Using your website to increase print and online advertising revenues

February 14, 2019

By Dan Wilcox, co-owner of Lions Light Corporation, www.lionslight.com
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Many newspaper publishers struggle with their websites. It seems that most in the industry, magazines included, are looking for a way to “fix” what feels like the slow death of newspapers. But are newspapers really dying, or just in transition?

Lions Light Corporation, specializes in providing small and medium-sized publications with full featured turn-key websites, generally for $150+ per month. After speaking with well over a thousand publishers over the years, I can attest that more often than not, publishers are making the same mistakes, and overall share the same questions. Most have learned the importance of having a nice website, but very few are satisfied with the marriage of their print and online products. If I were to articulate it for them, the main question they share is “How can I use our website to increase both my print circulation and advertising revenues?”

In this article, we’ll discuss the latter half of this question.

One common mistake publishers make when wading through this question is listening to philosophies that don’t apply to their market. For example, what works for a daily newspaper may not work for a small to medium-sized weekly. If you’re the publisher of a daily, then this article likely isn’t for you, although you might glean ideas from it. This article is geared towards small and medium-sized weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines.

How do you use your website to increase advertising revenues?

Publishers know how to sell print advertising, but often strike out when attempting to sell web advertising. Many publishers give up on web advertising, and let their websites fall by the wayside after realizing that, in general, online advertising is twice as hard to sell as print advertising, and you cannot command the same price.

If this has not been your experience, congratulations; you’re doing something right, and keep on doing it.

But if this has been your experience, maybe this approach can help. Let’s start with a controversial idea, which is, stop selling the majority of your online ad spots. Yes, that’s what I said. Instead, offer the non-premium ad spots, typically located on the sides of your pages and stories, as perks to print advertisers to incentivize them to sign a six or 12-month print advertising contract. You may be surprised that this indirect method often generates more revenues than the direct method of attempting to sell web ads in the same manner you sell print ads. You could also use this approach with your business directory if you have one.

How is indirect revenue often better than direct?

Let’s analyze why using your non-premium ad spots as perks may increase revenues more than selling those ad spots the old-fashioned way. If your publication is weekly, it’s likely your ad sales staff are calling advertisers approximately 40 times per year. However, if your sales staff can get your existing print advertisers under contract, then this frees up your sales staff to pursue new print advertisers and thus new ad revenue. In our experience, this approach increases print advertising revenues, which vastly outweighs any revenues you’d get by selling these ad spots.

You might ask, how should our sales staff approach print advertisers about contracting? They might say something like this, “Your print ad runs about 10 times per year, on average. If you’ll run the same 10 ads via a 12-month contract, we will also place your ad on our website at no additional charge. And if you increase your print advertising to, say 12 times per year, then we’d be able to give you an even larger ad spot on our website.” (For example, instead of a 300w x 250h ad, you may give them a 300w x 500h.) This is just one approach. Of course, it’s up to you to determine what works best for your customers and market.

Are there web ads you should sell?

​In general, the ads you should sell are your premium ad spots, those typically located at the top of pages and stories. We’ve found that when speaking to the advertiser, “rebranding” these type of web ads as “website sponsorship packages,” and requiring a 6 or 12-month commitment, while maintaining their current level of spending on print advertising, has the best results. You can also offer a discount for those advertisers that prepay. Because these ad spots are premium, and should be treated as such, you’ll also likely want to limit the number available for sale to something like three, five, seven or 10, depending on the size of your market. Some advertisers like to feel they’re a part of something. Being a website sponsor can help them feel like they’re getting something more than just a web ad. A small weekly community newspaper may sell these sponsorships for as low as $150 per month, but your market may allow you to charge double or triple that.

​Other ways to increase online revenue

​A few other ways to increase online revenues include: Google surveys, sponsored content, and third-party ad networks. Your publication may choose to implement just one of these revenue generating options, or all of them. However, small to medium-sized publications often need to join a larger group of publications to sign up for sponsored content. Lions Light offers such a program to any publication regardless of your website platform via our Revenue-Generating Program.

I hope this article has given you some useful tips and information on the often difficult task of selling web advertising, and how to use your website to increase advertising revenues. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.

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