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Revenue generation can be a complex landscape for digital publishers, especially those in small operations.

Should you hire a sales team? Use programmatic advertising? Rely on affiliate marketing? Offer native advertising? Can the sales team collaborate and brainstorm with the news team?

There’s much to sort out and consider for startup digital publishers trying to grow their top revenue lines. To be successful, everyone has to make socio-professional adjustments, including how internal collaboration is structured, viewed and practiced.  

At the Local Independent Online News Publishers 2017 conference Friday in Chicago, I’ll be talking about why journalists make good salespeople — if they want to transition into that side of the business. I’ll also talk about the skills they need and how publishers can help them be successful.

More importantly, I’ll also outline why partnerships between revenue and news teams are essential for digital news operations. The steel wall between these two sides limits creativity and represents outdated thinking. Even in very small operations, there is often a sense that there are two tasks and they should never cross paths. With technologies such as voice activation and AI expected to further revolutionize news consumption, automation, delivery and engagement, it’s important that a new kind of trust be built between these two disciplines.

A lot of attention has been paid to surveys that evaluate how little Americans trust news organizations and how they can become more transparent to grow trust. But do we trust each other in the industry, regardless of position, whether it be journalist, salesperson, business development leader or strategist?  How many news company employees can name one person in every department at their companies? I’m often amazed at how frequently the answer is “No” when I talk to both sides of news companies.

For publishers looking to grow inclusive partnerships across departments to increase ideas, revenue and update company culture, consider the following:

  • Mandate job shadowing, even if it’s only annually. When was the last time a salesperson followed a journalist for part of a day in your organization and learned more about that work and vice versa?
  • Establish ethical guidelines that would allow sales and news professionals to regularly interact and offer each other suggestions without worrying they are breaking rules. How is a tip from an industry colleague really different from one that a reader or viewer makes?
  • Hold monthly or quarterly joint brainstorming sessions. Those collaboration discussions can help both sides and spur ideas for journalism, new products, services and revenue teams.

At RJI’s Revenue Models That Work symposium earlier this month, a few panelists noted some of the most difficult jobs to fill are at the intersection of news and revenue because so few professionals have experience and understanding from both areas.  

For me, some of my very best and most productive sales calls included a news colleague who came to answer news questions and offer perspective as I talked about marketing solutions. Clients sometimes see us as one organization, not giving as much attention to the internal, invisible lines we have created to protect integrity and news value.

Everyone will have to play a role in helping the news industry adjust to its next challenge when technology further transforms the landscape. Colleagues on the news and revenue sides need to knit tight, ethical bonds of cooperation to propel the industry forward.

Ebony Reed  
 
Director of Innovation and the RJI Futures Lab



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