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Jul 16, 2002
Case Study

How to Sell Online & Ezine Ads in a Down Market

SUMMARY: According to all the pundits, it is horribly difficult to sell advertising online right now.We were psyched when Jeff Reinhardt at Primedia Business said that his team is not having such a hard time.In fact, some of their newsletters are already sold out for the rest of 2002. What does Reinhardt do that the other online ad sales experts do not? We quizzed him for over an hour to learn his online ad sales secrets.


Over the past two years, Jeff Reinhardt VP Primedia
Business has seen more than a dozen print and online competitors
fold as the ad sales market crashed.

Reinhardt heads ad sales for more than 25 trade magazines, email
newsletters and related Web sites in the direct response, print
trade, and special events industries, such as Catalog Age and
Special Events magazine. And in these industries, "a lot of
advertisers have gone out of business or been acquired."

How do you keep ad sales steady in a down, down, down market?


Ad sales experts who have been through recessions before
know that when the going gets tough, marketers cut back on branding
ads with long-term goals in favor of direct response ads with short
term raise-sales-now goals.

Which just happen to be well served by ads in email newsletters.

Primedia Business focused on creating a strong stable of free
opt-in email newsletters to match its print magazines. Reinhardt
gives four secrets to the newsletters' success with readers and

1. Daily or twice-weekly frequency

"Readers love news and information on a timely basis," says
Reinhardt. Plus, of course daily frequency means more ad slots to
sell. All of his division's newsletters are dailies or twice-

These newsletters also give Reinhardt's monthly magazines an edge
when competing against print weeklies from other publishers. He
explains, "That's how we beat them. You go daily. You steal their
editorial franchise of 'news' so when their weekly comes out people
have already read it. It's wonderful to watch this happen."

He adds, "Then they come out with a daily to compete, so now they're
doing a good job eroding their own franchise even further between my
daily news and their daily, who needs their weekly? I'm glad I'm
not in the weekly business."

2. Not duplicating content from the print product

Many print publishers test the waters of email newsletter publishing
by repurposing articles that will also appear in the print edition.
After all, it saves money on content, right?

However, Reinhardt says, "The model I have works extremely
successfully and it stems from the fact that I would not put the
same content in multiple channels. The premise can be the same, but
the content's not identical. It's a different voice and flavor."

In fact, even Primedia's trade show coverage (print show dailies,
email show dailies and print magazine follow-up) reads differently
in each medium. It is definitely not the same article repurposed.

Partly this is because readers prefer to read different lengths and
styles in different media. Also it means the email product does not
cannibalize readership from the print product. People do not glance
at the headline and think, "Oh I've already read that story" and
toss the magazine in a corner.

Last but not least, it gives the ad sales team an edge. If an
advertiser wants to be the lead sponsor of every article on a topic,
they must sponsor in multiple media. Advertisers do not feel as
though their ads are running against already-tired stories.

3. Not (completely) duplicating circulation from the print

As publishers from The Wall Street Journal to Consumer Reports have
found out, people who sign up for online subscriptions overlap far
less than you might expect with your print readership. Therefore,
Primedia is careful to offer prominent email opt-in forms on each of
its magazine home pages instead of just relying on email address
write-ins on its magazine subscription forms.

In fact, many of the sites now display pop-ups enticing visitors to

Reinhardt notes, "We did online surveys of our readers including
newsletter readers two-three months ago. The most interesting
finding was many online readers are not print subscribers. It's a
whole new universe we're reaching online." Which helps convince
print advertiser to extend their reach by sponsoring online.

He adds, "The other finding was that those that do read both, read
them for different reasons. Monthly for strategy and our
newsletters for news. We are not cannibalizing eyeballs. Our
share of reader attention or reader mind is not being split. We're
actually gaining share of attention."

4. Selling by the month or year instead of CPM

Although the 'traditional' email newsletter industry mainly sells
ads based on CPM (cost per thousand), Reinhardt's print ad customers
are used to paying by the month or by the year. That is the way
he prices and sells email newsletter ads as well. Familiarity
breeds comfort, which can mean more sales.

(This does not mean he is not watching CPM. Over the past year
several of his newsletter properties have doubled or more in opt-in
circulation, which means sponsors are now paying what equals a far
lower CPM.

Reinhardt is about to test a solution: Splitting the circulation
of bigger newsletters and selling chunks to different sponsors for
the same old cost-per-month or year. The current sponsors still get
the eyeballs they were promised when they signed up, but now there is
room for more sponsor sales.)

5. Text-based versions rule over HTML

"One of the biggest mistakes made by ourselves and others was
thinking the Web is all about the technology, focusing more on
providing bells and whistles than on good pure content," says

"It's all about the content! Our most profitable and most read
product online is one of our simplest in functionality. We've
focused on great journalism. We regularly scoop The Wall Street
Journal and the New York Times and we're generating hundreds of
thousands of dollars. When everything went bad recently, it didn't
affect us at all. We're sold out for months and months ahead."

In the past he notes, "everyone spent so much time on functionality
- how cool can it be. What people really want is great timely
content that helps them do their job better. All the other stuff is

Which is why the majority of Reinhardt's division's newsletters are
text-only instead of HTML.

