Archive for December 4th, 2009

N&O employee sales contest nets 245+ orders

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The News & Observer’s move to draft all of its employees to sell subscriptions has resulted in more than 245 paid orders sold by 65 employees, VP for Circulation Jim Puryear told The N&O’s staff in an e-mail Friday.

The paper is paying  “commissions totaling a whopping $10,000” in  December 11 paychecks. And because the contest exceeded its goal of 200 paid orders, gift cards worth a total  of $550 went to  four salesmen.

One of the “salesmen” taking home a gift card was reporter Matt Ehlers, who ran a classified ad in The N&O and on Craigslist in his effort to sell subscriptions.

The contest’s top seller — not Ehlers — sold 66 subscriptions.

The contest began October 1 and ran through November 23, with subscriptions sold at a discount. Employees earned a 50 percent commission on each sale.

Can journalists teach creativity to sales people?

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Veteran journalist Allan Mutter in his Reflections of a Newsosaur sees possibilities in the Dallas Morning News’ decision to put advertising executives in charge of news editors. His hope is that “the creative energy and constructive skepticism of the newsroom will rub off on the ad guys.”

“The idea is to develop products that will please readers and advertisers alike, leading to fatter top lines and continued employment for what’s left of the newspaper’s shrunken staff. What’s not to like about that? …

“Any fair analysis of the agonies suffered by the newspaper business will show that the primary problem facing the industry is a loss of advertising revenue. This results directly from an epic and ongoing lack of imagination and innovation on the part of publishers and advertising executives, not in most cases on the part of newsrooms.”

Journalists “appear to be the ones most likely to be motivated and equipped to ask such tough questions as what advertisers really think, what readers really want and, most importantly, what newspapers can do to regain the engagement of the advertisers and readers who have forsaken them.”

But, advertising managers who have been under seige for the last few years as their old ways have failed are the bosses in this arrangement. They’ll have to have pretty healthy egos to listen as their new subordnates tell them how they should be doing their jobs.

Ad recovery won’t include print media

Friday, December 4th, 2009

A new forecast by Fitch Ratings says national broadcast TV, and then cable networks and large-market broadcast TV will benefit from an advertising recovery next year, but others won’t even match  2009 levels, according to Advertising Age.

“Fitch expects print mediums, namely newspapers, yellow pages and consumer magazines, to be down again off very easy comparable periods due to permanent shifts in advertiser sentiment and excess ad inventory that will plague the industry for years to come,” the magazine says. Radio will probably be flat and outdoor advertising “should begin a ‘slow recovery’ later in the year.”

Fitch also predicts that pay walls for online content will be instituted and then abandoned in 2010.

Dallas Morning News to begin shading truth

Friday, December 4th, 2009

The Dallas News, A.H. Belo Corp.’s flagship newspaper, has announced a new organization in which news editors report to sales managers. “In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo’s products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo’s products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever,” says the Dallas Observer’s Robert Wilonsky.

To better align with our clients’ needs, we will be organized around eleven business and content segments with similar marketing and consumer profiles including: sports, health/education, entertainment, travel/luxury, automotive, real estate, communications, preprints/grocery, recruitment, retail/finance, and SMB/Interactive,” according to a memo to Belo staff from editor Bob Mong and senior vice president of sales Cyndy Carr, as reprinted by the Dallas Observer.

“Each segment will be led by a General Manager (GM), a newly-defined role [for sales managers], each reporting to Cyndy Carr, charged with analyzing and growing the business by developing solutions that meet consumer needs and maximize results for our clients. Their responsibilities will include sales and business development. They will also be working closely with news leadership in product and content development.”

“Align with our clients’ needs” and “maximize results for our clients” – the emphasis  in the quotes above is ours –  should be read as “make sure nothing in the ‘news’ makes an advertiser, their product or their industry look bad in any way shape or form.” Nothing negative, as some sales managers would put it.

Mong told The New York Times that “editors were told explicitly to fight back if they were told to do anything unethical.”

The Times asked Mong “if there were plans to apply the structure in sports and entertainment to other parts of the paper, [and] he said, ‘not at this time.’”

“Mong said the change grew out of the sports department’s frustration that no one in advertising focused on a new online section it had created.

“Loren Ghiglione, a professor of media ethics at the Medill School of Northwestern University, said the need to sell ads had always helped shape news coverage — papers have created or eliminated entire sections on that basis — ‘but this does seem to me to take it to a slightly different level. It strikes me as at least creating a perception issue,'” he told The Times, “’when you have, in effect, sales managers managing news personnel.’”

The News’ publisher, Jim Moroney,  sent a memo to staff after being questioned about the new organization. It says in part, “Just because a business person has an editorial person reporting to him or her doesn’t mean our content is now for sale or that the salespeople, the business people, the publisher will dictate to the newsroom what content they choose to publish or not. I have never gone to Bob Mong and said, ‘You have to do the following for business reasons.’ Never done it, never would do it. The integrity of the process is absolutely fundamental to your business and our business. The moment they think our information is for sale, we’re out of business. We will be a Greensheet, as Huffington Post put it. We aren’t going to be and won’t start becoming a Greensheet.”

Moroney continued, “We are convinced the future of digital consumption of news and information lies in narrow niches, in segments, not one-size-fits-all. … If I want restaurant information, I want location-based information — such as the best Italian restaurant, and does it have drink specials, and what’s the price range. …

“We’ve got to get our editors thinking about how people want to consume their news and information on digital platforms. … We are breaking things into narrow verticals. …”