Invite The RP: We’re Available For Hire

The Relevance Project is on the (virtual) road in 2021.

So far, three newspaper associations have invited presentations to their members about The Relevance Project.

We’ve done it in various versions, but the preferred slot is 45 minutes to an hour, which includes interaction, an exercise or two, and Q&A.

The presentations allow an explanation of the 10 Things You Need To Know About The Relevance Project — and the FREE benefits it offers to associations and their community newspapers.

Don’t worry about me going on and on and on. The first standing ovation I ever received is when I ended a training session 15 minutes early. Told me a lot about public speaking.

With full appreciation for NAMers, here’s the latest Relevance Project in Association News roundup:

Thanks To Mississippi, New York and MDDC

DOWN SOUTH: The Mississippi Press Association was first up with an hour offer during its Winter Conference. I walked MPA members through the options displayed on and debuted the Relevance Meter so attendees could evaluate just how Relevant their newspapers are to their communities.

Let’s just say high scores go to the thinking publishers always trying to learn a better way. (Bonus: A box of cookies was sent to the publisher with the best answer to this question: Why is your newspaper Relevant?)

Layne Bruce parked a recording and the presentation slides on this conference page.

Thanks to Layne for letting me try out the new Relevance Project Powerpoint designed by Metro Creative Graphics’ Darrell Davis.

UP NORTH: The RP overview was repeated on a Zoom presentation to the New York Press Association as part of its “One Day University” series, where we were one of three webinars attracting a live audience on Feb 15.

Conversations continued afterward with newspapers wanting to be a part of The Relevance Project. They’re doing great work.

Thanks to Michelle Rea for the opportunity.

IN THE MIDDLE: The Relevance Project was the subject of the MDDC Press Association’s podcast, “Five Dubs: Journalists & Stories Behind Local News in MD, DE & DC.” The discussion also focused on the challenges facing local journalists and how the Community Forum is an effective strategy to deepen Relevance.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Thanks to Rebecca Snyder for reserving Episode 18 for The Relevance Project. She does a great job as the moderator.

Kansas Gets Nine Rounds of Applause

Doug Anstaett not only published news about The Relevance Project’s nine-part series on words of wisdom for publishers, editors and advertising directors, he inserted links so his Kansas Press Association readers easily could go from The Kansas Publisher’s February e-edition to each Relevant Point installment.

That’s ingenious.

And it’s a best practice that more replica newspapers could adopt to make them even more Relevant.

Take a look:

No Surprise, As Texas Goes Big

We were blown away by this treatment in the Texas Press Association’s monthly newspaper.

The overview of The Relevance Project Revenue Resource filled a full page and continued onto a third of an adjoining page. Four of the Calls to Action promotions, the “All Together Now” series and the Pulse Research-Metro Creative special offer were spotlighted in the December edition of the Messenger.

We would have reported it earlier but the Post Office just delivered the newspaper. Sigh.

Time For One More

Finally, we appreciate the invitation from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association to include The Relevance Project in its upcoming Big Book of Sales Solutions. “…PNA is always looking for meaningful ways to connect our members with leaders in our industry,” wrote Jane Hungarter, PNA Director of Marketing. Add this to the long list of NAMers’ best practices.

OK, that’s it for The Relevance Project update.

Next stop?

That depends on you.

Remember, STAY RELEVANT. It’s Our Future.


Associations: Unmask Your Newspapers’ Relevance

For the sake of our future, the best read right now is how local newspapers are coming through for their communities.

Special reports about the vital storytellers and testimonials about advertising/marketing solutions must document the resilience of local newspapers as they battle what many are calling their most challenging year ever.  Don’t assume people know either.

That’s why I circled as a best practice the action by the Kentucky Press Association and its 2020 president, Jeff Jobe, to “showcase what newspapers did during” the pandemic.

The association turned to Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

Smart move.

Cross produced an “independent report” based on research and interviews with publishers and editors that captured how “the community papers of Kentucky came through for Kentuckians.”

Among the achievements, Cross wrote, local newspapers “published special sections devoted to the pandemic. They told the stories of people affected and anguished by it. They published tributes to front-line local heroes. They served as trusted sources of information about a subject that became scientifically confusing and politically contentious. They helped readers separate fact from fiction, and they held officials accountable.”

Overall, they remain super-relevant to their communities.

Details about newspaper victories during COVID-19 dotted most virtual conferences conducted in the last year by newspaper and publisher groups. And articles appear in newsletters.

