Finding the Sweet Spot in Media Sales
Every publisher has verticals within their audience, and it’s worth diving deeper into those verticals to identify your most engaged readers. It’s a concept that many editors are probably familiar with. Rather than trying to appeal to everyone with a certain piece of content, it’s better to have a specific focus in order to better serve the needs of one group. The idea is to create content that attracts the right audience instead of simply the largest one. We do this on Publishing Executive using a detailed taxonomy of the subjects we cover. We categorize articles by topic -- audience development, web strategy, production -- and by publisher type -- B2B, consumer, regional.
What does this have to do with media sales? Identifying these verticals is important for editorial to understand what type of content is resonating for what kinds of readers, but it’s also crucial for pinpointing new sales opportunities. Sarah Snell Cooke, market segment strategy leader at ALM Media described it well at our sales workshop Reboot: Radically Transforming Media Sales, which was held on October 6th in New York City. Cooke explained that in her role guiding business strategy at ALM’s Credit Union and Commercial Real Estate Groups, she looks at the topics her readers are interested and compares that with the topics potential advertisers are interested in. “Where those topics overlap is where your sweet spot is,” said Cooke.
Targeting a trending topic to attract greater reader and advertiser interest is a simple strategy that has paid dividends for Cooke and her team. Recently the group launched Data Breach Defense, a free virtual trade show, based on the popularity of cyber security content among its credit union audience. Cooke’s sales team also knew that cyber security solutions providers wanted to connect with these professionals. “It’s been a very successful event for us. Most attendees listened to virtual sessions for a full hour, and it grew in revenue about 5% this year,” said Cooke.
Texas Monthly is another example of a brand using the intersection of reader and advertiser interests to drive revenue. Reboot Chief Media Alchemist Andrew Davis explained how the magazine launched a Texas BBQ vertical, TM BBQ, knowing that it was one of the most popular topics on its site and had the potential to garner national attention. TM BBQ’s popularity eventually attracted major advertisers like Yeti Coolers and Lone Star Beer, which sponsored TM BBQ events, advertised throughout the site, and underwrote a TM BBQ book. “Instead of selling reach, Texas Monthly can sell very specific audiences to advertisers,” explained Davis. “Those two brands, Lone Star Beer and Yeti Coolers, represent more than half of the revenue that Texas Monthly drives today.”
But to make the connection between reader and advertiser interests, a publisher needs to have a healthy dynamic between its sales and editorial teams. If they are completely separated by the Great Wall of Church & State, they can’t collaborate and identify these new opportunities. “Editors and publishers need to recognize that they’re working toward the same goal,” said Cooke. “The more they can look at situations in the broader picture, the more they can figure out how to serve the client and the audience better.”
In order to identify these lucrative opportunities, Cooke recommended that media salespeople meet more regularly with their editorial counterparts. She said that they should join editorial meetings, discuss what topics are resonating most with the audience, and learn about what content is coming down the editorial pipeline. Salespeople should also share financial results and benchmarks with editors so that they know what the goals are for the company and whether their content is driving new opportunities.
Cooke says that if salespeople think this sounds like too much work, than they’re missing the point completely. “If the sales team isn’t constantly learning about the market they’re selling, there’s a big problem,” said Cooke.