Great ideas that can help you build revenue, part two

By Stanley Schwartz

Woody Jenkins, publisher of the Central City (La.) News, said he started a local yellow pages directory. Now in its second year, he noted that it is doing quite well financially . His newspaper and community are about five years old. The previous phone book, he said, was small and poorly done.

"So, we decided to create this community directory," he said. The first 10 pages are all about the community – photos, write ups of city counsel meetings, school boards, church meetings, things to do and places to go – the next 50 pages are the white pages and the last part is the yellow pages.

Jenkins noted that the term yellow pages and the logo are not trademarked.

"Anyone can use them," he said.

The directory produced about $120,000 in revenue for the paper and cost about $20,000 to produce.

He bills and collects money for the directory in January and February and produces the directory in Jul . Phone lists are in the public domain, he noted, because of a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The real work comes after buying the list from AT&T. He runs ads in the newspaper, asking people to turn in their phone numbers for the directory. And his staff has to verify that all the numbers are correct. He also has his staff seek cell phone numbers or e-mail address for the directory.

A company doesn’t have buy an ad to be listed, but the ones that do, are highlighted. A boldface listing is only $25, he added.

His newspaper is a free-distribution publication. It is not published four times during the year, so during two of those off weeks, the directory is delivered like the newspaper.

Tom Lanctot, president of Eagle Newspapers in Hood River, Ore., said his company does seven different phone books in the communities his company covers. But what he wanted to share with the audience was a self-promotion idea developed 20 years ago and had won best idea during an earlier NNA Great Ideas Exchange.

Heartbeat is a program developed by Eagle Newspapers. The top-half of the ad features a merchant in town and the bottom half features the newspaper and its connection to the merchant.

He also set up a program, where all employees are asked to participate by coming up with ideas to cut costs.

Lanctot suggested that newspapers have utility companies come in and do energy audits for their operations.

“We were able to put in new lighting and save money on our monthly electric bill,” he said. “And there are tax incentives and credits from the government for these audits.”

Williams added that he had a more efï¬ï¿½cient air conditioning unit installed at one of his papers and the energy savings helped pay for the unit in about 18 months.

Russ Pankonin, co-publisher of the Imperial (Neb.) Republican, said a plate processor went down at his central printing plant where he prints his group of four small weekly newspapers. That spurred him to take the next step in print technology by going to computer to plate.

“It’s kind of a big jump for small weeklies,” he said, “but not having to go to ï¬ï¿½lm will pay for the new equipment in ï¬ï¿½ve-and-half to six years.” It also opened a three-hour window in the print cycle so not only are the papers coming off the press earlier, Pankonin said, he can add some commercial print business for the plant.

When developing websites for his company’s newspaper, Pankonin said he was faced with the age-old questions of how to price ads for the site, how do you put it together and how to market it. He went with to help get the sites up and running. Each paper has its own site, and advertisers can buy into one or more of them; the same as if they were buying into the print products.

Williams asked the audience if any of them were selling products or services from their newspaper websites.

Some said they sold subscriptions or promotional items. On his publication’s site, Williams said he recently joined a program that offers half-price deals for his readers. While he has just started the program, Williams said it does look promising.

“We go in and sell our advertisers a package of advertising that combines old media and new media,” Williams said.

The combination includes print advertising, website advertising, e-mail blasts and social network marketing.

“We’re promoting our advertisers on our Facebook page,” he said.

At the Savannah and Augusta papers, the packages sell for either $5,000 or $10,000. Williams said he realized that in his market of 3,500 people a $10,000 package probably wouldn’t sell, so he opted for $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 packages.

After one month of selling these packages, Williams said, “So far we have commitments from customers for between $35,000 and $40,000 in advertising. And all but two of them opted for the $5,000 package.” Williams explained that the program works by having the advertisers run as much advertising as they want but they don’t pay the newspaper directly.

Williams said he tells the advertiser, “All you do, is sign and authorize us to sell gift certiï¬ï¿½cates that are redeemable at your business.” The newspaper recoups its money by selling the gift certiï¬ï¿½cates and, in turn, helps the advertiser by driving trafï¬ï¿½c to its door. He noted that all of the companies that participated were ones that had not advertised with his company before.

Within the ï¬ï¿½rst two days of selling the gift certiï¬ï¿½cates, Williams said, the paper garnered $2,000.

© Stanley Schwartz 2010

Stanley Schwartz is the managing editor of Publisher’s Auxiliary NNA. You can contact him at

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