With over 13 years in the self-service advertising business and over 600 AdPortals launched for newspapers, broadcasters, and real estate brokerages, the team at iPublish Media Solutions has observed different success rates at similar circulation newspapers using the exact same software. Success takes many forms: ROI, self-service adoption rate, upsells to clients discovered through self-service, lower cost of sales, etc. But overall, one familiar consistency is clear: plan plus execution equals success by every metric.

The iPublish team builds turn-key self-serve software that empowers local media to develop essential revenue streams, then we hand it off to the local media partner to use. We work closely with our partners, sharing best practices that we know produce results: the right idea, the right platform, simple packages, affordable pricing, and great marketing.

Instead of fielding salespeople to cold call on the streets, great marketing often means forming alliances with a few key influencers – like real estate brokers, funeral homes, or other organizational leaders – who will help sell the program, along with using the newspaper’s owned assets including print content and digital ads, email, and social media. Get this right and the results can be game-changing. Sometimes they even surprise us.

The most recent example of a great self-serve plan is the launch of AdPortal Celebrations by The Day, a daily newspaper and group of weeklies in Connecticut with Sunday circulation of 100,000. The initiative sold around 200 ads, entirely self-serve, in the first week.

It didn’t happen on its own. Shawn Palmer, Chief Revenue Officer at The Day, made sure his team ironed out all the important details from the beginning, from the concept to pricing and marketing before they even had a demo with iPublish.

The right idea

The team at The Day, including the newsroom, brainstormed how to cover graduation this year when none of the kids would ever stand on a stage to receive a diploma. They decided to create special sections honoring graduates from each high school.

“We always covered graduation,” Palmer said, “but instead of just shooting a few photos, we [decided to] expand the coverage to include a complete list of every graduating student, student speeches, and photos from over the year [and put them into] a mini-section.”

The editorial coverage was key to building rapport with the high schools and parents.

The right platform

The Day knew they wanted to include paid congratulation messages from parents, but with 26 high schools graduating around 100 students each, the task was daunting.

“We quickly realized that…if it took off we would be overrun with building small ads for hundreds of high school kids. Without being in the office, we could not even ask people to mail us copy and a check. That’s when we contacted iPublish,” Palmer said.

The Day’s team asked iPublish for “something quick and easy where parents could just pick a template, write a message, get a proof, pay with their credit card and then the process is complete.”

By the time they came to iPublish, they needed it “in record time,” with AdPortal Celebrations launched in May and so the ads could be published in June.

iPublish had the platform launched within a week, focused exclusively on the high school program. The Day will eventually go back and build out all of Celebrations with weddings, birth announcements and many other categories. An immediate need was solved, but the investment will have a residual impact on business at The Day.

Simple packages with affordable pricing

The Day’s team kept the pricing simple and affordable. They selected just two ad sizes 1/8 or 1/4, priced at $50 and $100. The weeklies simply ran the ads ROP. Deadlines was set for early June, in time for the mid- to late-June online ceremonies. iPublish’s very friendly user interface meant no training was needed for parents or The Day in the middle of all the COVID-19 challenges. The software had to be simple, easy to use and work perfectly.

Great marketing

Next came marketing to a few key influencers: The Day started with personal outreach to the 26 high schools to ask them to help communicate directly with parents.

“We had group calls with the superintendents and explained the idea,” Palmer said. “They thought it was great and appreciated that we were doing something extra special.”

Then The Day went even further – they supplied a personalized letter which they asked each superintendent to email to every high school senior family. They made a plan to accommodate economically challenged families to be able to participate.

“We just said, can you please do an email blast to the families and they did,” Palmer said. The team also ran ads in print and on the newspaper website.

This “go the extra mile” approach resulted in over 200 DIY ads from parents in about a week without a single sales call.

In mid-June the special sections were distributed inside the daily in three zoned areas. The weekly ran the ads ROP.

The pay-off from planning

The revenue from the ads and reduced production costs more than covered the cost of the software license. Mr. Palmer said even with the success, it was never only about the money. “We really wanted to do something for the kids. There were no sports, activities or proms. The kids were just getting sent home and did not even get a chance to say goodbye to their friends,” Palmer said.

The other success they experienced from the initiative, was that it re-energized the team at The Day. “It is something we are really proud of. You know we are working from home, and day after day another business isn’t open and calls aren’t getting returned. Once we started working on this, we started having fun…none of us have even been in the same room while putting this project together,” said Mr. Palmer.

The right plan goes a long way.