Are You Publishing Sideways?


Do you want your salespeople buried in admin stuff or selling? Tim Hermes tells us how to avoid publishing “sideways.”

Back in the day, it was so much easier for media salespeople.

In the print world, it was make a call, make a sale, collect the material. Move on. Nice model. Rate was high. Yield was high. Post-sale work was low.

Then print gave way to digital.

Now in order to meet sales goals, reps are selling smaller units at lower costs at a lower yield. We’ve become slaves to high-frequency media. However as a mentor told me once, “…doesn’t matter the size of the sale, the back end work is the same.” And although every salesperson would say a personal assistant to help traffic materials would be the greatest thing since Game of Thrones, most would still want to do it themselves for the “touch point” with their customer.

Last month I had one of my clients go through an exercise where their top sales rep kept a minute-by-minute diary of her work activities in a week. Her media portfolio includes email newsletters, websites, events, webcasts, and video. When we totaled her time, here’s the result based on a 40-hour week:

  • Sales: 27%
  • Service (art collection, pulling stats, answering extension requests, getting webcast decks, etc.): 62%
  • Administrative (entering orders, and entering into her time-diary:) 11%

When I asked why there was so much service work, her response was that she had so many deliverables and deadlines she was struggling stay above water, much less swim downstream. Why? Her publisher kept launching new products in order to hit goals. And this publisher is a wicked-smart guy.

I’ll be the very first to admit I have been guilty of this. (In fact my last boss will nod her head vigorously to that statement.) Sales are down, there is a hot topic in the market. Why not launch a digital “special edition” property that can get some revenue? Often it works. And then, often, it flames out quickly before you have a chance to kill the property and keep it off your next fiscal projection. Eventually your reps become overloaded with average-performing, recurring special products that may seem to be profitable on paper but are taxing both time and infrastructure.

Unless you’re a stand-alone entrepreneurial company and can turn the battleship fast, creating new products to capitalize on market trends requires a lot of back-end work from the managers, the production team, the billing team, the ad traffic team, the editors, the circulation team, the social media team, and the marketing team. Meetings, meetings, meetings.

I call this dilemma “publishing sideways.” Launching products to make goals instead of doing a better job of selling core products, or integrating these hot ideas into the core brand, can look great on the surface but can ding your yield and create open inventory elsewhere in your brand that could have been filled had an account not migrated.

A great “sideways”example is single-sponsored emails. These are very popular and still have strong open rates. However, text ads in a brand’s regular email newsletter serve much the same purpose: they run at or near the top of the email, and lend a big perception of editorial endorsement. Moving a potential customer out of a sponsored email – which requires another piece of art, HTML layout, testing, and deployment (and intrinsic cost) – into a text ad is a solid strategy. Same revenue, one less deliverable.

I’d encourage niche publishers to take a close look before you jump into a new launch or special project and consider how to “lean out” your core brand on deliverables. Special reports can be integrated into regular issues instead of being done as a standalone, for example. Same with vertically-focused buyer’s guides. Trade show “dailies” can make almost as much money as a first-day-only issue, and eliminate several days of printing, room distribution headaches and cost.

And your sales team will have more time to sell, which means…..well you know what it means.




More about Tim:  Tim Hermes is the Principal at Hermes Media. A veteran niche publisher, he has launched, grown, and monetized several niche properties as well had a thriving corporate career in publishing. He is also an expert in video monetization and consults with several b2b publishers. Oh, and he has a really great launch idea if anyone is interested.


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