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Two Gannett Markets Launch CPM Banner Sales Programs Resulting in Six-Digit Growth in Local Online Sales


Banner sales continue to do well for the Gannett markets which the Blinder Group has worked with. In the past 18 months, over 2 million dollars of new, local online revenue has been achieved with Blinder Group assistance for the Gannett Company as a whole. Recently, two new Gannett newspapers asked for online sales training assistance from the Blinder Group:

  • The St. Cloud (MN) Times, and
  • Montgomery (AL) Advertiser

"Selling banner ads has been a mainstay of the online revenue arena since the beginning of Internet time," states Mike Blinder, president of the Blinder Group. Mike was recently quoted in the International Newspaper Marketing Association's (INMA) Ideas Magazine:

"There has been much discussion lately on the 'death of the online banner' as an effective advertising solution. This could not be farther from the truth. Banner sales are alive and well, and it is being proved every day at media companies all over the world. For example, the Gannett and Freedom newspapers we have been fortunate to work with have enjoyed healthy revenue (at higher 'cost per thousand' or CPM) by making banner sales part of their traditional offerings from ad salespeople. In short, online banners should be a primary focus for generating necessary revenue from your web site – if you do it right."

Mike goes on in the article to offer his six commandments on how to sell your online banner inventory effectively:

1) Build better ads. A bad ad is a bad ad, regardless of what medium delivers it. Make sure there is a credible, easy-to-grasp offer, along with some sense of urgency for the reader to act on the message. Plus, include enough information so the reader does not have to "click" it to act.

2) Change the ads frequently. Our experience shows that the average online banner will "die" after nine days of exposure, because of the loyalty of your online audience. A banner that remains online simply becomes "part of the wallpaper." Remember: If it goes stale, it will fail.

3) Offer creative solutions for the click. Our firm makes more than 4,000 local sales calls a year with media clients. Of those, we estimate that seven out of 10 advertisers don't like their web sites. (Actually, they say they are "in re-development.") One way to get them to buy the banner is to provide some form of marketing platform for the "click." This could be an online version of their print ad or TV spot or possibly a "business profile page."

4) Use the CPM model as your guide for pricing your inventory. When calling on smaller, less sophisticated advertisers, you don't have to mention the CPM of the banner campaign you are selling. But definitely use CPM as an internal means for making sure you are getting the right price for your inventory. No less than 65 percent of your online banner inventory should be "sold out" at all times at a minimum CPM of US$10.

5) Promote limited availability as a means to create urgency to "close." Newspapers are so used to adding pages to accommodate advertiser demand that they have problems promoting a lack of availability as a closing tool. To increase banner sales, simply package your online inventory in individual programs available to a finite number of advertisers. As positions within the program begin to sell out, the urgency on the part of the advertiser to buy it obviously increases.

6) Train your salespeople and managers to sell and service the product properly. When in doubt, train. When really in doubt, train. When all else fails ... train! Constantly train your salespeople on the value of online "eyeballs." Make sure to always stress the basics of what they offer: reach and frequency. Maintain a vigilant ongoing Web training program that keeps the benefits of those banners top-of-mind with your sales force. Remember: You don't sell inches – you rent eyeballs.

St. Cloud (MN) Times Offering:

In the case of Gannett's St. Cloud Times, the Blinder Group worked first with senior managers to craft a blended online sales program. The program combines basic banner inventory with their new company wide multimedia initiative and focuses on the newspaper's new online search application supplied by Planet Discover (

Each advertiser who participated in the program received 25,000 guaranteed monthly online ads, placed in a new "story page" (300 x 250 pixel, "medium rectangle") ad position that ran only within local news stories on the Web site. These ads were "geo-targeted" to local online readers and were served ("day-parted") only Monday thru Friday, 7am-5pm.

St. Cloud Ad Position Offering

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St. Cloud Local Search Offering

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The online ads could link to the advertiser's Web site, or to a customized online "profile page," that was created within the Planet Discover platform. This page listed information about the advertiser's business along with contact information and maps/directions to their location.

As part of the blended offering, each advertiser also received an "enhanced listing," which appears on the top of the results page of each category or "keyword"-related online search performed on the Planet Discover search box. This search box appears on all pages of the Web site.

The advertiser receives a listing on top of all other businesses that includes:

  • Logo or picture
  • Location information
  • Phone number
  • Business description

For the St. Cloud (MN) Times, participation was limited to 30 advertisers, who received the 25,000 monthly ad impressions and the enhanced, online Yellow Page listing within the Planet Discover local search application. Each participating advertiser at this level agreed to invest $79/week, with a full year agreement required.