But there’s more to do.

Much more.

State and provincial associations are uniquely positioned to report the full scale and amplify the specifics of how their members survived along with their communities, and, in some cases, reinvented themselves.

For starters: You Can Read Al Cross’ full report at The Rural Blog.

(Relevant Note to associations: If you’ve done this, please let me know. I’d like to capture all such updates in Relevant Points.

David Thompson, the executive director of the Kentucky Press Association, touted the special project to members in his weekly newsletter, urging them to publish the article and the accompanying artwork.

No one should be bashful. 

Thompson included a message from Jobe, whose “last project” as KPA president was lining up the Cross report.

“In the past few months alone we have had newspapers close, merge, sell and some even begin new publications.  We are indeed changing as the time demands.  But through all this we have remained loyal to the communities we serve,” Jobe wrote.

“This loyalty can go unrecognized because our service is expected and this is fine. We do what we do not for the recognition, we do it because we believe in what we do and know the value.”

Jobe also articulated how associations are even more relevant to their members in 2021 as the pandemic unfortunately continues its damaging course.

“…We need to record in our histories for one another how we remained loyal and strong, how we proved once again that we were here when our communities needed us and we are indeed trusted,” he added. “Together  we can show our readers that we all did our part and together we move into the future.”

Well said.

Next up?

—Tom Silvestri

Know Your Social Media By The Numbers

Thank you, Pew Research Center, for helping us better understand Twitter and the behavior on display.

You found that 9 in 10 tweets sent between November 2019 and September were caused by the most active 10 percent of the users.

And of those superusers, nearly 7 out of 10 were Democrats and Democratic-leading independents.

Republicans and those leaning Republican didn’t top 30 percent.   

Remember that context, especially when you see journalists asking for comments for stories.

Let’s also see if the numbers change in 2021.

—Tom Silvestri

Best Advice (Last In A Series): Never Stop Learning

How long can you say “Happy New Year!”?

Some people give up after the first week.

Others share the best wish throughout January.

I practice the monthlong campaign.

Happy New Year! 

With February fast approaching, we have time to conclude our nine-part series reprising the best advice from 2020 presentations at virtual conferences organized by news media associations.

The Relevance Project was there.

In Part IX, we share the last batch of words of wisdom and the slides we captured via the trusty iPhone. It’s some of this and some of that. 

Read on. 

In October, Gordon Borrell reminded us in two brutal-facts slides that only the strong among local media will survive.

And this:

Any predictions for 2021?

In turbulent times, focus on what you can control. 

A good place to start is the sales plan for reps.

Especially new hires. 

How strong are the goals and do they follow a “management by objectives” approach? Study these suggested components from Laurie Kahn.

Related to an individual plan is the overall strategies to strengthen revenue teams. Here’s another good action list to ponder.

As I mentioned in a previous installment, Kahn, the CEO of Media Staffing Network, detailed the findings of a sales compensation study. Here are two additional slides that provide industry intelligence to help make smarter decisions on what newspapers should pay their top and average performers.

By all means, don’t demonize the achievement of “average” reps. In many ways, they’re doing what you ask them to do. Maybe it’s your goal-setting that needs revamping if their average performances aren’t getting your organization to where it needs to be.

Another appealing part of master trainer Charity Huff’s guidance about digital selling is how she puts herself in the shoes of the seller as well as the buyer.

Success means adjusting a sales approach to the buyers, the CEO of the digital-first agency January Spring says.

Take a look at these generational differences, starting with the group that might be the most skeptical about a newspaper’s audience or effectiveness.

Compare to this generation, which is smaller in number.

And then there’s those who have been at it for a long time. 

Remember: adjust.

Some day in the next year, events again will be a shiny revenue contributor.

One of the best performers in this space is The Texas Tribune, which often appears on conference agendas. I always try to tune in. 

Save this case for events when things get back to normal. Or, use the points if you are still tweaking a virtual approach to events. 

You can’t go wrong if your events showcase your journalism.

Think big on inviting “stars.”

That is a positive result of the emergence of widespread virtual conferences because travel and accommodations can be skipped, making it easier for speakers to participate.

In 2020, The Texas Tribune “pivoted entirely” to virtual events. 

See how many personalities you can recognize in this promotion of a major festival.

Several presentations in 2020 touted non-profit business models to protect quality journalism. A big reason is the continued decline in print advertising. Before jumping into a new structure, examine the Tribune’s revenue pieces.

Here’s a larger look. 

