Make more money in slack times

July 31, 2012

By Jerry Bellune
Publishers' Toolbox

We all have slow quarters in advertising and subscription sales.
The first quarter and the third quarter are the slower quarters in our market.
Thank goodness for the second and fourth quarters where retail sales—and ours—pick up.
In resort areas, it is often just the reverse. Vacationers make the first and third quarters the best.
July is a real challenge so we have to come up with slow month business builders for our advertisers and ourselves.
My dentist, Greg Wych, recently introduced me to a business term I had not heard before. He calls it “slack adjusters,” which means goods and services you can provide in slow sales and revenue downtime and particularly that your competition doesn’t offer.
Here are 13 “slack adjusters” we use and any newspaper owners and their people should be able to handle, even if farming it out.
1. Special targeted pages such as our Health and Golden Years pages that run on a regular weekly or monthly schedule on 12-month or TFN (Till Further Notice) agreements.
2. Annual special sections such as Home & Garden and Trends in Business.
3. Seasonal pages such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas gift promotions.
4. Sponsorships for business and community columns and Parents & Kids pages
5. Continuity programs for advertisers such as our VIP Club.
6. Digital Daily Deals such as Richard Weiler and I are offering them.
7. Online website advertising with links.
8. Online newsletters such as our weekly “Million Dollar Ideas,” “Success Strategies” and “Sales, Advertising & Marketing Letter.” We’ve not yet offered advertising or sponsorships with these letters but it is a future slack adjuster.
9. Monthly mailed newsletter such as our “Marketing Ad-Visor,” which is a good business-to-business opportunity for those businesses to make offers. We sell ads in it.
10. Sponsored business, profitability, leadership and tax-saving events in which the revenue can come from admission and business sponsorships.
11. Direct mail campaigns that can be designed and farmed out to fulfillment houses.
12. Placement of client advertising in other media. We are doing that now.
13. Ad wraparounds delivered to 2 percent upscale income neighborhoods as we did for an upscale developer to attract homeowners who need to get out of a large empty nest and into a great lifestyle community.
Aggressively launched and maintained for more than 10 years these should gross $10 million.
Many newspaper owners have no idea what their margins are. Some even run the newspaper and their personal finances out of one bank account. It’s unbelievable what lousy business people they are.
In a healthy economy, which we haven’t had for a while, a community newspaper should hold payroll, its biggest expense, to 35 percent of gross and turn 18 percent to 20 percent net. Most don’t because they are run by the seats of their pants.
August takeaway thought: A sample copy of the opening chapters of my new book “What It Costs to Be the Boss: 21 Secrets of Peak Performers in Today’s Challenging Newspaper Climate” are available to Publishers’ Auxiliary subscribers. E-mail me for a copy at © The Bellune Co. 2012

Jerry Bellune and his family own book, newspaper and newsletter publishing companies. For information on his coaching program exclusively for newspaper owners, email him at

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