How A.H. Belo is Turning into a Community Focused Marketing Services Company
A.H. Belo Corporation, the company that publishes the The Dallas Morning News and Spanish-language weekly Al Día has gone through quite a few changes. Last year it sold its Riverside, CA, newspaper The Press Enterprise including its Spanish-language weekly La Prensa, to Freedom Communications. The proceeds of that sale have been invested mostly into acquiring Dallas/Ft. Worth and the larger Texas market oriented digital marketing and event companies.
With declining print advertising revenues at The Dallas Morning News (more than 250,000 daily subscribers) the key challenge for A.H. Belo is to generate growth in the digital marketing side of the business, including the www.dallasnews.com.com site. The relationship of the Dallas Morning News sales staff with the local and regional advertising community are very deep and can be leveraged to the offering of digital marketing solutions. "We are doing great work scaling the business to accommodate the opportunities generated through The Dallas Morning News sales staff. James Moroney, President and Chief Executive Officer of A. H. Belo Corporation, said during the Q1 2015 conference call with financial analysts. "That growth has a strong digital element. In January A.H. Belo announced a US $15.3 million investment for a majority ownership stake in three Dallas-based marketing companies: Distribion (specialized in multi-channel marketing automation), MarketingFX (print supply chain solutions) and Vertical Nerve (focused on Digital Optimization and Lead Generation). The three companies are run by local entrepreneur Tim Storer and became part of A.H. Belo’s newly formed DMV Digital Holdings Co.
We bundle ROP ads with digital campaigns that work much more effectively in unison as opposed to individually.
Digital Marketing Solutions is also an area where Al Día Texas, the Spanish-language weekly published by A.H. Belo (Weekly average circulation 250,000. Home-delivered circ. 100,000 Weds and 125,000 on Sat), is realizing growth opportunities. "Locally, one of the fastest growing aspects of our business is in local search. We bundle ROP ads with digital campaigns that work much more effectively in unison as opposed to individually. The metrics are proving out that a local campaign should have both, print and digital elements and we're exploring ways of doing this more," Homero Martinez, Director/General Manager at Al Día & Hispanic Media (photo), tells Portada. The combination of print and digital marketing can produce superior results and Martinez applies a similar logic the use of online video advertising. "With our large portfolio of product offerings, we don't see video necessarily as a stand-alone feature. Our goal is to add video and to incorporate it into the solutions the client will use. For example, we build mobile optimized landing pages for our local search SEM clients. Since Hispanics over-index in watching video online, we recommend our clients have a compelling video message for the consumer to view. This will help the consumer in the decision making process and consequently will help the client's ROI. And if the client doesn't have video they can use, no worries. We can produce it and post it for them."
Martinez succeeded Penni Barton at the helm of Al Dia at the beginning of 2015. His focus has been on re-energizing relationships with the community, our readers, and our advertisers. "We've been entrusted with a great brand and we're committed to being the best possible stewards of it. We're currently in the process of rolling out some changes that will much better position us as the #1 print and digital media vehicles in this market for reaching Hispanics. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more!," he tells Portada.
Events expanding to other Texan Cities
The event business has been another growth area for A.H. Belo. In the first quarter of this year A.H. Belo promoted the Savor Food Festival for the first time, more than doubling the number of attendees from the 2014 event. Expansion into other Texas cities is on the menu. In 2014 CrowdSource, the event marketing company owned by The Dallas Morning News, purchased a majority ownership of Untapped, an indie music and craft beer festival organizer, for undisclosed terms. The Untapped Craft Beer Series opened its first new city in April attracting attendance of over 6,500 people and selling out the Austin, Texas venue. Another new market (San Antonio) is set to open in November and the three established markets of Fort Worth (May) Houston (September), Dallas (November) continue to be operated.
Al Dia also has events as an important component of its strategy, particularly in the sports marketing arena. "This year will be Copa Al Dia's 8th birthday and we're very proud of what it's become. And we're still growing it! The soccer portion of the event is always the most important aspect but this year we are doubling down on the festival component and we will have the biggest, most engaging festival experience yet for the thousands of families that attend," says Martinez.
Our primary focus is directed at advertising and marketing services companies that have established financial performance and strong management teams, and which display sophisticated uses of data to reach targeted audiences.
A.H. Belo continues to be on the lookout for the right acquisition targets. At the above cited conference call with analysts, CEO James Moroney noted that his company continues to explore additional investment and acquisition opportunities in more channels of marketing in order to further diversify sources of revenue. "Our primary focus is directed at advertising and marketing services companies that have established financial performance and strong management teams, and which display sophisticated uses of data to reach targeted audiences. These types of companies will best leverage our core competencies, our existing customer relationships and our brand equity in order to diversify and grow revenue."
"We believe it will take both strategic acquisitions of more channels of marketing, as well as organically grown new products to stay ahead of the decline in print advertising," Moroney concluded.