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THIRTEENTH STREET MEDIA
WHO WE ARE
We must always maintain a clear focus on our purpose for existing – our company exists to make money and be financially stable. We have chosen to do that in the newspaper field and in certain markets that we believe are desirable places in the long term. We also have certain beliefs about our business and management approach both from the standpoint of making us successful and the manner in which we want to conduct our business. These parameters are just that – the guidelines under which we operate. They are not the objective, but the way in which we will reach it. Financial successful is the sole objective. These parameters fall into three categories: 1. Our business model 2. Our operating principles 3. How we manage
1. Our business model
We strive to understand our markets and our customers and deliver a product that is tailored to those needs, presenting a meaningful value proposition. Quite simply, we follow a traditional marketing model – the 4Ps – of Product, Price, Promotion (sales was changed to promotion to it fits the model) and Place. The 4Ps are listed in generally chronological order, not order of importance. Product Many companies in our industry have wrongly divided their focus among many customer groups. We do not. Our customer is the advertiser. Readers are our customers’ customers. We are a newspaper company. In that light we do not make an equally serious mistake and produce content that is no more than public relations copy. We provide meaningful content for our communities in the appropriate range of topics for each specific market. This makes us a trusted, important source of information so our advertisers know we have value. Our newspapers have a highly defined approach to specific content features and a template-approach that produces high recognition for readers and specific locations in the paper for advertisers. If our content is truly reflecting our community, the advertisers’ interests and our content will closely align. Our very specific approach to the newspaper provides continuity, direction, recognition, brand image and costeffective production. We operate with a lean core of newsroom staff and contributors and wire services for efficiency. If our papers are properly positioned, ongoing changes are generally unneeded. Longevity provides a stronger image with the community. Specific content features within the
paper (and special sections) may change to provide the appropriate advertising atmosphere. Price Advertising pricing is an intricate matter. We approach pricing to achieve our two primary objectives – long-term commitment and ROP volume. These two objectives are essential to providing consistent quality and to maintaining financial stability for the company and our staff. It is important to maintain rate integrity (sales reps are not empowered to offer rates not previously established by management), yet we also recognize the need for incentives to many customers. We accomplish this through special “off the rate card” pricing offers. These are established offers that are part of our rate structure but are simply not printed on the rate card. They are for the use of sales staff on an “as needed” basis. We also recognize the need for flexibility in pricing and may utilize segment pricing, special section pricing, short-term “sales” (i.e. full-page sale) and other tools as needed to respond to market needs, competition and economic fluctuations. Commission plans are an equally important part of the pricing structure. We must be sure our commission plans are rewarding the behavior we want (growth) and our top performers. Ideally, our top performers stay with us for the long term and poor performers quit on their own because of their low commission levels. Compensation for all sales staff should be heavily weighted or be 100% commission. Any base pay should not provide sufficient income for a staff person who consistently misses goal to stay with the company. Promotion Sales are the lifeblood of the company. Sales calls are the primary contributing factor toward sales, so it is clear that the top priority at all of our newspapers is the sales department. While our product, once adjusted to fit the market, remains fairly static, the sales dynamic must be constantly monitored and adjusted to assure success. Because of that
we utilize specific tools to insure a consistent, disciplined approach. • We use daily sales call reports for all sales staff to monitor and help their performance. • We produce reports for sales staff that clearly reflect their sales goals, prior years sales and key sales opportunities each month. • We believe the best learning is done by modeling, so our sales managers spend nearly all of their time (and publishers approximately half their time) in the field making sales calls with staff members. • We utilize a proposal approach to selling, beginning with an annual agreement, and moving down in terms of length of commitment as necessary. • We assure sales staff makes a high number of cold calls and proposals weekly, spending the vast majority of their time outside the office. We also constantly explore for new ideas and opportunities to introduce content items, special sections, sales activities (sales blitzes, etc.), new products (website, etc.) that will generate sales growth. This is one of the primary duties and focus of management time – to continually identify ways to grow revenue. Place Distribution is generally not a revenue-generating activity in our company. We typically follow the free-distribution model that we believe is the best option for our future. In this model we want to provide a newspaper for everyone in the community that wants to read it by making it readily available. We seek to be single-copy rack distributors, augmenting this with home delivery of the newspaper only when necessary. Distribution is one of the larges cost factors for our newspapers and must be closely and constantly monitored. Costs Staffing levels should be as high as possible in sales and as low as possible in all other areas. In sales, that means we should have as many sales staff members as our products and market can support. Generally speaking, more sales staff means more sales.