Still interested in that direction?

Last point: a newspaper hosting a virtual community forum on COVID-19 is a natural act. Let’s see more.

We saved this last section to wrap-up our nine-part series. It’s a crucial Relevant Point . 

Doris Truong’s thought-provoking advice on building a culture of inclusion and respect for diverse perspectives involved journalists and newsroom. But it also could apply to all  departments of a newspaper. 

Here, Truong of the Poynter Institute explains what is at stake.

And in the America’s Newspapers’ PIVOT 2020 presentation, she elaborates on the required behavior.

As well as what it also takes. 

One more: the sincere effort to think long-term as momentum is established. Ownership is vital to ensure progress. 

When in doubt: Focus on your people and their careers in clear and beneficial initiatives. Don’t leave it to random acts.  

That concludes the initial Relevant Points of 2021.

Thanks to all of the outstanding presenters for sharing their wisdom, encouragement and passion for our industry. 

The upshot: Never stop learning. Never stop advancing. Never stop being Relevant.   

Here’s to better days ahead.

–Tom Silvestri

Best Advice (Part VIII): In Case You Missed The Crises…

No shortage of advice exists in the news business.

We all know it can be blunt at times.

But in 2020, the recommendations were more emphatic. Encouraging. Understanding. Inviting.

Acknowledgements of stressful days, weeks, months used descriptions like:




And, at times, unbelievable.

With the pandemic, social unrest and toxic politics, w e are all crisis managers.

The daily task: Fighting fatigue, battling isolation and confronting revenue that disappears.

Enter No. 8 in our Relevant series on words of wisdom heard in 2020 virtual gatherings. This installment is a mix of how to manage today’s rapid change, boost your revenue teams, and document memorable footnotes from a difficult year.

You’ll also see the return of some advice-givers who are back with additional worthwhile perspectives.

After reading their points, take a minute to reflect on how you not only survived last year, but never gave up.

Neil Brown of the Poynter Institute provides one of the better overviews. His wide angle was as of October, when the industry champion America’s Newspapers presented its PIVOT 2020 virtual conference. 

In case you needed a reminder, here are some of the greatest hits, thanks to Brown’s compilation of trends, tipping points and timeouts.

As an analyst and trainer, Brown stresses the need to use the crisis to rethink strategies and actions. Push smarter, for example, on boldly marketing our value to attract more readers and advertisers while keeping our news content strong. Think DISTINCT in all actions. 

His list goes on, but you won’t advance without being honest about the last point. There’s always more work to be done there. 

Overwhelmed front-line colleagues don’t always react well to advice-givers who scream YOU NEED TO DO MORE. That’s why Brown’s segment on creating a STOP DOING list was music to tired ears.

Such a list depends on a specific organization’s set of challenges and opportunities — and whether the newspaper is living day to day or able to plan one to two years out.

Brown notes such a STOP effort in Milwaukee which set its goals and then guided behavior. If you’re doing something apart from the communicated goals, stop and question whether it’s necessary or worthwhile.

As a publisher, you could say:

If you’re not bringing in revenue or welcoming new subscribers while keeping those we have satisfied, or you’re not contributing to a high-quality news report, then what are you doing? Why should we pay you for “that”?

Toward the end of his excellent presentation, Brown made this prediction: “We are never going back to the way it was.”

Good luck in 2021.

A happy, energetic and engaged salesforce is a productive team.

Here’s another insightful point from Laurie Kahn, CEO of the Media Staffing Network. It flows from a sales compensation study released in 2020 and pinpoints best practices to work on.

How many checkmarks did you make?

Consider Kahn’s philosophy: “Rethink. Re-tool. Respond. Rebound.” Tailor-made for today.


While we’re on revenue, let’s underscore Gordon Borrell’s very Relevant admonition:
Our customers WANT A COMBO BUY.

Want more proof?

Given the economic pain on Main Street, Borrell also strengthens the argument that helping local businesses is what everyone wants. Newspapers, you are the best connector.

Staying with the theme of SHOP LOCAL is design and creativity maven Bill Ostendorf and his challenge to reinvent print classifieds in online spaces. That’s Bill in the top right Zoom screen making the case for what he calls a top revenue growth category — but only with the new approaches. 

One more direction for opportunity-seekers.

Let’s shift to audience, or the groups of readers who either subscribe or don’t pay for content.

Are your readers:

  • Detached?
  • Disillusioned?
  • Apathetic?
  • Passively engaged?
  • Actively engaged?

