COVERING YOUR MARKET: Are TMC products a value or unnecessary expense in today's newspaper environment?

Author:Simpkins, Jerry

Total Market Coverage (TMC) products are regarded by many as a mixed blessing. Virtually all our properties have at one time or another had a TMC. Due to declines in preprints and increasing expense, a few have shut them down. Some see a need for a TMC from both an advertising and production standpoint, and others see TMC's as a declining segment of their operation that has lost its usefulness.

Every market is different, and I don't believe there is any one size fits all approach to decide whether a TMC fits into your overall plan or not. Like we do in so many parts of our operation, you'll need to carefully evaluate your TMC to determine the right fit for your franchise.

What's the "function" of your TMC? Do you look at your TMC as an unnecessary expense or a revenue opportunity? When coupled with your core publication, does your TMC provide advertisers with one-stop coverage to reach subscribers and non-subscribers alike? If you stopped your TMC, would the advertisers find alternatives and perhaps take their core preprints with them?

Lots of questions not easily answered, but here are some points to consider.

Use of a Jacket. From an operations standpoint, most of our properties realize the requirement for a TMC as a jacket/wrap for preprints. While needing a jacket to support all those preprints is a nice problem to have it also adds to your expense line. Layout, printing and inserting are costs that come with every product we send out the door and a TMC is, of course, no exception. However, realistically we often don't have a lot of choice.

Led primarily by grocery stores, a TMC can offer preprint advertisers additional reach when partnered with core products. If you're one of the lucky ones whose preprint advertisers still see the value of reaching non-subscribers and believe in your product over Red Plum or one of the other direct mail options, you may consider this a solid revenue stream more so than an expense. In that case, a TMC may make perfect sense to your property regardless of expenses in the operations area.

If your TMC passes this first test, you now will need to look at several other areas as advertising, news and operations crossover.

ROP Sales. The first word that comes to my mind is "anemic," followed closely by "nonexistent". If you're like most of the newspaper companies today, advertisers don't have enough confidence or desire in our TMC products to place ROP advertising. If you're counting on ROP supporting your...

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