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Sept. 15 webinar preview: Best practices for ad sales at news startups

by: Michele McLellan |

While many small news start ups struggle to achieve a strong financial footing, most of those that are breaking out of the pack have professionalized their advertising sales operations.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, I will host a free KDMC webinar that looks at their practices based on a study I completed earlier this year – “Best Practices for Advertising Sales at Digital News Startups” – for the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York. Register here.

We will discuss key elements of a professional operation, including:

  • Recruiting a professional sales representative, ideally full-time
  • Compensating the sales rep adequately, ideally through a combination of salary,  commission and bonuses
  • Understanding and helping solve the business problems of potential advertisers rather than just selling them ads
  • Networking in the business community
  • Focusing on direct sales rather than network
  • Developing a rate structure that can support the operation and using it to set sales goals
  • Charging premium monthly rates rather than relying on impression-based pricing

These elements were consistently present when organizations were making progress in growing their revenue. By contrast, several organizations that had relied primarily on passive sales via a network or impression-based advertising were starting to struggle as rates plummeted. 

The study looked at general news and niche topic sites in a range of sizes, from the large Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, to smaller local sites such as Uptown Messenger in New Orleans and Potomac Local in northern Virginia.

Most of the organizations I looked at in the study rely heavily on display advertising, a format that is threatened on many fronts including questions about its effectiveness and growing availability and use of ad blockers. This will force publishers to be more creative about their ad products.

However, I think the practices examined in the webinar will serve them well as their products evolve.

Webinar - Best Practices: Ad Sales for Community News Startups.

Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 11 a.m. PT | 2 p.m. ET. Register here.

Michele McLellan

Michele McLellan is a writer, editor and consultant who works on projects that help strengthen the emerging local news ecosystem,
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