I know where I’d like to be.

Note the clues in the next slide so you can grade accordingly.

A skeptic could look at this scale and offer this question: Can your community support a newspaper?

Finally, The Relevance Project’s Revenue Resource Center is a free service to community newspapers. This week, we’ve updated the ALL TOGETHER series of promotions that help sales reps when they knock on the doors of local advertisers, especially those coming out of yet another lockdown.

Here’s a notable example from the North Carolina Press Association which has incorporated The Relevance Project into its member benefits.

Thank you!

OK, there is one more batch to share in the Best Advice series.

It’s in The Relevance Project lab cooling off.

You’ll see it this week.

Here’s the deal:

Reading all nine parts makes you a Relevant Star.

–Tom Silvestri

Best Advice (Part VII): Winning Loyalty From A Digital Audience

Relevance Project fans, there are three more installments to go in our words of wisdom series.

I’ve isolated the remaining advice from my overflowing archive of pictures taken during 50 or so virtual workshops, webinars and Zoom panel discussions over the summer and fall of 2020.

Most of the pictures were edited to crop out the top of my laptop keyboard, a glare on the screen, or a bad angle (hey, I’m taking notes and locating the photo button at the same time). I also tried to zero in so the viewer could best read the points despite the different type sizes, colors and graphics.

Enough on the background. On to No. 7:

One of most closely watched transformation projects is in Arkansas where WECHO Media Inc. is giving subscribers iPads to read their newspaper.

In August, Jay Horton, president of WEHCO Digital, provided an update at the LMA Summit that focused on efforts to keep longtime print subscribers as well as to retain revenue because the digital experience was equal or better than reading a newsprint product.

Two slides, in particular, made a convincing case. One shows the expectations for a longtime relationship with iPad subscribers, based on research and survey results.

The other slide approximates the revenue factor as measured by “Customer Lifetime Value.” Horton added that the company expects to see a return of three times the $320 cost of an iPad that comes with the subscription to Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

To lock in reader satisfaction, WECHO Media added to its customer service, which includes one-on-one instructions on how to use the iPad, the digital edition and the related app. 

In addition, it was interesting to see WECHO also upgrade the readers’ experience with ads to encourage dynamic use. Here’s Horton’s list of new capabilities.

Higher levels of ad usage also have a special benefit: supporting high-quality journalism.  We all look forward to 2021 updates from WEHCO.

If you want to be a workshop speaker, do something bold to bring in digital revenue when it’s your time to lead. 

Liz White, publisher at the family-owned Record-Journal in Connecticut, installed a “FactsAren’tFree” Team to secure new digital subscriptions and attract donations. When you’re the fifth generation to run a newspaper, diversification and growth opportunities becomes your focus.  

White shared the results from the 65-day campaign: 121 new digital subscription, a 16% increase; and more than $21,000 from 281 donors. 

In four points, she also captures what made the campaign a success and her team hungry for more.

One more Relevant point: earning donations requires repeated messaging (and thanking), so don’t hide the asks, White adds. Over-communicate is the watchword. 

Google has an outstanding training program for those trying to increase subscription dollars. If you have the opportunity, I recommend signing up for the Google News Initiative’s Digital Growth Program Reader Revenue curriculum. 

Here’s one of the best summaries of key strategies that can lead to reader revenue victories.

One more from the Google News Initiative about the importance of understanding your audience. 

You think they’re loyal?

How do you know?

This slide offers a Relevant approach to what really determines reader loyalty.  Hint: It’s all about behavior.  And your content. 

Finally, community newspapers’ audiences are built from local journalism. Lucky are the newspapers whose readers believe they’re active participants in the public, or village, square. 

A reader sent me the following drawing after reading my commentary for National Newspaper Week in October. 

Note Earth (“think global, act locally), the “brave journo,” the “fundamental” link between local news and a healthy Democracy, the rallying calls to advertise and subscribe — all wrapped up around a community in tune with its newspaper that’s the village square.

Not all words of wisdom come from workshop experts.  Readers rule, too. 

Back soon with the second-to-last batch of free Relevant advice.

—Tom Silvestri

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

Best Advice (Part V): Classified’s Successor, Revenue Ideas, Power of Pictures, Working Remotely, Playing It Smart

We’re back with the fifth installment in the Relevant Advice Series. Who is in the house today?

Up first is Bill Ostendorf of Creative Circle Media Solutions. He tells an audience of online publishers that self-service text ads are “by far the fastest growing type of advertising on the web. They are the classified of the web.”

