South Bend Tribune Goes Digital, But Then Again — It Has Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune Goes Digital, But Then Again -- It Has Notre DameYou have to admit it. In some places, it’s easier to go digital, or offer premium content, than in others.

No small town in Iowa is going to have the easiest time of it. But take a city like Sound Bend, Indiana — where the gold dome of Notre Dame shines like a beacon in the sky — and you have another situation entirely.

Recently, Kim Wilson, the publisher of the Schurz-owned South Bend Tribune, decided to flip the digital switch on its decades-old Notre Dame Insider sports vertical this year, adding continuous news updates and video to what had been a static, if profitable, venture.

Wilson is hoping to raise the digital bar across the rest of the paper’s efforts as user expectations continue to climb.

The story by Michael Depp recently appeared at NetNewsCheck.

In an interview with NetNewsCheck, Wilson talked about the Notre Dame Insider and other revenue-diversifying efforts, including a native ad play that might raise hackles at other newsrooms and the digital newspaper racks that have raised single copy sales as well as new ad opportunities.

When Depp asked Wilson about 2014 revenues and the impact of digital, Wilson said digital was a plus.

“We have some good things on the revenue side, and we’ve certainly still had our share of challenges,” said Wilson. “Digital has been one of the more positive stories on the revenue side for us. We’re creatively getting better results for some of our key local customers in digital and we’re also making a run at growing our consumer digital revenue through a Notre Dame premium product that we just launched a couple of months ago that we’ve seen some initial strong response to.”

What percentage of the paper’s revenue comes from digital?

“It’s running about 14%, and I think we need to get to about 18% next year,” noted Wilson.

Though Wilson admits her publication is now in the digital marketing services business, she admits the paper doesn’t have its own internal, separate agency as the big publishers have created.

It’s Notre Dame — the university and its football program specifically — that help drive opportunities at the South Bend Tribune.

“We launched a digital-only vertical this year called Notre Dame Insider,” noted Wilson. “The home page takes you to a hybrid spot where there is some free content available, but there’s also a lot of premium content. We’ve offered subscription rates of $99 for annual full access. In doing this, we’re migrating from a print product that we had to a digital-only experience.”

Schurz also owns a stake in RedPost, whose digital display newspaper racks were first piloted with the Tribune.

“First and foremost, the vendors love these racks because they look so good,” Wilson explains. “With consumers, the device itself can measure what the engagement time is standing around the rack and what the traffic looks like, so we know that people are spending time, looking at it and reading the content. We have seen single copy lift that I believe is a direct result from where we have these racks in the marketplace, particularly on Sunday. It has been a 10 percent lift.”

The big plan for 2015? In addition to mobile growth, Wilson names native advertising.

“Native is going to be a big play for us, and events are something we are planning for, along with how we approach content with data and being even more relevant for our consumers,” says Wilson.