NOLA Notes: Figuring out how to make digital dollars in college media

We’re in the home stretch of my posts drawn from my (obviously) voluminous notes from the National College Media Convention in New Orleans.  After’s today’s post, I plan one more on new revenue streams outside of print and digital advertising.

When newspapers started confronting the new realities of advertising, their chiefs lamented they were trading “print dollars for digital dimes.” Then commodity ad rates online plummeted, and people started talking about “digital pennies.”

But we know we’ve got to turn those pennies into dollars (exactly when is a question for another day).

I hope my headline doesn’t over-promise. No one has figured this out. But some smart college media people are “figuring,” and I’m passing along some of their thoughts in notes form.  Some of these points appeared in earlier “NOLA Notes” posts but bear repeating in this context.

Erica Perel, newsroom adviser, Daily Tar Heel

  • New analytics measuring “engaged” time on page can help sell quality content to advertisers. If we can say, “We have an average amount on page of this many minutes, we can take that to advertisers. If you just sell impressions, you are limited by how many page loads. But we want advertiser to know that one impression is getting good time.
  • Building a loyal base of readers is more and more important. They won’t come back if they don’t like what they get.
  • The ad side may be obsessed with pageviews and clicks. We need to get them interested in the value of our local audience.
  • The DTH has advertisers sponsoring a couple of blogs and is talking about doing more. (My thought: Brilliant! And you don’t have to invent anything to make this happen.)

Ryan Frank, president/adviser, Emerald Media Group (serving the University of Oregon)

  • The standard in the print industry now is 10 percent of revenue coming from digital.
  • Frank thinks it’s smarter for his operation now to spend time making the product better. Invest in the product now to make big returns later, rather than working hard on sales now but barely shifting the needle.
  • Don’t hesitate to call a campus  media outlet you think is doing something well.  “People love to talk about what they’re working on.”
  • What niche works on your campus? Use your analytics. (My thought: And then maybe target the niche with a sponsored blog, as Perel suggested above.)
  • “Make it happen.” Just do something, starting Monday. Then revise.
  • “Let’s get away from banner ads.” Move to sponsorships. Yes, it’s the same space, perhaps, but the approach is different.  (My thought: this recognizes the value of YOUR site overall, not just generic pageviews. And it gets back toward brand advertising, which news content traditionally attracted, and away from cheapest-possible mindset traditionally associated with direct mail.)
  • Start looking at native advertising. Too long a subject for this post, but pay attention. Frank points out that some Captain Morgan native ads are actually being shared by readers because they like them. He summarizes the news industry’s feeling about this:  “Most people hate it. But banner ads aren’t working … we’ve got to do something.”

And, finally, a bonus topic from Candace Baltz, general manager of The Daily Evergreen at Washington State University: Her operation is selling sponsored tweets with two important qualifiers:

  • The advertiser must buy a print ad.
  • The sponsored tweet must refer to the print ad, as in, “Did you see our ad in print today on Page X.”

Do you think your audience would hate it? Here’s my thought as a big Twitter user: I’d like it if the ad promised me a discount on something relevant to me. If I were a student, I’d be happy to receive, “Did you see our ad? You can save a lot on pizza this weekend!”

And I don’t think anyone would mind a tweet that said, “Today’s news tweets (or game tweets) are sponsored by Dave’s Pizza. Check out their BOGO deals every Tuesday.” That almost sounds like an NPR sponsorship line, for goodness’ sake.

But also as a Twitter fan, I know you must strictly limit the number of sponsored tweets. I think I’d try one per day, listen for reaction, and add very slowly.

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About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on December 4, 2013, in Digital/social, Financial sustainability, NOLA Notes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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