Ad Sales Tactics That Work for News Startups

 In Featured, Research, Tow Knight News

Digital news startups can benefit from professionalizing their ad sales efforts, according to a new Tow-Knight Center-sponsored study, but doing so isn’t easy and often leaves the firms too dependent on advertising revenue.

The report, authored by Michele McLellan, outlines a number of best practices for selling digital ads. It is based on a survey of ad sales efforts at 22 digital media firms, including sites that cover communities, sites that cover niche topics, and sites that cover both.

“These publishers face a double-edged sword. On one side, they have to devote resources to direct ad sales and professionalize those sales, which is challenging,” said McLellan.

“At the same time, they need to avoid becoming too dependent on advertising as a single source of revenue. Developing new revenue streams is also very challenging for most organizations.”

The ad sales best practices fell into three broad categories, McLellan found: ways to hire, train, and retain a capable sales force; ways to identify and target potential advertisers; and ways to standardize ad rates and sales practices.  The surveyed firms reported that tactics in each area led to higher revenue from ad sales.

But McLellan, the founder of the local news startup database Michele’s List, was clear that media firms still need to find revenue sources beyond traditional ad sales. “It’s a vulnerability to depend too much on one source,” she said. “But the big question is what other sources will work?”

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