Shifting metrics of newspaper success: An inside view
By Michele Chandler, freelance writer, and John Murray, NAA vice president of audience development
Anybody that works at a newspaper enjoys a local success story about capturing the excitement of a local sports team that wins it all. It’s about everybody pulling together and working to achieve measurable success covering the big story. It reminds us what being part of a newspaper is all about.
Of course, nobody appreciates the satisfaction more than those with a circulation or audience title.
But those with a circulation or audience title know that the metrics for measuring success have changed. Adopting the new metrics along with the necessary strategies and creative tactics defines this evolution, as individuals move from a successful circulation manager to a newspaper audience executive with revenue responsibility.
Phil Schroder, the vice president of audience development for The News Tribune and The Olympian, knows this firsthand after the Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. He shared that single copy sales post-Super Bowl soared 500 percent at The News Tribune in Tacoma. He is also quick to add that unique visitors to The News Tribune’s website vaulted up 88 percent on Super Bowl Sunday. For his paper, social media was a major part of their strategy.
There is also the revenue component. In Denver, despite the Sunday loss, the Denver Post distinguished itself with a multi-focused approach to capture revenue from a variety of innovative sources and digital and mobile strategies helped lead the way. Thanks to a huge spike in mobile traffic, the Denver Post saw greater demand for “mobile takeovers” – promotions that allow a single advertiser to appear exclusively on the paper’s news apps for an entire day.
The change in defining success has been underway for a few years now. The day after the Giants’ first-ever World Series win in the city of San Francisco, sales of the regular copies of the San Francisco Chronicle constituted a revenue opportunity that overshadowed the number of copies sold. When the team repeated its World Series win in 2012, the paper again sold 192,000 regular editions the day after the championship game, but success was measured by the impact of the $2 cover price. The Chronicle also enhanced the revenue story by selling $2 photo-laden collector editions, printed after the team advanced to the championship.
When ice fell in Atlanta this past winter, the storm was not conducive to selling more print editions, so the Atlanta Journal-Constitution measured success across a multitude of platforms.
“We did over 12 million impressions (page views) across all of our digital platforms. It was incredible,” said Mark Medici, vice president audience/group lead for the newspaper.
That is the real message. The newspapers’ metrics for measuring success have changed along with the business model.
In our three-part series on Shifting Metrics, we will address the changing landscape by focusing on the successes at each of these newspapers for you to tuck away for when opportunity knocks in your market. The stories reveal the formulas for capturing large audiences and revenue, which are transferable along with the metrics you can use to quantify success.
For NAA members:
Part 1: Super Bowl success at The News Tribune and The Olympian
Part 2: The Denver Post: Digital and mobile strategies provided revenue opportunities
Part 3: Revenue opportunities beyond football in San Francisco and Atlanta
Last Updated: April 24, 2014
First Published: April 15, 2014
About the Author
John Murray, NAA vice president of audience development, has almost twenty years’ circulation and marketing experience working at daily newspapers. He captures and shares best practices and industry benchmark data, specializing in the areas of circulation and audience development. John also serves as the industry liaison to the Alliance for Audited Media, and as a resource for advertisers in search of answers about our industry.
Connect with John: