Expansion into digital services opens new revenue stream for Missouri newspaper

Editor’s note: A team from Missouri Press Service and Amplified Digital developed a digital suite of services for newspaper advertising clients during a 2015-2016 RJI Fellowship.  

The Washington Missourian was about to lose $5,000 to $6,000 in ad revenue to a competitor. The client needed to reach digital customers beyond the local opportunities the newspaper had provided in the past.

But hold the phone. The Missourian had just started working with the Missouri Press Service to expand its digital offerings. After the ad staff learned more about the client’s needs, they suggested programmatic advertising, which targets customers based on factors like geographic location and browsing history.

The client agreed. The Missourian not only recouped the dollars they were going to lose but also brought in an additional $2,000.

Whitney Livengood, the Missourian’s digital advertising sales manager, believes newspapers like hers need to provide digital services to clients or risk losing ad dollars to cable companies and other media outlets that do. These digital services include YouTube TrueView ads, targeted advertising and website development.

“Make digital a priority,” Livengood says. “If you don’t embrace digital and start the process of positioning yourself, in your community, as a full-service marketing agency, huge revenue opportunities are going to pass you by.”

“Make digital a priority. If you don’t embrace digital…, huge revenue opportunities are going to pass you by.”

Not all community newspapers have the resources or staff to offer digital services on their own, says Mark Nienhueser, MPS advertising director, who helped develop the suite during MPS’ institutional fellowship with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. MPS partners with Amplified Digital of St. Louis to serve as a “back office” to newspapers like the Missourian, offering services and training.

“Having utilized Amplified for a more customized training session, we’ve been able to respond to our customers’ higher level questions immediately,” Livengood says, which has been beneficial in moving the sales process along at a faster pace. “Having said that, the team at Amplified is an email or phone call away to answer any questions you or your clients may have.”

Armed with the digital suite, Livengood now approaches clients — especially those who had sought help elsewhere — with a full menu of options. One client has switched to the Missourian’s digital suite from a competitor’s product, and another one is interested in marketing with mobile-location targeting, once their new fiscal year begins.

Most of the Missourian’s clients are interested in programmatic advertising, says Livengood. But as her team visits with more clients, they’re learning about other digital needs. For example, one client also expressed needing help with the management of a social media account, says Livengood.

Amplified Digital is in the process of building websites for two of the Missourian’s ad clients.

Coming to a state near you

According to Nienhueser, not all state press associations have the manpower or resources to set up similar services and work with vendors. As a result, MPS is offering a white label version to other press associations. He’s working with eight other state press associations to implement similar programs; more associations are interested, he says.


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