Ostendorf says his firm asked 200 small and medium-size businesses how they expected to spend their marketing dollars.

“The most common answers were Google, Facebook and LinkedIn,” he added.

But don’t get down. Get even.

“In our market research, fewer than 30% of the SMBs have tried Google, Facebook or LinkedIn and many of those didn’t like the process or didn’t get results,” Ostendorf adds. “Understanding these flaws is essential in learning to compete with these giants.”

That’s where the next two slides come in — convert these identified shortcomings into your gains.

Slide 1:

Slide 2  from the Lion Publishers event adds more flaws of the giants.

I count myself as one of Ostendorf’s fans having hired him for a newspaper redesign years ago. This third slide offers a design tip when upgrading your text ads. Boo to tiny type.

Next is one of my favorite opening slides by a presenter.

Peter W. Wagner, founder and publisher of the N’West Iowa REVIEW, is a super-sharer of revenue ideas. Here are two examples of how to group small ads on a ganged page using themes that are all about the local community. 

In this slide, he shows you can pull in two pages of advertising just by recognizing local employers celebrating their years in business. Note that this milestone effort starts at 144 years and doesn’t wait for a magic number like  25, 50 or 100.

In the right format, newspapers can be cheerleaders. Here, Wagner demonstrates the community feature of combining an essay or article about the positive sides of a locality with small ads from advertisers adding to the applause.

At the virtual ArkLaMiss Marketing and Audience Development Conference, Wagner was loud and clear about the importance of photographs and artwork. Here’s his snapshot.

Working remotely became a major topic in 2020. We all know why. 

At America’s Newspapers’ PIVOT 2020, two panelists provided an overview on the challenges and opportunities. 

Nancy Meyer, president of the Miami Herald, notes these benefits, according to employees who want leaders to be more visible, focused on over-communicating, and open to embracing new workforce tools to meet challenges while advancing careers. 

Susan Davidson Talmadge, president and owner of HR Catalyst Consulting, acknowledges how the seemingly endless pandemic is causing employers to struggle with when to return to the office or use some sort of hybrid approach of working remote and gathering in person at appropriate times. Not everything is changing, however. She also  documents expectations that remain universal — note how rapid change collides with bedrock needs among colleagues.

Let’s end smartly.

Thanks to Neil Brown, president of The Poynter Institute, for reminding us about the importance of using S.M.A.R.T. goals. Stick to the discipline and don’t forget to thoroughly inform all of your people.

My apologizes for the glare on the screen. It was a sunny day in Richmond.  Already working on the next batch of words of wisdom.

Back soon.

–Tom Silvestri

Best Advice (Part IV): Jumpstarting Sales, The Audience Funnel and The ‘Good’ From Newsrooms

Our Relevant series sharing words of wisdom from 2020 presentations continues with a hat trick: Advertising, Audience and Journalism.  Today’s selected slides come with added commentary. Enjoy. 

Maybe it’s the drawing of the cranky customer, but this first slide stuck with me. Why the skeptical look?

Maybe it’s because local business owners are being called on by an estimated 25 to 83 sales reps from media companies selling “lots of stuff and often the same products.”

Think about that.

It prompts the understatement of the year:

Newspapers must stand out to win.

The cranky guy’s message is how ad sales trainer Mike Centorani opened his presentation to the Illinois Press Association/Foundation’s conference.

How a newspaper starts the revenue conversation with a small or medium-size business is often the deciding factor in selling a successful advertising solution.

There’s little margin of error. 

To win, Centorani says, do your thorough research about the prospective advertiser. Write down your questions, practice, but remember: “Boring questions equal boring answers equal boring solutions.”

At the time of the September virtual conference, Centorani was director of sales training for Gannett Media. In addition to thinking smartly about what type of questions to ask, Centorani says the “secret sauce” of selling is for the sales reps to put themselves in the shoes of the customer to earn their trust — think like them.

It also is important to nail your USP — unique selling proposition. “Ask the right questions. Show them the data. And let them sell you about their business,” Centorani adds. Take it all in and then sprint to a win. 

Let’s stay with sales reps on this next Relevant Point.

Included in Laurie Kahn’s presentation about a 2020 advertising compensation survey was this summary on why reps leave.

Money was No. 1. But the eye-openers were the second and third reasons: New hires didn’t understand what they were getting into and the job turned out to be a poor fit.