Aside from email newsletters, Reinhardt's sales team is continually
testing other online ad offers (with the notable exception of
banners "We don't really push banners, but if the client wants them,
we can place them") including:

->> Online/offline directory listings

Unlike the rest of Reinhardt's offerings, which are sold on an a la
carte basis, trade directory listings are sold strictly as an
online/offline package. However, Reinhardt's tried one key tactic
to increase sales using the Web:

Now advertisers can place new directory listings anytime during the
year they would like. "If we just closed the [print] annual, companies
can still come into the marketplace as a player, be posted online
immediately and come out in print the next year, and we'll renew you
when you're done. We don't try and push you into our cycle anymore.
The directory selling season is now spread out."

"What an idea! Doing it the customer's way instead of our old world
way of pushing everything into our models."

->> Sponsored white papers and research

"White papers and research is the type of resource that people
regularly go online to find," Reinhardt says, "People are always
looking for data. If there was good research in a give market, I'd
want to be the sponsor of that."

->> Sponsored Webinars

Reinhardt notes, "I participate in Webinars, I think they're great."
He has had webinars added to his group's offerings.

Unlike some publishers who split their teams, Reinhardt relies on a
single sales team to sell both offline and online products. (Booth
space at live events is represented by a different division because
"it's more of a telemarketing sale", but his reps also include it in
their client proposals.)

He says, "I don't think we've ever had multiple staff selling print
and online. It's all driven by the customer's needs and that one
person understanding their need can better handle it. I like to say
I'm media agnostic. I go in without a preference and based on their
needs will put together a package in the appropriate channels."

There are four key tactics to making online/offline sales work:

Tactic #1: Hiring the right people

Reinhardt admits that not every sales rep can handle such a wide
variety of offers from space ads to ezine sponsorships, so he and
his team put prospective sales reps through the hoops before hiring

"We go through multiple-phase interviews with role playing, so they
have to come in and do multiple presentations. I play the customer
or the publisher does. So we can tell if they fish around with the
right questions or if they just pitch a particular channel." The
fishers get the jobs.

Reinhardt notes, "Our interview process is a difficult one. A lot
of people quit during it. That's ok, we want to weed them out. If
you get through it, you're usually going to succeed."

Tactic #2: Investing in training

Reinhardt has continued to invest in formal training for his team,
bringing in outside consultants to do the job.

"We just underwent our second a month ago. It's a significant
investment, especially during difficult times, but we felt it would
have a good return for us."

Tactic #3: Setting media agnostic sales goals

In the old days, reps had to make page goals. So many ads sold
as well as financial goals. This is now changed. Reinhardt's reps
are given a single monthly financial goal to meet and whatever they
sell counts towards it.

He explains, "If you have to hit $100,000 and you sell it all
online, that's great. It's whatever the customer needs. I don't
want them thinking 'I gotta sell six pages' or a booth or whatever.
That doesn't help the customer, it only helps us."

Tactic #4: Using Internet marketing to support sales

All media kits and sales materials are available electronically for
easier distribution. This is saving Reinhardt "a ton of money."

Reinhardt's also set a firm rule that reps cannot blast out a
message to their entire contact database, because it might strike
some clients as spam. "We believe in the whole privacy issue."

(Note: this is a problem that is currently endemic in the sales
profession.) Instead, reps get help turning their contact database
into an opt-in file, so they only send email to clients and
prospects who have requested it.


Reinhardt is proud to say that total sales for his group have held steady for the past two years despite an economic
climate that has been crushing his competitors. During this time
online sales have grown steadily as a piece of the pie.

"The American Business Media says something like 3% of an average
magazine's revenues are coming from online, and I know of publishers
doing much less," notes Reinhardt who says all of his publications
are at or above the 3% mark. He adds, "My biggest success is 20%,
and that percent is growing annually. It's not necessarily always
at the expense of the print portion either, which is a good thing."

Email newsletters have been the obvious big winner, "They are our
best new media revenue stream. Ours just seem to work."

There have not been any advertiser or reader complaints about the
text-format. "Many actually want text. I continue to be surprised
by that. There has been no pressure to go HTML. I don't know if
it's because it's easier to print out, or to read on your PDA. I
don't think there's any logical reason."

The online/offline directory listings with year-round purchasing
have also been "very successful."

Despite the fact that Reinhardt feels that sponsored educational
content such as white papers and webinars are "our future" they
have not been huge winners as yet. Part of the problem is the fact
that vendor-created content is often too salesy. "Those that pound
their chests tend to be disappointed in results."

Although Reinhardt has no idea when the economy will recover, he is
convinced that his teams' current online sales success will give
them a substantial edge the moment it does.

"Marketers are learning a lot of lessons now. People are just
testing online out of necessity - 'I got less money, let me try this
[cheaper] email ad'. Those tests will become the basis for broader,
smarter new media marketing during more robust times."

"Someday someone's going to hand marketers ten times more money, and
they'll remember the good lessons they're learning now. Then you'll
see the new media pie's exponential growth."

The firm Reinhardt uses for sales rep training:
See Also:

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