Agile Media Adapting to Digital Challenges
San Francisco_NetNewsCheck (January 31, 2012)
The alt media’s changes have taken them into some wildly divergent, if not necessarily yet profitable, directions. For some, it has meant the addition of social media marketing services; for others, using social media to harness the latest local political conflagrations. Still others are finding video to be an audience-driving addition to their online presence, while some favor their strongly-rooted blogs as the weapon of choice. But most surprising is a move by some papers that would’ve been inconceivable to the hipsters, Beats and revolutionaries of the 60s who started it all: Straight up coverage of daily, breaking news.
Alt Weekly Ad Cooperative Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Sacramento (April 5, 2011)
The Alternative Weekly Network (AWN) announces the 15th anniversary of the 90-member national ad sales cooperative. Over the past 15 years, AWN has accumulated net billings that have exceeded $150 million. The independent cooperative uses a member-empowered sales structure—fielding the industry’s single largest sales force on behalf of nearly 200 publication titles.
The cooperative sales structure allows ad reps from all publications to sell ads into the entire network. The unique sales structure has been a potent force in reaching advertisers in all parts of the country and driving a significant amount of regional business for member papers. “Over the years, we’ve had more than half our members participate in the network sales process in one form or another,” explained Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director. “Because of the shared vision and increased cooperation of our members, we’ve been able to discover new ways to continue to provide non-local advertising revenue.”
The continued sales growth and emergence of new ad categories, and accompanied by the high level of advertiser awareness of alternative weeklies were significant factors in yearly sales rewards for the cooperative. Each year a number of new national advertisers discover AWN’s value and despite the economic conditions and changes within the publishing industry, there are returning national advertisers as well. Ad network sales campaigns range anywhere from two-publication transactions to some of the more successful campaigns that delivered ads to more than a dozen publications at one time. AWN’s size and depth of available papers has always allowed the independent-spirited group to stay competitive and relevant to national ad buyers.
Since its humble beginnings, AWN has been committed to promoting the alternative industry, using funds generated by its members to market initiatives to the national advertising community of potential advertising clients. “In the first 3-4 years of AWN, we spent over $500,000 on marketing projects designed to brand and promote the alternative industry,” explains Hanzlik. “Our philosophy has always been to promote the industry first. We believe our efforts over time have been effective in communicating our value to prospects and instrumental in bringing new advertisers to alternative papers. AWN’s commitment to branding the alternative industry continues today.”
Since its inception in 1996, AWN has continued to grow both in cooperative membership and total number of papers served. AWN currently books ad space in nearly 100 non-daily free circulation alt weeklies.
Despite the loss of many long-time AWN members as a result of mergers and changes within the industry and the general fall-out of national advertising to newspapers and magazines, AWN recorded a year of sales growth in 2010, up 17% from the previous year. “Sales to chains have cost us important members over the years,” points out Hanzlik, “but the good news is that new publications (and web sites) continue to emerge regularly and our grassroots effort and structure makes for an inviting place for many publications to reside.” AWN’s larger product reach within the alternative industry along with on-going cooperative regional sales and training have contributed to its growth and livelihood over the past ten years.
NOTE TO EDITOR: AWN handles national sales and ad placement for half of the country’s alternative newsweeklies. AWN members include the Boston Phoenix, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Chicago Newcity, Philadelphia City Paper, Portland Willamette Week and Sacramento News & Review
Alternative Weeklies: Seeking to Stay Relevant
February 24, 2011
Excerpts from State of The Media ( Project for Excellence in Journalism)
Alternative weeklies went through a year of signs of business improvement, some cases of personnel turmoil and modest but noticeable efforts to move toward a digital future. The combined circulation of the top-25 U.S. weekly papers that belong to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, all free publications, declined only 0.59% in 2010 compared with a 9.92% decrease the year before. This compares to a 2.5% decrease for the top-circulating mainstream daily newspapers.
AWN Re-brands 15-year-old Advertising Co-operative with New Website awn.org and Corporate Design
Sacramento (July 12, 2010)
The Alternative Weekly Network (AWN) has re-launched its website awn.org and re-branded itself more closely reflecting its grass-roots-driven alt weekly-based origins.
The redesign features faster load times and a much simpler design for all pages. The new site also houses an online database of 170 print publications, 183 web sites and an information sharing platform which includes a sales blog page where AWN members can interact with one another. The AWN sales staff has added new life to their existing newsletter, enabling members to go inside the blog page and site for a deeper look at sales strategies where registered members can compare successful business topics.
