Key Industry Takeaways From Mega-Conference 2018

Last week, publishers from across the country converged at the Key Executives Mega-Conference in San Diego, California, to discuss such issues as how to attract subscribers, grow revenue, marry print and digital strategies, and discover new products and services they can offer advertisers and readers. Co-hosted by Inland Press Association, Local Media Association, News Media Alliance and Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, and with the help of the California News Publishers Association, attendees of Mega-Conference took in dozens of panels and presentations hosted by their industry colleagues over the course of three days. The Alliance covered as many of the panels as humanly possible (and moderated one panel on combating fake news) so that we could bring you the biggest takeaways.

The Paths to Subscription

Undoubtedly the most anticipated presentation came from our colleagues at the American Press Institute. The API team presented the results of a new study of 4,100 recent newspaper subscribers focused on what convinced them to start paying for local news. The researchers discovered that there are nine different types of subscribers, and thus nine different paths to subscription. However, all nine had one thing in common: They typically spent a year or more engaging with the product — whether that was through reading the newspaper, visiting the publication’s website or interacting with reporters on social media — before finally committing to a subscription.
What does this information mean for you? Along with finding out how readers arrive at the decision to become subscribers, API also learned what can be done to help casual readers get over that barrier to becoming regular subscribers. For some, that means making the subscription process more seamless and streamlined; for others it means providing more local content, or engaging more with the community.

Engaging Ads Win Over Consumers and Advertisers

During a pre-conference session, the Second Street team taught attendees about the value of competition. Not with each other, though — between consumers. That’s because they showed the audience the kind of revenue they can draw in if they run competition ads. Sweepstakes, photo contests, ballots, “best of” lists — all are excellent ways to engage readers with the ads and draw in money for the client and the newspaper.
Not only do competition ads drive revenue, but they also allow the advertiser to collect valuable consumer data — like email addresses — so they can better target users in the future. For clients, they will gain better knowledge of and access to potential customers, which means that your publication becomes more valuable to them as well. Anything you can do to show advertisers your value, while at the same time engaging consumers, will help you increase revenue, Second Street explained. And the results, as you can see below, can be quite impressive.

Events Can Earn Dollars — and Respect

The Hustle is known for its newsletter for business- and techy-savvy millennials, but it started out as an event company and, as they explained, events are still where they do big business. The company built their reputation by creating HustleCon in 2015, a major event to inspire young businesspeople and bring together great minds and aspiring greats. After the event’s success, the company looked to newsletters to keep things going, and they’ve continued to exist primarily as an event and newsletter business. While you can read news on The Hustle’s blog and use their browser extension to get snippets of their hand-picked news each time you log on, their big products are a daily email and a series of events.
When they realized that their audience was skewing heavily male, they added more women-focused events to their schedule. They didn’t change their core product; they stuck to what they know — business and tech — and simply added women to the mix to help their existing product reach an untapped market. In doing so, they were able to add more events without having to start from scratch.

(Re)Building a Brand Can Go a Long Way

Who you are matters, but who you present yourself to be may matter more, at least according to marketing genius, Andy Cunningham. The woman who helped launch Apple in the ‘80s and has driven the brand-centric marketing push of the 2000s spent an hour and a half helping news publishers think about their own brands and the foot they need to put forward to keep or gain readers. Cunningham presented information from her new book, Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, and discussed how news organizations can figure out their own corporate DNA and what that means for how they move forward.
When you understand your company’s DNA, Cunningham explained, you can find out how best to adapt to the times and serve your 21st century customers. Cunningham offered a DNA test (found in her slides here) to help publishers discover what kind of company they are. Once you know, you can craft your mission statement and go out and tell your story. That story will help you position yourself to better attract the kinds of business partners — from advertisers to readers — that are the right fit for your publication.

We’ll be delving more deeply into some of these topics in the coming weeks as part of our on-going “How To” series. If you were at Mega-Conference and want to hear more from particular presenters — or if you missed it and want us to catch you up — you can reach out to us by emailing or tweeting @EditrixJen. You can also check out the tweets from Mega-Conference by following the #2018MegaConf hashtag or checking out the collection below.


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