If you’ve been following our series with publisher Ross Furukawa on finding government and local funding for publishers, you’re likely eager to start your own locally-focused custom publishing product.
In our final blog of this series, we’ll focus on the step-by-step process that goes into building a custom publication underwritten by local business and tourism entities.
Background Info on Santa Monica Daily Press’ “‘Tis the Season“
Ross’ special holiday publication has been going strong for more than ten years. It’s the focused effort between Ross’ daily newspaper, Santa Monica Daily Press and six local commerce and tourism entities. The product is a mixture of sponsored content provided by each entity alongside advertisements from local businesses.
5 Steps to Plan an Economic Development-Focused Custom Publication
We touched upon the planning process—and the time—necessary to produce a publication in conjunction with economic development entities in our feature about local media partnerships.
However, in this article, we’re putting rubber to the road and moving through each step of how Ross’ particular ‘Tis the Season feature comes together.
- Start securing underwriters at least four months in advance. Each potential underwriting entity will have a board, which means a pitch meeting to secure approval. If your goal involves securing multiple underwriters, think about the way each can build upon each other to create a better end product.
- Coach the underwriting entities to help them develop useful content. Your content is sponsored—but it shouldn’t consist of heavy-handed advertising. Think about the core mission of every underwriting entity and what they hope to accomplish with the publication.
- Gear up for a sales sprint 30-60 days before you go to print. There are many reasons why a locally-focused edition with a built-in audience is attractive to new and existing advertisers. It’s an easy opportunity to sell when your ads are balanced with hyper-focused, relevant content.
- Ensure your distribution model matches your intended audience. The starting point is easy for most publishers—include the special edition as a pack-in with your regular publication. But think about ways to go further—like hand-to-hand distribution in heavily foot trafficked local hotspots.
- Build on your special publication each year. Once you have the formula down, your special edition can become a product you produce each year. Depending on the economic conditions and the entities involved, your messaging can continue to evolve. For example, this year’s “safe outdoor dining” focus may be a “return indoors” focus next year!
Partnerships Like ‘Tis the Season are a Triple Win
Custom print editions like ‘Tis the Season are not only profitable, they are also a significant bang-for-the-buck for all of the entities involved. This is primarily because of the product’s local focus and distribution.
For example, in practice, a visitor would likely choose somewhere to eat while they’re shopping in a nearby neighborhood. In this example, the main street development council wins with increased dining, and the shopping district wins with more consumers. That’s great because both entities helped to underwrite the project. Advertising businesses see a boost, too.
And let’s not forget your publishing business, which benefits from increased revenue from ad sales. In fact, Ross states that in more certain economic times, ad sales generally outweigh underwritten sponsorships.