Best Advice (Part VI): Digital, Digital, Digital

Our sixth in the Relevant series highlighting 2020 words of wisdom is consumed with digital.

Aren’t you?

Workshop attendees had much to choose from in figuring out digital opportunities and trends, even though many slides were, in essence, the speakers’ notes for delivery at newspaper and online publisher conferences.

Lots of words.

Graphs with tiny type.

And long lists.

Most were rated PG: Publisher Guidance required.

I will say this about the advice-givers I encountered. You can learn from them.

That’s if you can keep up.

We like provocative points that stir people to achieve better results.

Ace industry analyst Gordon Borrell always delivers.

Since we’re now in 2021, we can check the “tireless champion for media” on this point — made in October during America’s Newspapers’ Pivot Virtual Conference — that lots of money was shifting from broadcast television to streaming video.

All aboard the new-revenue express. Blessed are the innovators and transformation leaders.

Clarissa Williams confronts any newspaper reps’ fear of selling digital advertising. Her presentation at the National Newspaper Association’s 134th Annual Convention in October was all about showing easy — or at least clear — paths to profitability.

But first, reps need to understand that digital prowess can produce beneficial long-term relationships and solid business gains, according to Williams, CEO and founder of the Hometown Digital Marketing Agency/Hometown Digital Solutions/Lewis County Press.

The basics:

Williams makes the case for why newspapers need to step up their digital game. Williams also cites examples of how digital solutions saved revenue — once spent on print ads — for her newspaper clients.

And, Williams lists the digital products you should be selling.  How did you measure up? Small and weekly newspapers should not be shy about thinking bigger in the digital space.

One more point: “Proof of performance” is a digital strength, she adds. 

Another way of understanding the modern-day product mix is this depiction from Charity Huff, CEO of the digital-first agency January Spring. It’s a diversity strategy. 

Here’s a forward-thinking revenue pie, with five online slices. Interesting proportions. 

In her high-energy presentation before an America’s Newspapers audience,  Huff also nails why today’s world — and opportunity — is mobile. Video is a big part of the story. 

But what about the audience you’re selling?

Growth and digital should be synonymous.


Next, we share a standout point about using distinct email formats for different readers you seek to convert to subscribers.

One size might not work for all. This is a key point if you must rely more on reader revenue to support trusted journalism.

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune created separate messages to readers who had yet to register online and to others who were aloof from the newspaper’s digital products despite attempts to attract them.

Shifting gears, it was good to see the conference communication tools also being used to discuss projects and ideas with readers to secure their insights and advice.

This is an example from Wick Communications and its Google-sponsored hyperlocal project called NABUR.

Think like readers.

Finally, we started with a slide from a Gordon Borrell discussion and we’ll end with one that will help us ponder why digital remains a disruptor of print.

Seems we’re still searching. 

Thanks for finishing Part VI. Now, go do something with at least one of the Relevant points.

—Tom Silvestri

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