local media insider
Case Study

Five secrets to mobile sales at Schurz top-selling CBS and ABC affiliate stations

A close look at the Schurz team with top mobile revenues

Alisa Cromer
The Springfield-Branson Airport, as a sponsor, appears on the home page as the app loads.

Market: Springfield, Mo

Media: KY3, NBC and KSPR, ABC 33

Initiative:  Mobile strategy

Traffic: About 1.5 million page views each news and weather apps for KY3, compared to 18 million page views KY3.com;  45,000 news and 306 weather apps for KSPR compared to 1.58 million for KSPR.com

Key executives:  Kent Oglesby, Director of Digital Sales, and Sandy Martin, Mobile Director


While newspaper sites struggle to monetize mobile, television sites have taken the lead. We've outlined best practices of top sellers in "Ten steps to selling top dollar in mobile" and this case study demonstrates these principles in action. 

At Schurz Communications,  89% of the mobile dollars come from its broadcast sites, though company-owned newspaper sites are more numerous.  This case study looks at Schurz' most successful mobile sales effort  in a mid-sized market of Springfield, Mo. 

Challenge: Create a top-performing mobile sales effort in Springfield's broadcast market. Digital manager Oglesby started off with a few key advantages:  An especially strong NBC franchise, the top station in the market (ABC is third after CBS) and a four person digital-only  sales team that sells for both stations. On the downside, mobile is new and less understood by advertisers.

Strategy: A key factor in launching the  mobile sales drive is Schurz' mobile-first strategy - taking advantage of the hockey-stick growth of small screen audiences for both the WAP (browser based mobile site) and apps over the past year and continuing in 2012. The focus on mobile shows in the overall strategy for this staion:

1. More products on hand. 

A key to the success at Springfield, was two stations, each with a WAP and two apps, for a total of six mobile selling opportunities. While it seems counterintuitive to launch, say two weather apps in a market that also has a weather channel on its WAPP site, the additional opportunities both help land bigger clients and offer bigger mobile opportunities for more key advertisers.

WAPS versus apps.... why do you need both?

While the largest dollars are still in selling the WAPS, apps are critical to Schurz strategy. The product strategy at Schurz is for all properties to eventually have five apps, in addition to the browser-based site, for each media by 2013: News, weather, sports, local (guides and coupons) and user-generated).

Apps have a variety of unique benefits: 

*Discoverability in the app store. A well posiioned sports or weather app with the name of the market in its name or metatags gives a promotional boost from app search, that browsers don't get. 

*Greater visibility and branding on the phone.  When people open their phones, the app icon what they see first, and an extra reminder to  click directly - something WAPS lack. 

*Better ad placement. Ads on apps stay on the page; ads on Waps tend to disappear on scrolling. So even with fewer visitors, the ads get the same click-through-rates. 

*Higher page views per user for breaking news apps like weather and sports. Apps are outperforming WAPS when visitors get into a habit of "checking" for things like weather and scores. This is particularily the case if push-notifications tie back to the phone. 

*More targeted, with natural marketing partners at the station, and percieved value.  With more than 1 million page views, the WAP still sells the most - but the apps are easier to sell out. 

The Springfield market's two stations have mobile WAP sites, plus weather and news apps - six audiences - in addition to incremental sales of SMS and Text campaigns.

Put another way, sold out, the weather app, with about 1 milion page views, is only about $7000 a month, so additional products increase the overall revenue potential. 

2. Heavy  promotional tie-ins and big mobile traffic increases

Arguably, the emotional impact of television, combined with social media power of on-air personalities and natural marketing partnerships for channels like weather and news.

When its news app launched in 2010 KY3, the NBC affiliate  ran flights of 15 and 30 second spots talking about  app, with ongoing mentions during live during newscasts, on the websites, with tie-ins from a variety of stories. By February, 2012, KY3 news app 1.5 million page views.  Its new weather app, promoted the same way reached almost the same number more quickly. The WAP for ABC, a younger station, third in the market behind CBS, is around 486,000 page views.

3. Sales force organization has clear mobile focus

The biggest factor in sales success is a four-person separate digital sales team reporting through separate channels to the gm  (Most broadcast markets we talked to who are successful in selling digital have some form of separate digital teams  with a direct digital report to the general manager). 

Springfield's four digital sellers - compared to 13 legacy sellers in the television stations -  can sell into both station's sites.  TV accounts are not protected, although there are some four-legged calls. 

Mobile sales goals accounts about 15 to 20% of digital revenue goals. 

For digital reps, mobile banner ads are a close third behind standard web site banner ad sales,  and social media contesting, in generating revenues, and are typically sold as part of an integrated campaign. Training includes strengths of each mobile product and its audience.  

4. SOV pricing of banner ads, with 75,000 page view minimums

Another best practice is pricing the site via a  CPM-based share-of-voice model. 

