CHALLENGE Veteran’s newspaper Stars and Stripes had a venerable name and some great print content, but no presence on the Internet. (In fact a military uniform company snapped up domain name “starsandstripes.com.”) July ’99 the paper was bought by iServe.com, a team of dot-com entrepreneurs fresh from successfully selling their first start-up an online investment community. VP Marketing Raji Sankar told us how they have begun to move the brand onto the Internet.
Web sites require a lot of fresh content to appeal to fresh visitors, so the first thing the new Stripes management team did was to hire more editors, “We ramped up staff very quickly, “Sankar says, “we almost quadrupled the number of editors and reporters.” Sankar also hired additional circulation marketers, each dedicated 100% to either an online or offline marketing channel.
Most online marketing is guerrilla-style, “we are very wise about marketing dollars and have not spent millions on television. Instead we sit on message boards and email discussion groups planting seeds in the right direction.” Sankar also notes that her readers are her best marketers, “one guy emailed his entire West Point class saying 'Hey, come to the site and check out this great story!’”
Sankar’s offline marketing is also guerrilla-style. “Of course we mention the site all across the paper. You can’t miss the URL.” She’s had enormous success, and higher resulting site traffic, from distributing free print copies at major vet gatherings. “We gave away 15,000 newspapers at the D Day Museum opening in New Orleans and people were clamoring for more. Within an hour they were all gone.”
The company has also created a wireless news channel in partnership with AvantGo. “Many of the younger vets have access to PDAs,” Sankar explains.
The site’s been so successful at drawing substantial traffic that the company is now investing in a substantial site redesign to grow further. “You’ll see an amazing new site this Fall” Sankar says, “it’s almost like a new birth.”
Notes: When we asked Sankar what she’d do with a bigger online marketing budget she said, “I’d like to have someone who’s sole focus is dynamic market research -- researching and doing deals with the zillions of message boards and mom-and-pop sites that pop up every day. There are so many new sites you can spread the word to!”
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