Associate Member Spotlight

To sell readers on TV news, NTVB is willing to give it away

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Michael Keever divides newspaper readers into two groups: People who value television and entertainment news, and people who pitch the weekly TV magazine straight into the recycling bin.

Keever is senior vice president and chief marketing officer  of NTVB Media, a 35-year-old company that is the leading publisher of TV entertainment and listings magazines such as TV Weekly. In the late 1980s, he said, 85 to 90 percent of people who read a newspaper also read and used that paper's TV magazine. Today, readership has dwindled to between 10 and 15 percent.

As the number of available TV channels grew to some 300, beleaguered newspapers were cutting back on stories and pages, and reducing the number of listings. The cuts were especially severe to papers that produced their own sections. As circulation continued to drop, so did the number of readers who routinely pulled out the TV section to leave on the coffee table for a week.

"The 10 to 15 percent of readers who actually want a product are being under-served," Keever said. "They're getting a subpar product, and the other 85 to 90 percent of the readers are throwing it away. It serves no one."

But NTVB still counts on print readers for most of its business. While acknowledging the economic realities of newspaper publishing, the company has come up with some innovations in the last five years that generate revenue and have brought in more than 160 newspapers – many of them large metro dailies – as clients of the TV magazine. Keever sees these changes as nothing less than revolutionary.

The key element is a TV Weekly that has been beefed up and offered to newspaper readers by separate subscription. The idea is to give TV fans what they want and ask them to pay for it.

"What we've done is taken what we've learned over the last 35 years and put together the very best TV magazine in America," Keever said. "It's 48 pages. It's localized in content with local channels. It gives you about 90 of the top channels."

Subscribers also get the types of entertainment stories, interviews with stars and standing features that were once common to local TV sections.

"Then we pay our newspaper partners up to $400 per thousand subscribers to deliver the product," Keever said. "So they have zero cost for the product. They save all their costs for the current product. They finally deliver to their readers a product that the readers want. And they actually earn up to $400 per thousand to deliver it. It's revolutionizing."

When newspapers have dropped their own TV sections entirely in favor of the subscriber model, their own subscriptions dropped less than one-tenth of 1 percent, Keever said.

NTVB, through its purchase a couple of years ago of Custom Media, also publishes high-end monthly magazines for several cable and satellite companies that run as many as 250 pages. NTVB also publishes a retro monthly called Remind that covers the stars of TV, movies, sports and music from the 1950s through the 1980s. Remind includes the types of crossword puzzles and games that many newspapers dropped to save space, to the chagrin of their readers.

It has also acquired listings databases for "virtually every television channel out there," Keever said. In turn, NTVB was able to set up a service that lets readers use newspaper websites to search the databases and set up individual text or email alerts for the specific shows or sporting events they want to watch. Keever said the notifications include the specific channel number of the reader's cable, satellite or other provider.

The result is that some 3 million people daily read an NTVB product, Keever said. And now the company is taking their offerings to a new level. As NTVB announced at the recent Key Executives Mega-Conference and other media trade events, it is prepared to give away all content to all newspapers – regardless of size – in exchange for a partnership to bring in more subscribers.

"We decided to give it all away free to every newspaper in America. Absolutely free," Keever said.

"Until recently," Keever said, "because we create localized editions of TV Weekly for each market we have had to focus on larger newspaper partners to be sure the market could support its own edition of TV Weekly.  

"The reason we can now offer our content and deeply discounted entertainment magazines to every newspaper no matter how small, is that we figured out a way to customize and personalize, Channel Guide magazine (our robust monthly) literally down to the household!  

"Now every newspaper and every household can have access to a personalized TV product, a fun retro magazine full of celebrity info, puzzles, classic comics and ads from days gone by.  And virtually every newspaper can add TV NUTT, our web widget to their website for FREE.  TV NUTT will entice website readers to come back to the site daily to find the best shows, movies and sports for that day as well as have us deliver customized daily reminders for the programming that each reader is interested in viewing."

Here's how it works.

A newspaper can use any of NTVB's television entertainment content, in the print edition or on the website. NTVB attaches what Keever calls "a bug" to each piece that refers readers to its magazines if they want to read more – with a subscription at half price.

Newspaper partners will get paid for every subscriber that NTVB gets. The bug will provide the URL and eventually other information so that NTVB knows which newspaper site the subscriber used.

Keever sees no downside for newspapers; they get free content and the chance to make some money off of it.

"It's unprecedented," he said. "Nobody has ever given content away like this before." 

For more information, contact Michael Keever at (248) 915-8793 or mkeever@ntvbmedia.com.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net. Nominate your company for an associate member spotlight article!

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