“Be upfront” and “very honest” when recruiting and hiring people, Kahn said during America’s Newspapers’ Pivot Conference in October.

That statement alone says a lot about today’s hiring processes.

A suggestion from Kahn of the Media Staffing Network: Candidates might want “to spend a day in the office” before signing aboard. 

A failed hire can be costly.

Let’s be honest.  

For more details on the survey, visit:

Funnels are a popular depiction when audience and subscription authorities describe how you attract and keep subscribers. Here’s one view on examining your entire market and then isolating the various opportunities. 

At his presentation to the New York Press Association, Lon Haenel crafted this summary on all the steps you can take to welcome new subscribers. If you think it’s a one-and-done process, your newspaper will be done, for sure, the founder and president of Local News ROI said. 

“Marketing is a process on a journey,” Haenel added. “It’s not a project.”

So much of the 2020 details about consolidation within the news media industry was about depleted resources in newsrooms as advertising revenue continued to decline.

That’s what made the following “good news” point most interesting at the America East News Media Summit in September. This list was composed by Gannett’s Shane Fitzgerald of the Bucks County Courier Times in Pennsylvania. 

I must admit I did a double-take on journalists “finally” realizing “digital is our future.”

In the same Pennsylvania program, newspaper associations were treated to this advice from Dean Ridings, CEO of the industry group America’s Newspapers. We take special note of one word in particular.

Go ahead and consider this good news as well.

Finally, we always look for a good ending and appreciate those advice-givers who conclude with a memorable point. 

Our thanks to Editor & Publisher’s Mike Blinder for his Churchill-like advice to all of us slugging through the pandemic. I hung a copy in my office. 

What’s next? The Relevance Project will be back soon with more points to ponder.

Thanks for reading us. 

—Tom Silvestri

Best Advice (Part III): Turnkey Ideas, Innovation Dance, Collaboration, Brand Loyalty

Sharing ideas is a gold standard at newspaper conferences. Participants benefit, in particular, from speakers who gather ready-to-use concepts. Last year’s programs, as the pandemic raged, embraced all sorts of revenue projects and strategies.

The third installment of the best words of wisdom from 2020 presentations promotes products, process and passion.
Read on:

Trainer Kevin Slimp concluded a presentation at the Kansas Press Association’s August conference with “5 Quick IDEAS To Interest Readers And Bring In Revenue — Get Your Pen Ready.”

His Idea 1 celebrates various professionals or business categories by spotlighting the “Faces of …” in a sponsored content format. Here are three examples featuring publishing, food and drink, and health care — feel free to create your own list of possibilities:

Idea 2 showcases subject-matter experts who can answer reader questions or elaborate on solutions to educate the audience. 

This example focuses on information intended for baby boomers, a bedrock group of newspaper readers. 

Idea 3 involves special sections, pages or a series that can highlight products made by local businesses and residents. It’s another way to support advertisers and employers during a tough time.

Idea 4 makes time to note the birthdays of readers. It takes a process and invites a sponsor. This could be an unusual revenue gift. Light the candles!

And, Idea 5 goes all in on longtime readers with publications for them. Travel and nostalgia topics are big here. But avoid stereotypes when trying to cut a new path to audience and revenue. 

As a bonus, Slimp adds his own list based on an adviser’s experience. 

Sparking new ideas is difficult when you’re pulled in many directions. Daniel Alvarez, vice president, product and design, at NBC Telemundo, understands your frustrations. During his talk about growth strategies during Local Media Association’s Digital Summit Week in August, he offered a five-step approach to fostering innovation to seize opportunities.

The upshot: Encourage honest assessment, create safe spaces for your team as it explores, and expect pushback along the way. “But learn fast, learn often,” he added.

LMA does a good job spotlighting emerging collaborations. Meanwhile, we’re seeing more state associations fostering improved statehouse coverage as well. Here’s to more victories in 2021.

Also at the August conference, Jim Brady made the case for why the industry’s transformation involves more news organizations working together to produce high-quality journalism. Brady is the project manager for The Oklahoma Media Center, which launched in May and attracted a financial backer so its media partners could focus on COVID’s impact on K-12 education in the state.

Check out his points and see if any resonate with your newspapers.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good quote that combines a smart business risk with a long-term passion for newspapers. Here’s one from the Midwest:

Once again, thanks to all of the advice-givers for sharing their wisdom. The Relevance Project certainly took note — and lots of notes. 

Look for more valuable insight in Part IV.

—Tom Silvestri