'SEATTLE TIMES' CAPTURES PRIZE FOR SUBURBAN FIGHT: STRATEGY AGAINST COMPETITOR EARNS WASHINGTON DAILY NAA NEWSPAPER MARKETING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

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The Seattle Times, faced with a rival daily stepping up efforts in a lucrative suburban area, launched a counterattack that landed it the top prize in this year's Newspaper Marketing Achievement Awards.

The awards, sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America and Advertising Age, this year were given to individuals or teams at three NAA member newspapers for successful marketing initiatives.

ATLANTA TAKES 2ND PLACE

The second-prize winner is the Atlanta Journal & Constitution for its Summer Olympics single-copy sales promotion; the third-prize winner is the Houston Chronicle for the marketing of its new online Directory Center, which links classified ads, local Yellow Pages listings and other databases into one online site.

For the first time since the awards were initiated in 1995, they include cash prizes for the winning newspapers to donate to a charity of their choice, with $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second and $2,500 for third.

At The Seattle Times, an interdepartmental team-drawn from editorial, marketing, circulation and advertising, and led by Corporate Marketing Director Robert C. Blethen-in January began exploring ways to protect the paper's territory in a group of towns east of Seattle. This effort came in response to the Bellevue Journal American introducing a new name, the Eastside Journal, and new look for readers in that area.

"A large segment of our market is across Lake Washington. The Bellevue area is one of Seattle's largest suburban cities and is a growing metropolis," Mr. Blethen said. "We already had high penetration in that area, but we wanted to reinforce the message that we were the paper to serve those communities."

He noted that in March 1996, Audit Bureau of Circulations figures showed the Times had a circulation of 52,000 in the eastern zone, compared with the Journal American's 31,000. The following year, before the marketing program really took place, the Times gained 1,426 new subscribers.

EASTSIDE INITIATIVE

The plan the team developed started in March and became known as the Eastside Initiative. To strengthen the Times' presence and visibility in that area, the editorial department increased local coverage and highlighted it with newly developed banners. Editorial staffers also created and participated in events in the four towns being targeted for more visible community involvement.

The Times' marketing department launched an outdoor board and transit campaign in mid-March that positioned the paper as the favorite of Eastside readers. Ads running in the newspaper introduced local bureau editorial staffers and highlighted the increased coverage of those neighborhoods.

The marketing department also sponsored local events like a business expo, arts festival and theater events.

The circulation department began an aggressive campaign in mid-March to sign up 2,950 new subscribers from the Eastside neighborhoods. Newspaper carriers, telemarketing staff and sales teams were used to sign up new subscribers and convert Eastside Journal subscribers to the Times.

For single-copy sales, better sales locations were established and co-promotions were conducted with convenience stores and Eastside Starbucks outlets.

NEW TRACKING SYSTEM

The advertising department developed a tracking system to identify advertisers appearing in competing newspapers but not in the Times. Smaller advertisers in the market were offered 50% discounts on Mondays and Tuesdays.

As a result, Mr. Blethen said, "We are getting much more awareness and dominance in the market as well as substantial ad sales gains."

While a slight increase in zoned advertising has been seen (up $250,000 for January-May over the same period the previous year), the real bonus was that overall run-of-press ad linage was up 11.2% thanks to major Eastside advertisers opting to use the newspaper's full distribution.

"With this success, we are looking at other areas where we can focus similar efforts," Mr. Blethen said.

He credited the Eastside Initiative's success to the team approach to facing challenges.

"We have set up an integrated task force, which we really believe in, to get the job done," Mr. Blethen said. "It's fairly unusual to have the involvement of the news department to go after a challenge like this, but that is how we are going about solving problems."

A TEAM APPROACH

In Atlanta, the second place-winning Journal & Constitution used a similar team approach. Having the Olympics come to a market at first glance seems like an instant moneymaker for the local paper, but, given the changes the Games brought to the city, it became apparent the newspaper would need a whole new single-copy sales force.

A majority of the newspaper's regular single-copy buyers, downtown office workers inside a 5-mile radius, were relocating to offices outside the Olympic area during the Games. A survey found 28% of Atlanta residents planned to leave the city while the Olympics were in town.

Also, media competition increased due to products coming into the market solely for the Olympics, such as daily editions of USA Today and Sports Illustrated, as well as extensive TV coverage by NBC.

Against this Olympic backdrop, the Journal & Constitution was banned from using any licensed phrase or symbol of the Games in ads or promotions-including "Olympic," "Atlanta Games" and even the Olympic rings-because it was not an official sponsor.

The paper created a multi-edition daily news product that was delivered by a specially trained sales force, who couldn't mention the Games specifically but wore easily identifiable green T-shirts and straw hats.

As a result, circulation goals were exceeded by 12%, an incremental increase of 1 million copies over the 17-day course of the Games. The marketing efforts were led by Mark Klein, director of marketing.

PUSH FOR DIRECTORY CENTRAL

The third-place winner, the Houston Chronicle, wanted to showcase its new online Directory Central product to readers and users. Directory Central, representing a major investment of time, resources and money, consists of Yellow and White Pages listings, links to classified ads and mapping technologies.

Advertisers were sold packages that included classified ads in the newspaper, as well as enhanced listings in Directory Central and links to e-mail or Web sites. Revenue goals for the first year were set at $500,000, but Marketing Coordinator Don Templett said sales have already exceeded $1 million.

A promotional campaign using radio, in-paper ads and local news coverage has drawn more than 1,000 visitors a day to use Directory Central, and the site is

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