The Schurz digital team prices each mobile product separately, starting off with blocks of 75,000 pageviews. Pricing is the same for WAPPS and apps, the only really difference the weather app has some natural tie-in, while news does not.

Pricing is about $10 cpm, lowered when buys are bundled with additional digital products and onair time. The WAP actual CPM is about $7 in early 2012. 

With 500,000 to more than 1million mobile page views, sponsorship models are clearly outgrown.  The blocks of 75,000 page views provide significant response for both large and smaller buys and allow revenues to expand as traffic increases.

Sold out, the Weather app can generate $6000 to $7000 a month, with a mixture of mulitple advertisers ranging from $500 a month to $2500 a month, and a few large seasonal buyers. 

5. Targeting key accounts for "integrated campaigns" 

The digital team is aggressive in how they present and what they will "do for the clients." The "the low hanging fruit" for mobile are companies whose budgets are large enough to include a portion marked for "experimental" buys,  and have a marketer interested mobile. Sales teams talk up the higher click-through rates, functionality (click to call or buy) and consumer adoption of mobile. 

Accounts that have bought mobile weather app campaigns  in the Springfield market include  tire stores, storm shelters, HVAC and skiing - all in some way weather-related.

Auto is a top category for mobile WAPs and apps  because dealers are always looking for ways to differentiate from the competition - ie be somewhere competitors are not - and appeal to  the young male demographic, which  matches smart phone app users. 

Sales teams with the highest ability to collaborate get the biggest  buys. Collaboration - and management leadership -  is the new key to bigger multi-media buys. A key example  this year is a $100,000 campaign KY3 sold to the Springfield-Brandon airport, of which about 1/3 of the dollars went for mobile banner ads. The team that went after the airport - included general sales manager on the tv side,  the tv rep, digital manager and digital rep. 

 "It was our gm's idea," Oglesby says. "He wants to win the mobile weather play in our market. So he offered that if the airport committed to the campaign, they would wind up being the beneficiary because we are going to promote the dickens out of it."

The first team first pitched the airport's marketing council. They identified a need to market newly launched direct flights from Springfield to nearby airports, plus some secondary objectives.

A major multi-media presentation was  made by the team to the board of directors. It included $30,000 for half of the inventory on the weather app, plus branding the airport  on the splash page with the weather app is loading. The other $70,000 went to onair promotions - and the station commited to build the aiport's campaign - logo and voice - into $70,000 of on-air house promotions for the weather app. 

Note how involved managment was in creating additional value for a top client. 

"They are getting a sweet deal and we have way over-delivered." 

In return, the station absorbed "a very big chunk of their total budget.. almost all of their eggs were in one basket."

The mobile part of the campaign included a direct link to a mobile version of a travel page where visitors could book the new direct flights. 

And it worked. "Their business is up, booking is up, revenues are up and they are attributing part of that to the marketing," Ogleby said.

6. Incremental revenues from mobile sites, sms and text-messaging 

The digital team also sells a number of other products with mobile functionality.

*Search.  Local search, via Matchbin's white label platform, is provided via a directory product, Asktheozarks.com.  Each directory upsell has a microsite that does very well in mobile search, according to Oglesby, and can be bundled in to other digital campaigns as a landing page. In total, at $70 a month for a page and $150 for 7 pages, about $50,000 to $60,000 comes from the search play, although no part of this is specifically designated as mobile. 

The directory is often used to support a secondary search effort such as the service department of an auto dealer, giving it its own searchable mobile site as well. 

*Mobile sites and sms.  For a mobile landing page, the preferred vendor is Mofuse, which creates a mobile version of the advertiser's web site for about $50 a month. 

Mofuse, also create text-based campaigns primarily for restaurants, that sell about about $300 per campaign - or per month - with the advantage that these campaigns are geared to generate better measurable response from larger ad campaigns.


The combined mobile sales effort is on track to generate just short of $200,000 in 2012, about 50% sell-through and the hightest revenues of any Schurz market. Creating the mobile strategy relied on a few key factors:

*Strong products, including a set of highly trafficed apps

*Promotions to drive traffic to new mobile apps

*SOV pricing with large CPM's in the 75,000 page view range

*Targeting top 10 to 20 accounts 

*Collaborative teams that include management going after the biggest fish 

One last note: Weather apps have been exceptionally popular and provide a more targeted sale than WAP's and News - although think about news as a key sale during the politcal season. Here are some more tips for finding early adapters likely to include more mobile in large multi-media buys: 

*Marketers who want to differentiate from competitors via being in places where competitors are not - such as auto dealers and health care providers

*Marketers who have a need for large integrated campaigns to get across big ideas, such as new routes or parking at the airport, new pricing plans for the Cable network, auto loans, and health programs.

*Multiple location food companies benefitting from people "on the go."

See also "Six steps to Selling Mobile" as a separate list, also How to evaluate your mobile site 

Many thanks to Ken  Oglesby, Digital manager, KY3, for sharing successful strategies with us.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.