Buy an ad, get one free

That's the pitch for the new TV book at The Sumter Item

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The Sumter Item's new TV book sold out of advertising before its first issue, making Editor and Publisher Jack Osteen a believer in the concept.

"If you don't have it, and you don't already have a good TV product on the weekends, then it's worth doing," Osteen said.

The weekly booklet of TV grid listings and content comes from Advantage Newspaper Consultants. It began running Sundays on Oct. 16 in the South Carolina paper after just eight days of selling, Osteen said.

Advantage offers a pre-sales concept and sent in a sales representative to help the Item get started. The idea is to draw new or infrequent advertisers to the newspaper by offering a free ad in the main paper as an incentive to buy an ad in the TV book.

It's sort of a BOGO for advertisers.

"The pitch is, not only is it a pretty inexpensive ad in the TV book, but that ad runs for free in the newspaper that week. So you get a free pick-up in the newspaper," Osteen said.

"You're always looking for different and new revenue, and certainly people that maybe aren't running or aren't running much at all," he said. "And then you get them on a consistent basis."

Of 52 ad spaces available, eight were sold on contract for 26 weeks and the rest were sold for a year, he said. Total new revenue is $114,000, or $2,200 a week, on a margin of more than 30 percent. That's good money for a 12,000 circulation, five-day daily.

"It's been a good deal," Osteen said. He may be understating the case.

About 80 percent of the TV book ads were new or were from clients who ran so infrequently they could be considered new. Two of them are major advertisers, a hospital and a car dealership, that were inconsistent before.

The launch of the TV book was promoted with radio ads The Sumter Item runs through trade with a local station. There was an early glitch because the listings didn't include a local digital phone and cable company, but the newspaper was able to work out a way to get those listings in.

Readers like the new listings, Osteen said. "A lot of our subscribers are retired and are older readers." Osteen said they want to know what's coming up on TV but don't want to spend time searching for it.

"They like to look and see what's coming up all week. It's kind of easier than scanning and stuff. They still want the printed edition."

Osteen said the publisher at the family owned Gulf Coast Media in coastal Baldwin County, Ala., is a former Advantage employee and he pitched the idea. Other Southern publishers also recommended the TV book.

Osteen hopes other non-advertisers see the new ads and decide they need to keep up with the competition. The TV book is also an improved service for subscribers.

"I want to put things in our newspaper that develop readership habits for our subscribers," he said.

For more information contact Jack Osteen at jack@theitem.com.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes is a veteran journalist based in coastal Alabama and is a regular contributor to SNPA. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net.

Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

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