Costs must be monitored constantly. It is the job of the publisher and the business manager to continually identify opportunities to reduce costs. It is also their job to maintain the distinction between essential spending and convenience. We must print and distribute the newspaper. We don’t need a nice office or new computers if the old stuff works. Significant spending (capital as needed. There are only two capital projects. 1. Essential: If we don’t out. 2. ROI: The payback makes projects) will be evaluated factors for evaluating fix this paper won’t come it worth doing
2. Operating principles
Management Management team members (the publisher and direct reports) represent our company in each community. It’s essential that we maintain a focus on the priorities we’ve established and conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with our values – diligent, pleasant, honest, responsible, committed. The results of those values in action are that important things happen quickly. We are a company that moves on issues, identifies solutions and quickly implements changes. We do not procrastinate at any step in the process recognizing that the financial results of our actions won’t show up for weeks or months. Workplace Everyone is expected to be hardworking and pleasant. As a small organization there is no room for uninvolved people. Managers work side-by-side with staff and are hands-on managers: editors edit, production managers produce, advertising managers sell advertising. Staff Keep them on track and keep them informed. On track: Know what’s happening in terms of the most critical activities. Inspect weekly sales reports, newsroom staff output, etc. We are structured to have a few good managers; a solid, lean core staff; and a broad range of contractor and freelancers. We staff for the lowest demand on the schedule and utilize freelancers when demand goes up. Keep everyone focused on the essential activities. People come up with good ideas that are not good for us, are simply not our core strategies or are beyond our capacity. Maintain a focus on the core. Say no to things that distract from it. Informed: In a small organization that’s best done with regular informal communication, not memos and meetings. A weekly managers meeting, weekly department meetings and a monthly staff meeting are enough. Focus on priorities Sales: The single biggest factor determining sales is the number of sales calls (requires asking for the order). Four-legged calls are the best way to train sales staff, encourage correct behavior, communicate priorities and to
let our customers know they're important. The ad director must do this daily. They publisher must do this weekly (daily in the introductory period). Daily call reports are a discipline that will keep management informed about what's happening in the field. Our sales proposals must focus on what we are: A local newspaper with an incredible readership. The best way to handle objections is to focus on that, not to talk about what we are not (slick paper, fancy design, etc.). Stick to the rate card and eliminate giveaways (discounts, free color or trade – unless we’d have to pay for it anyway). Product: We will establish and maintain a clear, precise formula for the paper in content and appearance. We’ll utilize consistent, unique content features that meet market needs, and a design template that assures a strong brand image. Keep two objectives in mind: 1. We will produce a newspaper that our advertising customers agree is a solid communication vehicle for them. 2. We will produce the best newspaper that we can afford. Great newspapers go out of business if they have a model they can’t sustain (Rocky Mountain News). Distribution: We believe in free distribution and want to provide the paper to all who want it in our distribution area. We must eliminate extra costs and lay the groundwork for growth and expansion. Single-copy racks are the most cost-effective method of distribution. We must assure paid circulation is paid (not complimentary) and handled at the lowest cost. Costs: We will have a solid, lean staff and key freelancers. Our template-based newspaper will sharpen the focus and eliminate waste from “starting with a blank canvas” each week. Eliminate non-essential activities and keep them from coming back (help staff members understand the difference between essential vs. convenient). We spend money on key activities – a paper with lots of content, a complete sales force, distribution outlets – and reduce every other cost to their lowest possible level. Remember, a dollar saved is two dollars earned (actually about $1.50). Every dollar you DON’T spend goes straight to the bottom line. Every revenue dollar has associated costs.
Responsibility Outside: Know leaders in the community and our advertisers, especially the top 25. Avoid commitments to boards and other activities for the first year and keep them low beyond that. Give yourself time to see what’s really worthwhile. All community activities are only useful if they help increase revenue. Inside: Assure there is no libel, theft, harassment, or “bad apples.” Stay on top of revenue and expenses weekly and provide ongoing feedback about what’s happening. Utilize the financial checklist to be sure the bases are covered. Communicate bad news early. Miscellaneous The Publisher's credit card is for business use only and it’s to be used as a last resort in an emergency. Everything should normally go through payment processing. An employee handbook with benefits, policies, etc. is in place. Be sure you know the details of benefits. Assure that staff members are adhering to policies.
