington Post review of Dataclysm. Wow. Is nothing sacred? You can’t even erase in peace anymore.

2. People like to see images of people. Emails from dating sites market with people—yes, pretty people, Rudder admitted. “People click on the best-looking photos,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

3. Test extensively. “Our experiment is we’re recommending a stranger you might want to talk to,” Rudder said. “We try hard to get it right. How much do you have in common? We’ll test that against a placebo [someone you have nothing in common with] to see what works.”

4. Seek recommendations. Following up #3, Rudder said that commonalities account for about 50% of the matches—and that recommendations from OkCupid, friends, etc., account for the other 50%. “We’re using recommendation algorithms—Amazon uses the same thing.”

5. Choose a barometer for success. Rudder said that they judge matches based on 4 messages. Two could be kind of a brushoff, three not complete, and five almost too many (friend zone). “Four seems about right for us.”

6. Make it hard for people to leave. Ever try to cancel from a dating site? It is a bit hard to find, and when you do, you get many calls to return. Match will offer you a special deal equivalent only to when you first joined. OkCupid writes, “Need a break? Disable your account and come back any time.” Given that it’s free, most people probably hang around.

7. Know your goal. OkCupid wants their subscribers to send messages, so everything they do is geared to that. A SIPA member tells a story about an advertiser she helped with an ad about their swim club and then was upset when no one signed up for swimming lessons. But that was the first time the advertiser mentioned it; so nothing in the ad was directed to that.

8. Get the best data you can. Dating sites get amazing data, Rudder said—age, occupation, kids, height, religion, etc. I’ve seen awards programs that are almost as valuable as data gatherers, plus surveys and focus groups. The more data you can get the better.

9. Take the time to analyze that data. “This [book] has the real stuff,” wrote Ellenberg. “actual data and actual analysis taking place on the page. That’s something to be praised, loudly and at length.”

10. Make your online processes smooth. “People come to our site expecting that we know what we’re doing,” Rudder said. At the end, Rudder was asked about whether his site being free has much to do with their success. He doesn’t think so—more important is a smooth experience and people getting responses. “It’s really what [site] fits your vibe the best,” he said. “$10 a month is kind of irrelevant for something like happiness.”


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Studies Advise Your Best Use of Time

There are probably about 10 tasks I would like to get done today. (What’s that song? Just another “Manic Monday.”) But according to Daniel Levitin, I will be far more effective focusing on one task at a time and saving the others for another day.

“We now know that the brain doesn’t multitask,” said Levitin—a McGill University professor and author of the new book, The Organized Mind—in a recent Washington Post Q&A. “Rather, the brain shifts rapidly from one thing to the next. That causes us to not be able to focus attention on any one thing, and this dividing of our attention makes us less efficient. The reason we think we’re good at it is just self-delusion. The brain is a very good deceiver.”

The takeaway: Single- or, at the most, double-task.

Instead, Levitin suggests we write down each thing we need to do on separate 3×5 index cards. “The problem with the computer is that it’s a place where everything is done, and you don’t associate it with your to-do list. The index cards…become the place you go to see what’s up next or to put down thoughts. Your brain remembers and associates a certain activity and a certain focus with those index cards, or with your notebook, or your paper and pencil list.”

He notes that the computer screen has “100 different activities associated with it, from watching videos of a cat playing a piano to doing your email. That kind of fractionating of purpose is difficult for the brain to deal with.”

The takeway: Use index cards for what you need to get done, or at least “stop and write down all the clutter.”

Behavioral economist and author Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational) is also concerned with how we get things done. He co-launched an app called Timeful that keeps your calendars in one place and acts as a mini-scheduler to fit in things you thought you couldn’t. It will offer suggestions for the best times to accomplish things—professional and personal (which makes sense since they are often merged these days). The app learns from user feedback.

“The idea is for people to put in all the things they want to do as what we call ‘intentions, but not set them on the calendar,” said Ariely in another Washington Post Q&A. “The calendar should be reserved only for things that have fixed time elements—going to the dentist, meetings and so on. Then, allow the algorithm to suggest when to do the rest. If you say what your intentions are, like ‘I want to exercise’ and ‘I have a project that will take 30 hours to complete,’ the algorithm will schedule it for you. And I think it can do a much better job.”

Something else Ariely said really hit home. It’s a natural inclination to walk into work, get coffee, check email, chat with a couple colleagues, etc. “We have evidence showing that almost 80% of people take their most productive hours of the day, between, say, 8 and 10 a.m., and basically squander them on things like Facebook and email,” he said. “I have nothing against them, but they’re not something you need high capacity to do. You have very few hours in the day when you’re at peak performance, so every minute of these hours that isn’t spent doing something important is just waste.”

The takeaway: match your high-capacity times with the most important and thought-needing tasks you need to do.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn 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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

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