Traditional media establishments have been changing their strategy and sales offerings to include more digital products/services for local clients over the past couple of decades. This mindset is definitely not a new one, and media companies across the world are still working to adopt new digital trends in order to open the floodgates to new revenue streams.

The McClatchy Company has a long and storied history in the United States as it was founded in 1857. As a newspaper company who began in the dusty streets of Sacramento, California, this enterprise has grown into one of the largest publishing companies in North America. From newspapers to new digital revenue, McClatchy has transitioned with the times and uncovered success through its adoption of digital.

Sit back and listen as George Leith uncovers the story behind a newspaper company’s transition to digital media with John Jordan, McClatchy’s former head of digital revenue.

(Listen to Episode 107 of the Conquer Local Podcast Now!)

4 Lessons Learned from McClatchy's Digital Evolution

1. Embrace Agility

John Jordan is the former head of digital revenue at The McClatchy Company and has long been recognized as a disruptor or first-mover in the newspaper space. A self-proclaimed "dinosaur" in the newspaper industry, Jordan has over 40 years of experience working with newspaper advertising. Jordan’s experience in the industry is unique in that he was one of the first to embrace the adoption of digital in 1993 with The McClatchy Company.

Jordan had a unique perspective on the industry long before other thought leaders or sales managers did, and that was the need to adapt to a new digital climate. Being agile is often an uncomfortable feeling, but in the case of McClatchy, the potential to increase in revenue was too hard to ignore.

I think the key is though that one has to be agile today. You have to be able to maneuver. If you’re a sales leader or a sales rep anywhere today, unless you’re going to be able to change with the marketplace, you’re going to be obsolete.

John Jordan

Former Head of Digital Revenue, McClatchy

Embracing agility involves understanding that the landscape is fast-moving and that goals or strategies have to become adaptable. Companies must be progressive in their pursuit of innovation; if they aren’t, you can bet someone else is. The companies that turn into major enterprises or unbreakable forces in the industry are the companies that have adjusted, adapted, and embraced agility.

In the case of McClatchy, a company whose history dates back to 1857, their ability to change over time has solidified their presence in the advertising space. With the leadership and guidance of John Jordan, McClatchy sought out new opportunities and embraced the challenge of adopting new digital products/services much earlier than other companies in the space.

...you have to be looking for the next opportunity. You’ve got to be making that change. You gotta have your head on a swivel if you’re gonna be [in sales].

George Leith

CRO & Conquer Local Host, Vendasta

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Change is hard. Changing the culture of a newspaper company whose foundation sits upon traditional media advertising to something completely new in digital offerings is EXTREMELY HARD.

So how do major companies like McClatchy do it? They aren’t afraid to ask for help. Changing from traditional services to a mix of digital and traditional can be difficult for salespeople who are used to selling squares on paper. These sales teams need to understand why digital is important, how to sell digital, and which prospective customers need digital (a.k.a everyone).

Along with Vendasta, McClatchy worked with various partners, mentors, and teams in order to transition their sales teams and to familiarize the sales units with digital services. One of these teams was an outside consulting firm known as AGI or the Alexander Group. This team of consultants worked closely with the newspaper giant for a couple of years, to ensure that McClatchy not only understood digital but was successful with their new approach.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and in this case, the help of outside influences allowed McClatchy to turn the page and become digital revenue giants on top of their traditional advertising services.

Recommended Reading: Rand Fishkin on Authenticity and Shattering Growth Hack Mythology

3. Harvest-to-Growth Strategy

This is the key, this is the point in the podcast where you really lean in and give your undivided attention to what John is saying. Enterprises must shift away from pushing the sale of widgets, and start selling results instead.

By this, we mean to stop selling one-off products to clients that are soon to churn and start investing your sales approach in the clients’ future growth and success.

If you’re a newspaper company, then they’re going to be buying that print from you like they always did. Most likely though, every year, they’re buying a little bit less print.

What you want to do is turn that client that you’re really harvesting into a growth client. And what that means is you have to change the conversation. There’s a great story, “Miami Herald” is where some of the largest wins for McClatchy with Accelerate, the digital agency out of McClatchy, has had a lot of success finding those harvest clients and having an entirely different conversation with them to help them understand that we’re not about selling you something. We’re about helping you succeed as a business. And what that means is the conversation from day one is, 'What do you need to be successful?' And we’re going to deliver it to you. If you are really successful in having that conversation, you have a contract with the client that doesn’t even talk to selling media, doesn’t talk to the digital advertiser you’re selling, it’s all built around results.

John Jordan

Former Head of Digital Revenue, McClatchy

This breaks the long-standing tradition in the newspaper space where salespeople are used to selling rectangles on paper (the infamous "one-sheeter"). The sales process, in a traditional sense, was much shorter and less intimate than what might be expected in the digital sales process. Changing an entire sales process is not easy, and it's no surprise when media enterprises like McClatchy devote extra resources to the process change with the help of consulting firms.

...we had to really look at the way that we were training our sales teams and that training had to move away from product focus and really focus more on digital marketing and the consumer journey. The way the consumers are purchasing today and how that impacts our clients, the businesses that we’re working with. And that way, you’re really talking from a business standpoint and you’re not in there talking about selling advertising. That’s difficult for traditional media companies from the newspaper business where they sold rectangles on paper, which moved to rectangles on digital. Frankly, in the end, everything is about selling a widget. That’s the paradigm that we have to break, whichever legacy business you’re in that’s moving beyond that.

John Jordan

Former Head of Digital Revenue, McClatchy

4. Commitment to Adapting the Sales Approach

Why digital? Because #DigitalRevenueNeverSleeps.

So looking back at what George says earlier in the podcast, if you are in sales you must have your head on a swivel. But why? Well, that is because #DigitalRevenueNeverSleeps. This coined hashtag or phrase is one that Jordan has used frequently, and speaks to the fact that digital revenue has the opportunity to become an ongoing, persistent revenue source for many traditional media companies.

Digital revenue potential is there for each and every traditional media company; whether it is radio, telco, or newspaper. In order to tap into new potential, new revenue streams, and new innovation a company must be willing to commit itself to process change. Want to take on the transition to digital? Become agile, adapt your strategy, and devote resources to a digital transformation.

For a full explanation and an in-depth look at how McClatchy, and John Jordan, took on the transition to digital tune into Episode 107 of the Conquer Local Podcast now!