Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Gatehouse Media & Gannett – 2 largest newspaper chains – combine

TODD SMITH — Gatehouse Media & Gannett – 2 largest newspaper chains – combine

TODD SMITH

The media industry continues to go through seismic shifts in order to better align with a digital world, and the evolving preferences of audiences.

A major media tremor struck earlier this week, when the two largest newspaper chains in the United States agreed to merge in a nearly $1.4 billion deal – consolidating an industry rumbling with change.

New Media Investment Group Inc., the parent of GateHouse Media, announced it is buying Gannett Co. :In a cash-and-stock transaction,

The deal combines the largest owner of U.S. newspapers by titles – GateHouse, with 400 papers and a total circulation of 4.29 million – and the largest newspaper group by circulation – Gannett, with a circulation of 4.32 million and 215 titles including USA Today, according to a University of North Carolina study.

The merger will test whether a new local-news powerhouse will be better equipped to deal with the rapid decline in print advertising and increased competition from tech giants like Google and Facebook that are competing for digital advertising dollars.

More than 2,100 newspapers have closed since 2004, according to the UNC study. Google and Facebook together are expected to take 51 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending in 2019, according to research firm eMarketer.

The deal will give a mammoth role in the local-news industry to a private-equity-backed entity, underscoring the rise of investors who have been relentless about cutting costs in the media industry.

How marketers can show financial impact

The age old challenge in branding, marketing and PR is proving how the practice delivers ROI.

And showing the impact of marketing on financial outcomes is the No. 1 challenge for marketers, according to a new Harvard Business Review report. Writers researched on both sides of this issue – with Chief Marketing Officers aiming to show their ROI and with CFOs, COOs, and CEOs seeking to make effective decisions about marketing investments. Based on those perspectives, they recommend eight steps that can help:

1. Start with business value. The task of demonstrating how marketing impacts the bottom line often prompts visions of precise measurement, elaborate metrics dashboards, and irrefutable attribution of financial outcomes. The writers recommend that CMOs take a more comprehensive view of the business value they create.

CMOs often play multiple roles in creating business value within their function — as growth enablers, innovation catalysts, champions of customer centricity, builders of new capabilities, and stewards of the corporate brand that serves as a magnet for talent. They also create business value beyond their function by collaborating with others in the “C suite” to advance the enterprise’s strategy and the CEO’s agenda.

2. Understand what business value means to each function. Marketing leaders should translate the definitions of their value creation for the myriad functions they touch. Sales might define business value as revenue growth; finance might think of it as volume, price, margin, and cost management; supply chain might call it the predictability of demand. Marketing leaders should tailor their demonstration of impact to the most relevant metrics for each function, and include other evidence that resonates, such as customer testimonials for sales, positive trends and variances for finance, and better forecasting and reduced stock outs for supply chain.

3. Know your own metrics. There’s more to demonstrating the impact of marketing activities on financial outcomes than metrics. However, at some point, you need metrics. Most marketing leaders have a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) they use to demonstrate impact on financial outcomes, and it’s critical to be thoroughly knowledgeable about them. That means having not just a spreadsheet to review at the senior management team meeting but also a deep understanding of how the metrics are constructed. For MROI, for example, what costs have been included as the investment — program costs, or staff costs as well? What has been counted in the return on that investment — profit increase, or just revenue lift? What baseline of financial outcomes (absent marketing activities) is being used? What time frame is being used to assess the impact? Why do those choices make sense?

4. Explain the inherent uncertainties of marketing measurements. Deep knowledge of the metrics can build your credibility when you’re discussing them with other executives, but it helps to explain marketing’s inherent uncertainties.

5. Emphasize validity over precision. To executives used to managing their businesses through the scrutiny of numbers, marketing’s uncertainties can be frustrating. Marketing does have valid metrics through which its activities can be assessed and managed. A/B testing and test markets can confirm or refute hypotheses to reasonable levels of confidence. Brand-building tactics can be assessed through surveys and focus groups. Many modern marketing tactics (especially digital) are very trackable.

CMOs should emphasize that their metrics are valid when evaluating whether marketing activities are working as expected, and that the inherent imprecision in measuring marketing’s financial outcomes does not undermine their validity.

6. Have a budget story. One factor that sometimes undermines executives’ faith in marketing’s impact is the sense that the marketing budget is not administered rigorously. So, to be successful, provide visibility on total spend, show how spend is aligned with business strategies and key priorities, and demonstrate how working spend has been optimized and non-working spend streamlined.

7. Have a marketing transformation story. Further credibility can come from demonstrating ongoing improvements in marketing effectiveness and efficiency. There are major cost factors that can be implemented in areas such as consolidating the brand architecture to focus more spend on fewer brands; rationalizing the agency roster and proliferation of websites; and creating shared services across the enterprise with automation and technology-enabled processes. Executives in other functions want to be assured that marketing is minimizing waste and staying at the frontier of effectiveness, efficiency, and agility.

8. Meet one-on-one. Marketing leaders usually attend monthly meetings of the senior management team or equivalent forums. Marketing and branding meetings should take place frequently to deliver a comprehensive and nuanced view of branding’s financial impact.

Taste Bud Twisted Mic: No screaming formustard & hot dog ice cream

I know that the ice cream loving public has been scooped some crazy ice cream flavors in recent years, but this has to take the cake!

French’s has taken its famous yellow condiment recipe and made it into a luscious frozen dessert. And not to be out dogged, Oscar Mayer countered with, yup, hot dog ice cream!

French’s recently revealed a limited edition Mustard Ice Cream to celebrate National Mustard Day. The paradoxical ice cream flavor was produced in partnership with Coolhaus Ice Cream and is also part of French’s Not From France campaign, which praises American flavor through “unexpected twists on beloved classics,” according to a news release.

Oscar Mayer teamed up with New York City-based Il Laboratorio Del Gelato to corrupt some perfectly good gelato with real bits of candied Oscar Mayer hot dogs, swirled with spicy Dijon gelato, and “hot dog sweet cream” (gag me now!)

This dog of a treat is compressed into a hot dog shape, served on a cookie bun – and dubbed the Ice Dog Sandwich, which marked National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.

I’m sure this ice cream fraud has had a chilly reception, and certainly has more bark than bite!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

BEFORE YOU GO…

… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About Tacy Rayburn