Montgomery (AL) Advertiser Offering:

In the case of Gannett newspaper's Montgomery Advertiser, a similar program was offered for the online banner inventory portion of the program. In this market, 25,000 monthly (300 x 250 pixel, "medium rectangle") ad positions were offered on all local news story pages of the Web site. Plus, the local Web team was able to offer each participating advertiser an online "splash page" that featured a paragraph about their business, contact information, and a Web version of their latest print ad. Participating advertisers had the choice to link their online ads to either their Web site or to the new "splash page."

Montgomery Ad Position Offering

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For the Montgomery (AL) Advertiser, participation was limited to 30 advertisers, who received the 25,000 monthly ad impressions and the optional online "splash page." Each participating advertiser at this level agreed to invest $89/week, with a full year agreement required.

Sales Team Training

The Blinder Group conducted an initial training session with the traditional salespeople of the newspaper to instruct on:

  • Prospecting new multimedia business
  • The basics of multimedia marketing and how the medium works
  • Best practices in selling online solutions
  • The benefits of bringing interactive products to market
  • Methods for using the Web to garner more market share
  • How to attack the competition with online offerings

The training also included content informing the sales staff of the Blinder Group's return visit. During these return visits, "4-legged" sales training/closing calls were performed with the reps to assist in the launching of this initiative. During the meeting, the salespeople were urged to set up a large amount of appointments with qualified "decision-makers" of area businesses.

During that training, the sales staff was supplied with proven support documents that reinforced the training, as well as an appointment-setting script to assist them in setting up the calls.

Sales Support Materials

The Blinder Group also assisted in the production of the associated sales support collaterals necessary for this program's deployment. A simple, easy-to-follow multiple page flyer was developed so the advertisers (and the sales team) could easily grasp the features and benefits of this sales program. Too often media companies do not graphically explain the online portions of sales programs in an easy-to-follow manner. This creates confusion during the sales process. The Blinder Group has vast experience in creating such sales presentations.

Sample pages of 11-page presentation created by the Blinder Group

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Guaranteed Revenue Generation: One of the key elements in ensuring sales success of new initiatives like these is getting the advertiser's full attendance at the meeting, as well as their acceptance of validity of the concept in general. Some of these advertisers are new to marketing their business online and feel wary of trying new ideas. One of the most effective means of accomplishing attendance and acceptance is to introduce the advertiser to an industry respected "outside" consultant who has had success with similar programs, with similar businesses, in similar markets all across North America. That is why many media companies contract with the Blinder Group to perform "4-legged" sales training/closing calls with traditional ad reps, assisting in the launch of programs like the one defined in this document.

Also, during these assisted, sales training/closing calls provided by the Blinder Group, the accompanying salesperson learns new, valuable techniques on how to sell innovative programs like this one in a more effective manner. The Blinder Group has a proven track record of generating high "closing" ratios, resulting in significant revenue for client media companies that have deployed this form of advertising sales initiative.

Sample page from Daily Call Report

Click on image to view larger version

During these assisted, "4-legged," sales training/closing calls with the reps in each market, The Blinder Group achieved an average a 51% "closing ratio" during the initial visit, when the call was performed in front of a "qualified decision-maker." The total program generated over $150,000 of new online revenue for both markets combined.

"Mike's sales team training was one of the best I have ever had here at the Times," said Marilyn Birkland, Retail Advertising Manager for the St. Cloud (MN) Times. "The reps had a whole new energy level after attending. Not only was the content helpful in getting them excited about selling online products in the marketplace. It made them feel much more empowered in the ability to sell it!"

Local Client Contacts:

Marilyn Birkland, Retail Sales Manager
St. Cloud (MN) Times
(320) 255-8794,

Craig Hatcher, Advertising Director
Montgomery (AL) Advertiser
(334) 261-1571,

Blinder Group Contact:

Mike Blinder
(727) 847-2464

Download this case study: Blinder-Gannett2Markets.pdf

The Blinder Group
Tampa Offices: 6139 Fjord Way
New Port Richey, FL 34652 USA
(727) 847-2464 ~ (727) 847-5959 (fax)

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CONSULTING/TRAINING: Strategic Planning ~ Basic Sales Training
Multimedia Sales Training ~ Assisted 4-Legged Closing Calls

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