For his entire career, John Kerr has pushed the envelope and embodied the shatter the status quo mentality. Most recently, as director of multimedia sales with The Press-Enterprise, as Kerr removed traditional ad networks from their digital advertising process, breaking the rules of tradition. Mediaspace Solutions had a chance to talk to Kerr about his career and how his team at The Press-Enterprise came to the conclusion that in order to create successful digital advertising offerings for their advertisers it made the most sense to bring everything in-house. Below are some highlights from the interview. If you’d like to read the entire interview and learn more of John’s insights, you can download it now.
MEDIASPACE: Who were some of your most important mentors and why?
JOHN: I have worked for some amazing managers in my career who have helped mold and develop my skills. The key to my success in each position I’ve held has been a mutual understanding of expectations for myself and the organization. When we get on the same page from the beginning, we have a direction and path for getting results. I believe that if you have an idea or an initiative you think will help the organization, Go For It. My managers have allowed me the freedom to create and develop ideas to grow revenue which contributes to my successes.
MEDIASPACE: What are some ways The Press-Enterprise is making or breaking the rules instead of just abiding by the rules?
JOHN: Our overarching belief is that the industry has made it difficult for our potential customers, subscribers and advertisers, to interact and transact with us. Instead of looking at our requirements to process the ad or produce the story, we try to make it as easy as possible for the target audience to give us the information we need. We are focused on how we can improve the customers’ experience, whether they’re reading the physical paper or watching a video online. We’ve spent months working on our metered online usage versus a hard pay wall strategy through the lens of our subscribers. We evaluated reading habits, demographic and other factors. We identified different segments and developed lead nurturing campaigns that focus on each segment’s needs and wants in terms of receiving local news, interests and special offers. Our goal is to bring each reader’s experience to the next level. This means more than just publishing news on our website first; it means personalized email newsletters, customized on page recommendations, and breaking news text alerts. Another new space for us in advertising has been with mobile. We have developed a print to web integration from our classifieds, which text messages opt-in users with new job, home and/or yard sale listings weekly. We have lived through free listings that have impacted us greatly, but we’ve found a way, and the results to turn that conversation around and make our online classifieds effective.
MEDIASPACE: What were the key questions you asked as you evaluated ad networks versus working directly with advertisers on your digital platforms?
JOHN: At The Press-Enterprise we moved away from remnant online ad networks. We determined that in order to increase results for our advertisers and online users, we needed to create a unique site of relevance. Our strategy was to create a more desirable website and to sell digital inventory on a local level. We still work with some networks; however, we continue to work directly with advertisers to ensure transparency. We need to understand what the advertiser is measuring and what success means to their business. Our website audience is the local community looking for local news and information. Ad networks present two issues for our audience. First, from our experience the advertising campaigns rarely connect to our local audience. Second, in order to target our audience, ad networks often require a third party audience aggregation tracking mechanism which reduces the value of our site and audience. Our users would eventually ignore these ads completely and our response and engagement rate would drop, reducing our overall ROI and hindering our ability to sell direct.
MEDIASPACE: What have been the outcomes or results your publication has experienced?
JOHN: Well, the best result I can share with you is that since the transition to remove ad networks, we have sold 80-100% of our monthly digital inventory over the past three years. We try to work with our advertisers a month in advance of any ad campaigns running. This gives us time to create the experience for advertisers, readers and users, and ensures the clients goals and expectations are achieved. The digital space continues to change, and publishers are evolving as fast as the technology to try to stay ahead. The latest trend is native advertising, and Hearst Corp. is the most recent publisher to jump on that trend and begin blurring the lines between edit and advertising. If you want to learn more from John, download the full interview now. And before you dive into your next integrated print and digital campaign, check out our eBook on successfully building a campaign for those two media.