On Poaching

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Scope Editor offers views on selling ad space

You have to agree the media scene in St. John's is never dull.

That is how I opened a note recently to Elling Lien, Editor of The Scope, the province's coolest alternative publication.

I wrote Lien to ask if he had any observations on the poaching of advertising complaint that has been the subject of recent posts, in the wake of financial problems at The Independent. I asked Lien if he had any thoughts on the matter.

"Have other media - any media - approached your advertisers in an attempt to poach them away?" I asked. "This is not a crime, I know - it's a competitive industry. I'm just trying to figure out if there is one culprit, or if ALL are guilty of it.

"How do you approach advertisers? Do you use competitors' pages as a kind of 'wish list' and go after them? Or do you wait for the phone to ring, and just fill out the placement order?"

I received a reply from Lien, which I am publishing below in its entirety. Feel free to offer your comment on this topic, especially if you work in the advertising sales industry.

Here's Elling's note:

St. John's is pretty much an advertising jungle, and myself and Bryh (the publisher) have been trying hard to create a sane little island in the middle of it all. We have formalized discounts for new businesses, extended contracts, and nonprofits; we never cut deals, and never sell coverage. We have to concentrate on our readers, so this helps keep us on track.

Poaching... well, 'poaching' is a strong word, because absolutely everyone does what you describe, to a degree... No one is just waiting for the phone to ring, that's for sure.

Here's what a newspaper salesperson sees when they're looking at another publication:

"Hmm, they aren't with us... That's a new one... Oh, we're definitely a better fit for them..."

That's not to say they're going to subsequently call 'em up and say, 'hey, we can give you a 20% discount to jump ship.' But if we, for example, see an ad we think would be a good fit for our demographic, Lesley will make contact and just let them know we're an option. And more often than not, they're like, "Oh yeah! I read you guys all the time. That's a great idea."

When someone advertises in another paper, you immediately know they understand the value in advertising, and finding people who value advertising is a large part of the whole thing.

It's definitely not the only way to find advertisers, but it's one of them.

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  • darrell
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    After selling advertising and directing a team of ad salespeople over the course of five years in my past career with Downhome magazine, I've certainly been 'guilty' of poaching...but only when it made sense. On several occasions I refused to follow up on leads from other print media because (due to the nature of the 'target's' business), we weren't the right fit. Rule of thumb... would I buy this space if I were running their business . If you can't honestly answer that question with a yes, PLEASE GET OUT OF THIS BUSINESS AND TARNISH SOMEONE ELSE'S INDUSTRY.

    A good catch ONLY occurs when the client sees better results from you than from your competition. A hot discount on a couple of insertions makes the paper/mag look really bad - especially if the promised results are lacking.

    Message to Publishers - you're not in the business of fundraising. Show results and reap the rewards.

    Message to Owners - publishers, editors and advertising people move on and you're left holding the bag if your paper's integrity is left tattered. Keep a long-term focus on your business and don't go for the easy discount...or even worst swap advertising for editorial.

    Now Geoff, there's a topic that should lead to some serious discussion. Want to know who does and does not do this in the industry?? Take a look at long term growth/decline figures and the eventual erosion of trust that manifests itself in decreased circulation.

    Sorry for the rant. Guess that's been bottled up for a while...LOL.