Marshall Morton, Media General’s CEO says his company’s reordering by geography rather than medium has revolutionized the entire sales process. And the economy has had its effect, too. “Tough times have inspired us to stretch in new directions and with greater urgency,” he said
Facing a low to slight increase in broadcast revenue next year, Media General is touting a new marketing strategy that groups the company’s properties by geography instead of platform — and mandating “innovation” in each of its divisions to boot.
Speaking at the UBS Investment Bank Global Media and Communications Conference Wednesday in New York, Marshall Morton, Media General’s president-CEO, said consumer patterns show that both content and ads reach more individuals when various media are used together rather than apart.
“Cross-platform collaboration results in higher audience penetration,” Morton said.
Based on that philosophy, Media General restructured its marketing strategy during the third quarter of this year, organizing its properties by five geographic regions rather than by platform, as was previously done, he said.
That move, he said, has changed the company’s ad sale process, from altering the mindset of sales forces to their compensation, which will become 100 percent commission-based in January.
“Salesman would almost look at one medium as a possible deduct from another,” Morton said, adding that the new structure changed that in turning different media into assets.
“The salesmen also feel they have a leg up” in markets where Media General has two or three platforms in place, he said.
That strategy — which was previously piloted in Tampa — is one component of Media General’s larger restructuring during the last year, which also included dramatically reducing the number of broadcast and newspaper employees, cutting costs at the same time.
The company’s total operating costs for 2009 dropped 19 percent from
2008, with companywide furloughs, the elimination of across-the- board salary increases and the suspension of 401k matches making that possible, Morton said.
The financial woes of the last year, though, forced Media General to make big changes that Morton said he believes has positioned the company “ahead” of others in transforming to keep up with the ever- changing media landscape.
With company-mandated “innovation teams” in place at all Media General properties, the company is poised to benefit from an economic recovery by already cutting and consolidating operations, changing its sales approach and building on-line properties by partnering with big digital names, like Yahoo!, he said.
The company’s broadcast division is experimenting with other new approaches, such as combing local stations’ sales forces and operations with other local broadcasters.
Though the economy spurred much of the change, Media General expects to benefit in the long-term, Morton said.
“Tough times have inspired us to stretch in new directions and with greater urgency,” he said.