The Roanoke Times is anticipating $70K from holiday ballot

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The Roanoke (Va.) Times is hoping to double its revenue from 2012 with an integrated holiday ballot and deals story promotion.

Background
The Roanoke Times, part of BH Media Group, is a daily newspaper in Roanoke, Va. It's the newspaper covering 19 counties across southwestern Virginia and one of the best-read papers in the United States, reaching more than 200,000 adults on weekdays and a quarter of a million readers each Sunday. We have been putting a focus on online promotions since 2009.

The Idea
The Roanoke Times first ran a holiday shopping ballot in 2012 to accompany our holiday Gift Guide print special section. Ballot promotions work very well in our market and we were looking for ways to incorporate more of them on our promotions calendar. The Best of Holiday Shopping ballot turned out to be the perfect way to simultaneously fill out our promotions calendar and engage small and mid-sized retailers leading up to the holiday shopping season.

The 2013 Best of Holiday Shopping ballot launched on Sept. 3.

The Execution
Before launching the Best of Holiday Shopping ballot, we ran several run-of-site Coming Soon ads on our website, as you can see on this screenshot of our homepage:

We also promoted in advance of the ballot with online articles and posts to social media. You can see examples of our posts to Pinterest and Facebook below.

We even created a hashtag for the ballot – #BestofSWVA – as you can see in the branding pictured at the top of the article.

The ballot was pre-seeded with a number of small and mid-sized businesses within our circulation area, although people could also write in candidates if they didn't see their favorite on the ballot.

The paper promoted the ballot not only through our own media, but also by encouraging merchants listed on the ballot to promote their listing with customized point-of-purchase displays, including templates for a poster, flier, business card, postcard, Facebook cover photo, logos of various sizes, buttons, table tents and more. You can see some of the templates in the image below.

Our "Promote the Vote" campaign not only got the word out about the ballot, but also served as a lead-generation tool for us to target merchants to reach out to about purchasing upgraded listings on the ballot or print ads in the gift guide special section.

We also included an opt-in on the registration form for our deals program, and we're planning to feature the finalists and top performers from the ballot in a special holiday-themed deals store to cap off the promotion.

The Results
In 2012, the Best of Holiday Shopping ballot brought in $50,000 for the newspaper. We still haven't finalized our revenue for the 2013 Best of Holiday Shopping ballot promotion, but our goal is $70,000 (and that's not including any revenue from the associated deals store). Including deals in the calculation, it's looking like we could double our revenue from last year!

Why It Worked:

  • We integrated a ballot promotion with a print special section and a deals store.
  • We promoted the ballot heavily in a variety of media, and encouraged listed merchants to promote the ballot as well.
  • We sold a mix of print ads, upgrading ballot listings, and deals to generate revenue around the promotion.

To find even more ideas and a variety of sample ballots, as well as to learn more about Voter's Choice – the newest addition to Second Street's suite of products – download the Playbook below.

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