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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

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May 6, 2022updated 16 Nov 2022 6:12pm

How to unlock millions in ‘smart’ digital revenue from smallest print advertisers

By Freddy Mayhew

Partner content*: A regional news group has boosted its advertising revenues using Smartico’s “Smart Ads”, a service that provides an automated print to digital advertising service.

Swiss publisher Somedia’s chief executive, Thomas Kundert, said Smart Ads would grow ad revenues by more than £100,000 in 2022 with more titles of the news group yet to sign up.

He said he plans to expand Smart Ads across the group’s portfolio of 18 regional weekly and daily titles, which have a total circulation of around 290,000 copies per issue.

“Every ad we sell now will be renewed with Smart Ad,” said Kundert.

The Smart Ads service takes any media-rich print advert sold to a small or medium-sized business and turns it into a professional-looking digital carousel banner ad complete with click-through landing page for the campaign, carrying details of any offer and contact information.

Founded in Germany in late 2013, Smartico, makes more than €20m of new local digital advertising revenues a year for its client publishers, reaching some 20m unique users per month with more than one million local ads produced since 2015.

The group runs a revenue sharing model, taking about a 30% cut of new digital ad sales.

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Automated print to digital advertising: ‘The effort for us is practically zero’

Somedia piloted Smartico’s Smart Ads on local weekly newspaper Pöschtli, which has a circulation of 9,000, in December 2020. The trial was so successful that six months later Kundert started to expand Smart Ads to run across all of Somedia’s local weekly newspapers.

Training for product managers and sales consultants is carried out by Smartico as part of its service. Sales staff can book directly into Somedia’s ad manager, integrating it into the existing print offering so it can be sold in one sales process with no extra hassle for sales staff as Smartico’s team generate the online adverts themselves from the print advert and additional research.

Smartico also generates reporting dashboards, which shows advertisers how well their campaign is performing through attention and quality of traffic, rather than just clicks.

Positioning the Smart Ad as an increase in performance, rather than price, has been key to its success at Somedia. “We thought long and hard about how to do it,” said Nadja-Müller-Calabrese, managing director at Somedia and head of advertising sales.

“Our experience with surcharges so far has been that as soon as you identify them too much and offer them to the customer as an extra, many people then begin to have doubts.”

A Smart Ad is now automatically bundled with any print advert sold by Somedia, which is invoiced as “advertisement including Smart Ad” so the advertiser is clear what they are getting. If a customer doesn’t want it, they have to actively remove it, which Müller-Calabrese said “very rarely happens”.

Services like banner creation, landing page creation, relevant ad impressions with regional targeting, as well as the reporting dashboards, are shown in the sales materials for advertisers, providing a “simple success story for every local advertiser”, said Müller-Calabrese.

“It’s fun if we can really scale it now,” he added, with numbers expected to grow significantly in 2022. “The effort for us is practically zero.”

Automated print to digital advertising and up-selling

Fellow Swiss publisher TX Group, formerly Tamedia, is also seeing success through auto-bundling Smart Ads. Head of commercial product management Rea Kramer said the group was “currently doing about 100 a month” and planned to increase this and expand it to other titles.

With a focus on quality over volume, the group served an average of 5,000 ad impressions for €99, so a rate of roughly €20 eCPM. Smartico expects their capacity to climb to 100 adverts per title after the first three months, with 100 Smart Ads at €100-400 each adding up to €250,000 in extra ad revenue in the first year alone.

But auto-bundling isn’t the only option for publishers wanting to make use of Smartico’s Smart Ads. German publishing group Mediengruppe Saarbrucker Zeitung, which publishes regional daily the Rheinische Post, offers them as a premium option to clients.

This means the Smart Ad is upsold as opposed to being auto-bundled with print ads. “When the Smart Ad is €199 on top of a €499 advert I can’t just squeeze it in as a bundle, I have to actively sell it,” said Daniela Gross, director of media sales at SZ.

The media group came to Smartico after realising that it needed to improve its digital ad offering. Gross said: “We always offered a digital extension of print ads but it was a bit of a DIY solution with, to be perfectly honest, very little value add for the advertiser. We just put the same ads online but we didn’t really adapt them at all.

“It became very clear to us that we needed a digital offering with a clear USP in the eyes of the advertiser, but which involves no overhead for the sales team. We also needed dependably high-quality production, delivered reliably on time.”

The group initially didn’t offer a premium price to customers for the Smart Ads service, but, “after three or four weeks we got the feedback that we were actually too cheap for the performance we were offering”, said Gross.

“Sales staff realised it meant no extra workload: they just sell their ads and everything else happens in the background (from Smartico). There’s no extra work for the back office either so the system gained rapid approval. And the advertisers also liked it.”

The group generates roughly 200 Smart Ads per month for each of its two distribution areas, Trier and Saarbrucken, although the figure fluctuates. “Generally we focus on extending the long tail of our local ads but we don’t auto-bundle and so they have to be actively sold,” she said.


How to unlock £100k of local display revenue

Promoted whitepaper from Smartico details how publishers turned print advertising into online display revenue using smart automation.


‘Premium content is key for regional media’

A similar approach to selling Smart Ads is taken by DuMont Mediengruppe, one of Germany’s oldest and largest publishing houses.

Chief executive Thomas Schultz-Homberg said premium content is key for regional media as it “motivates audiences to use our products more intensively than they would otherwise”.

“Premium content needs premium products… and that brings us to larger audiences,” Schultz-Homberg said. “When we enhance and broaden our audiences … that leads to the advertising as part of the premium content delivery.

“So as we get more premium advertising into the premium content product, that will [progress] our business towards the future. That’s the reason why we use Smart Ads in combination with print advertising campaigns, to enhance this business and to lead our customers into the digital world, especially those who are, by tradition, focused still in the print world – but that is not the future.”

He added: “Audiences like premium advertising… and we can do that locally with our partners in the region – and that is the key to success, [what] we need to survive the competition in the digital world.”

The successful business case with DuMont earned Smartico a nomination of INMA’s Global News Media awards and became a winner in the category “business model” with the “European Publishing Awards” 2022 in Vienna.

*This article was sponsored by Smartico.

Exclusive offer for Press Gazette ReadersReach out to Smartico to get a 30-minute video call with CEO Christian to see matching business cases out of 200 media companies that could make you more regional advertising revenues instantly. And receive a free demo/transformation of an advertorial/magazine or print ad into a Smartico campaign at the end.


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