Dare to be Different When Planning Your Budget

Dare to be Different When Planning Your Budget


As publishers are looking toward next year’s plan they may be feeling a little queasy. After looking at budget figures most of this year that have been lower than expectations you may be approaching next year with some caution. While that may be safer (and maybe more realistic) your shareholders are expecting you to lead the company to increased revenues and better margins of profit next year regardless of world economic conditions. Their other investments are going south so they are looking to you to perform. That’s why you get paid the big bucks.


Independent owner/operators of papers may have a more understanding shareholder, however, their task remains the same as publishers of chain owned papers, increase revenues and improve profits. Your family is depending upon you to keep your investment in your paper secure while improving your lifestyle.


Either way, one of the first things you should do is learn some ways to relieve stress because next year could be one of those years. (Send me an e-mail and I will e-mail you a copy of an article from our Health & Fitness special section, 10 Quick & Easy Ways to Manage Stress).


Following are some things to consider when you are preparing your budget and plans for next year.




If you are really going to have an impact on your revenue or budget for next year you must decide to do something different. You can’t increase sales by 10% by doing the same thing you did this year. Honestly, if you do the same things you did this year you will probably end the year with a decrease in revenue.


· Consider new separate products for your business. I am not suggesting you stray too far away from your base product, but consider new products that can generate revenue. Some examples are:

o Rack distributed pieces that are targeted at a specific reader including tourist guides, restaurant guides, real estate, area information books, etc.

o Direct mail products that are targeted at a specific demographic including high income households, business to business, specific zip code, etc.

o Glossy coupon books. Deliver this product as a separate book from your paper or as an insert with extra distribution.

o Generate revenue from your web site. If you have a web site that is getting a lot of hits you can sell links or banner ads on your web site.

Whatever new products you decide upon, you will be more successful with a dedicated sales staff just for these products. A half-hearted effort on a new product will provide half-hearted results.


· Consider new in-paper promotions for your paper. Put a new twist on the “same old” pages you do every year. Some examples are:

o Sell weekly directories for web pages or local e-commerce. Many of your local advertisers have invested in a web page and now need to drive traffic to it but don’t know how. Help them out by putting together a directory of local web pages. This can be a great tie-in with selling links to their sites from your web page.

o Run a yellow page directory. Using yellow ink over a page, sell some of those accounts the yellow pages have as huge advertisers. This might open some doors for advertising from attorneys, physicians, mortgage companies, insurance, furnaces, electric contractors, dentists, etc. Take a minute and go through your yellow page directory and look at the ads from those categories. Many of these businesses are spending $15,000 a year and more in phone directories.

o Produce new special sections. Try some topics like Death & Dying, Summer Cookout, Pet Care, Family Life, etc. They will be popular with your readers, (58% of households own a dog or a cat) but you need to gain advertising support. Maybe they start as a few consecutive pages in the paper or a single page for a few consecutive weeks instead of a complete separate section. Don’t be stuck in the rut of doing the same tired sections every year. Some you may be doing now may need to be put on the shelf for a while. If they are dropping in page count every year and becoming harder to sell, it may be time to shelve them for a year or two and replace them with something different.

o Add exciting promotions to your paper. Give away a trip to Hawaii or a 2-year lease on a Lincoln with a multiple week giveaway drawing that draws consumers into local businesses to register. Host a business expo or job fair at a conference center supported by a separate section. My favorite promotion still is a crazy day sale. The paper attaches numbers to each paper delivered that the consumer takes around town on a specific “crazy day” to match their number with one posted in local businesses to purchase an item for $1 if the number matches. This is fun to sell and gets everyone walking around town with your paper in their hands. I love it!




If you are really going to have an impact on your bottom line for next year you must decide to do something different. You can’t improve profit by 20% by doing the same thing you did this year. Honestly, if you do the same things you did this year you will probably end the year with a decrease in profit.

My prediction for next year is...your cost of doing business is going to increase. I don’t need to be a prophet to know that costs are going to increase and in order to just stay even you either need to raise revenue or reduce cost. Maybe you better try a little of both.


· Evaluate everything you spend money on. In 1976 or 1977 Jimmy Carter talked about a zero-based budgeting plan. I liked the idea. The plan was to take every expense to zero and justify the expense. Would you buy it all over again? I don’t remember that Jimmy ever did anything using his plan, but I still liked the idea. Do you really need to spend money on five art services or would four be sufficient? Are the local events you sponsor still providing the return you expected or are there other events that could use your help that would give your paper better exposure for the sponsorship fee?

· Are your suppliers earning their way? Are you paying competitive prices for newsprint? Are you using the same suppliers for you have always used just because you have always used them? Do other suppliers offer a more competitive package or better material for the same or less money?

· Evaluate your staff. Do you really need 57 writers on staff or can some of the material be generated from contracted writers or services? Are your classified ad people sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or are they generating business with outbound calls to renew ads or sell new ads? Are your salespeople planning their sales calls before they hit the road to make the most of their time? Have you provided training for your managers? Often, we will promote a great salesperson to a sales manager without providing any management training and then wonder how this great salesperson turned into such a mediocre manager. That is OUR fault. You will see improved production and improved morale when a manager who understands how to lead people supervises your staff.

· Is there computer software, computer hardware or equipment that you can purchase that can help your staff operate more efficiently? Evaluate these as a capital expense and determine a return on your investment. If it saves you money and you can pay for the expense with improved savings in wages within 24 months. You should definitely consider the purchase. Write down how this purchase will save you money and make sure you follow through with the plans to reap the savings. Too often, managers justify an expense with a projected savings and then do not follow up on the process to realize the savings they projected. If the ROI is over four years you should probably pass. Save your money to spend on upgrades that will pay for themselves.





Here is a quote to remember:

”In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

Coco Chanel


Dave Baragrey is a business consultant and sales trainer for Publishers-Edge, a Special Section syndicate for print and on-line special sections, and Consulting business specifically designed to help newspapers and shopping guides.

Website – www.Publishers-Edge.com, www.Coupon-America.NET and www.SpecialSectionOnLine.com

E-mail dbaragrey@Publishers-Edge.com

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