3. How We Manage
Taking Charge As part of a new company and new leadership, there are basic phases we expect to take place in the process of making a newspaper a part of our company. 1. Taking Hold The first three months involve a great deal of learning and action. During this time we evaluate key subordinates, assess where problems are and set priorities. Major changes that take place in this initial phase are primarily corrective, address ing problems that are apparent and were outlined in the strategic plan generated before the acquisition/assignment. 2. Immersion Generally from four to nine month, this phase has fewer major changes but is focused on learning and diagnosis. This period is less hectic than the early days and is focused on understanding the subtleties and patterns less obvious than the issues first addressed. Certain
changes to the plan may make sense and the deeper understanding of the underlying situation will help clarify priorities and direction. 3. Reshaping From nine to 15 –18 months is the time the second major wave of action typically takes place. This is the time to put into place the major changes realized in the Immersion phase. By now there have been significant discussions and adjustments to the initial thinking. It’s time to “get on with it.” With enough time on site to clearly understand personnel, restructuring and changes typically take place, along with new procedures and practices. The organization will likely look dramatically different at this stage and should now be performing at an appropriate financial level. 4. Consolidation and refinement The third and final wave of action takes place when we refine the changes made. This phase is on-going as we seek to continually improve the newspaper. The management team should be a functioning part of the organization helping to fine tune the operation. This is also the phase when response to unexpected situations like changes in the economy, take place. Communication During these phases, communication inside the newspaper is essential. It is up to the publisher to set the tone of by clearly and constantly focusing the organization on where its going, the priorities, what’s ahead and maintaining a positive, excited tone about the future. This model is established both in group settings and in the day-to-day manner of communicating with staff and those outside the organization. The publisher (and senior managers) is always positive and clear about the direction of the paper and where it’s headed, and never communicates uncertainty or confusion. We believe in straight-forward communication that focuses on the situation or issue and involves feedback. It is necessary to have conversations that are direct and to-thepoint without avoiding issues. At the same time, the conversations need to take place without anger or raised voices to be productive. Maintain a focus on the priorities of the paper and the issues that will make the most difference in performance.
It is easy for conversations about relatively insignificant items (in terms of results). The management team must help the paper focus on the important issues, not the urgent ones. Effective communication and feedback focus on the issues and take place in real time, not postponed. We avoid the trap of “we’ll have to have a meeting to discuss that” by dealing with issues as quickly as possible. Understand the difference between conflict and confrontation (direct, honest communication). Conflict will arise among staff and must be dealt with. Avoid feelings and deal with facts seeking to uncover the root cause of the conflict. Maintaining a focus on our objectives will help move past personal conflicts. Some points about communication: • Lead by example (staff will model your behavior) • Take the initiative • Focus on priorities • Resolve issues, never procrastinate • Have a “no surprises” philosophy (keep everyone informed, up and down) • Focus on the issues, not the person • Deliver criticism in private • Encourage as much as possible, but don’t be fake Managing by the numbers Since our sole purpose is business success, we manage our newspapers through a thorough knowledge of the numbers. Publishers and senior financial staff are the only persons that see the whole financial picture, so it’s critical they know exactly what’s in the details. The weekly sales figures and monthly financial reports are your key documents. Sales reports should be a guide to regular action with sales staff members. Don’t let poor performance go for any length of time. Get involved immediately to correct the situation. A car is driven with constant, small corrections to the steering wheel. The same is true with a business. The management team should know the expense report for their department. The Advertising Director should know his/her revenue detail and what’s behind each item.
Department manager are responsible to meet their budget. Publishers are responsible for the bottom line performance of their property. No budget turns out the way it was conceived. Constant adjustment is required to manage costs in light of revenue fluctuations. We believe in publishers and the management team taking responsibility for performance. While corporate staff are involved in creating the plan and annual budget, publishers who meet performance expectations can expect a great deal of freedom. Conversely, papers that are not meeting standards can expect a great deal of assistance.
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