"We've been in a constant state of change since March," added AWN Executive Director, Mark Hanzlik, "moving to new quarters, changing our leadership team, and strategizing sales alternative weeklies from a more communications-based platform." The final piece of the puzzle was launching the new web site and re-starting the e-newsletter and sales blog which has been in the works for some time according to Hanzlik.
In March, Hanzlik engaged an old friend and ex-Alt Weekly management guru Terry Garrett and his Sustaining Technologies team to build the new site which led to an
introduction to designer Michele Lott. Shortly after the process began, Hanzlik says they decided to re-brand AWN entirely with a brand new look that included a new logo and marketing materials. The modular site architecture will allow for additional changes and expandability in the future too.
"We approached the same people who built our fo.odie.us site last year because we liked the ease of using the platform, and we wanted to have hands-on control over everything you see on the site." Hanzlik added, "It was a bonus to be able to achieve the transformation of whole enchilada all at-once." During the transformation, AWN also launched pages using Facebook and LinkedIn.
AWN members will be invited again to sign up for the AWN e-newsletter and can also update their individual publication pages with cover artwork and information.
What is the 'Secret Weapon' of Alt-Weeklies?
AAN News (June 21, 2010)
Culture maven Patricia Martin says that in addition to being technologically savvy, the next generation of consumers is politically aware, hungry for knowledge, and are attracted towards brands that project authenticity.
"All of this, Martin says, augurs well for alt-weeklies, which -- unlike mainstream media -- are uniquely positioned to capitalize on these trends. Some media outlets are doomed if they don't read the cultural trends," Martin says. "But independents have a secret weapon, they just need to optimize it."
Billingsley Named AWN Communications Director
Sacramento, CA (May 3, 2010)
Sarah Billingsley, an advertising executive whose experience at several alternative weeklies brought her to AWN two years ago as Ad Coordinator, has been named Communications Director for the Alternative Weekly Network.
In addition to becoming an AWN Director where she now coordinates the 95-member advertising cooperative’s national sales efforts, Sarah assumes additional responsibilities associated with the long-time position held by John Morrison who left the company in March.
“In eight very short weeks,” said Billingsley, “I’ve been able to see the potential AWN has to offer and now to be able to contribute in a more meaningful way is something I’m proud to be a part of.”
Sarah has worked for more than a decade in the alternative industry with stints at The San Francisco Bay Guardian, Independent Weekly and Sacramento News & Review. Sarah came to AWN in January 2008, after a five-year run at the News & Review (most recently as Advertising Director) and returned to college where she graduated less than two years later with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies from California State University, Sacramento.
AWN Joins Sacramento News & Review in New Green Building
Sacramento, CA (March 3, 2010)
"We are returning to where it all began," explained Executive Director Mark Hanzlik. "As a national collective of alternative weeklies, AWN actually began at the Sacramento News & Review." After a few years of rapid growth hidden among the sales cubicles at the News & Review, the Alternative Weekly Network (AWN) struck out on its own in 1997. Now after nearly fourteen years apart, the two organizations are sharing quarters again.
Hanzlik is excited to move his staff into their new green home this week. The News & Review just recently completed renovating an old market in a redevelopment area as their new office, incorporating features such as blue jean insulation, skylights, dual flush toilets and a shower to encourage cyclists. "I haven't tried the waterless urinal yet," joked Mark, "but our staff embraces the concept of living and working in a more sustainable manner."
AWN was an outgrowth of an earlier assemblage of California alternative weeklies formed as an advertising collective nearly twenty years ago. News & Review CEO Jeff von Kaenel and other like-minded individuals shared the vision of a freewheeling collective of independent publishers pooling their resources to sell national advertising as a group. Jeff remembers, "What we felt then was that companies that had multi-market problems were looking for multi market solutions. AWN could offer creative and cost-effective solutions. Now with the large dailies in our markets struggling, it makes the value and opportunities of cooperative selling through AWN even greater."
"Today, that vision lives on," added Hanzlik. "We're still successful, and a lot smarter and more efficient than we were in the 90's."
Hanzlik says in addition to the physical move, the company is currently retooling the AWN website, and upgrading some of the operational processes of the cooperative. "In the national arena, we are growing our digital advertising capabilities rapidly," Hanzlik concluded, "but we believe print remains the foundation of the media mix for alternative weeklies."
The Alternative Weekly Network currently has 96 alternative weekly member newspapers as the base of their large print and digital offerings in approximately 150 markets across the U.S. AWN member publications include San Francisco Bay Guardian, Boston Phoenix, Philadelphia City Paper, Willamette Week (Portland) and Sacramento News & Review.