Newspaper sales have been in decline for several years, as more and more readers turn to online sources for their news and information. In fact, when I first started out in radio we would often use imagery of a dead fish wrapped in a newspaper to visualize how bad it was for the print industry. That was 2001, and although a lot has changed since then, the “newspapers are dying” line doesn’t truly showcase the huge amount of transformation many print publications have gone through in order to be more competitive versus other digital and traditional media.
There are still many opportunities for newspaper salespeople to improve their performance and drive incremental sales in 2023. I happen to be one of those people who believes that newspapers can still survive if – and that’s a big “if” – they are committed to real change. Here are the top five things that I believe newspaper salespeople should focus on in the coming year in order to hit their forecast and build a sustainable business.
Stop Pushing Product & Become a Consultant
One of the most important things that newspaper salespeople can do to improve their performance is to build strong relationships with their customers. This means taking the time to understand their needs and preferences, and working to find solutions that will meet those needs. That solution might not include advertising in the printed newspaper, and if you keep pushing a product that won’t work for your client you won’t have their business for long. True consultants are product-agnostic and won’t recommend something just because they need to hit a quota or because their boss tells them to.
Understand Your Competition
When I took over the advertising department at the Ottawa Citizen, none of my reps knew a thing about the competition. They were used to being on top of the local media choices, and were (literally) waiting by the fax machine for orders to come in. When those orders stopped, they lacked understanding of their value versus radio, outdoor, television and even digital competitors.
Newspaper salespeople need to stay informed about what local competitors are doing and their unique selling proposition. Take the time to understand how they work, and keep an eye on the competition’s prices, content, and marketing strategies to differentiate your solutions and stand out in the market.
Make Use of Data
In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive media landscape, it is more important than ever for newspaper salespeople to use data to inform their decisions. This means understanding your own audience, how they consume the content of your publication and what purchases they intend to make. It also means embracing systems like your CRM to stay on top of your sales funnel so you can to make strategic decisions to increase your chances of success.
Stop Fighting Digital
I was shocked when a media executive told me that digital was just a “fad” and advertisers would quickly return to radio and newspapers. This wasn’t in 2002… it was 2022! With more and more readers turning to digital sources for their news, information and content, it is essential for newspaper salespeople to be able to sell digital advertising. This means being comfortable with technology and digital tools, and being able to speak to customers about the benefits of digital solutions.
These solutions increasingly go beyond your own newspaper website. Owned and operated properties only reach so many people, and targeting abilities of platforms like Facebook, Google, Spotify and Amazon make it easy to find the right people for a marketing campaign. Newspaper salespeople need to stop fighting digital, and embrace all the solutions available to business owners to remain competitive.
Finally, newspaper salespeople should be willing to think outside the box and be creative in their approach. This means coming up with new and innovative ideas for promoting and selling advertising, and being open to new technologies and platforms. Whether it is developing a new digital product or exploring new revenue streams, being creative and thinking outside the box can help newspaper salespeople stay ahead of the curve.
Do Newspapers Have a Future?
Although the physical edition might be nearing the end of their life, organizations that were once called “newspapers” have the ability to transform themselves and be relevant to advertisers in 2023 and beyond. Salespeople need to continue to do what they do best: build relationships with clients beyond transactional buys, understand the data at their fingertips, embrace digital tools and solutions and be creative in their approach. Newspaper advertising sales isn’t for the faint of heart, but applying some of these tips will help you develop a stronger sales pipeline that ensure you’ll hit your targets.