Saturday, May 05, 2007

Youth-oriented "Link" growing steadily

"Link," a youth oriented free daily owned by The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., is picking up new advertisers every month since it opened seven months ago. asked David Mele, Link's publisher and general manager, the following questions about the paper:

Q: How is it going?

It's going very well. Reader acceptance has been tremendous, revenue is steadily growing, net distribution is climbing nicely, and we've seen no cannibalization of readership or revenue for our paid daily broadsheet, The Virginian-Pilot.

Q: What can you tell me about sales in the seven months?

We're a private company (owned by Landmark Communications) so I can't release specific financials. But sales have grown each month since launch. We have a core foundation from some of the largest advertisers in our market
(large grocery, large auto dealer, large real estate companies, large employers for recruitment ads) and we've added a good mix of local retail on top of that. Forty-eight percent of our advertisers are not Virginian-Pilot advertisers — meaning that they did not already advertise with our paid daily broadsheet. So we've brought "new money" into the company.

Q: Are you in the black yet? If not, when do you expect it will happen?

No, we are not in the black yet, and we expect it could take a few years for that to happen. But we are ahead of our profit budget at this point — which makes our parent company very happy.

Q: How large is your staff?


Q: Please break it down by editorial, sales, circulation, etc.

    1 — Admin
    12 — Newsroom (editor, design director, designers, copy editors, reporter, photographer) Note: we are currently hiring 2 more copy editors.
    4 — Advertising Sales & Design (But we also are supported by the Advertising Sales department of The Virginian-Pilot, our paid daily broadsheet.)
    3 — Marketing & Promotion
    3 — Circulation & Distribution
Q: How do you distribute your product (by hand, thrown on driveways, stores, work places, etc.)?

Our average daily circulation is approximately 32,000 (Monday-Friday). Fifty percent is via "samplers" (i.e., hawkers) in high pedestrian traffic areas during morning commute and lunchtime. The rest is through 1,000 rack and box locations in workplaces, apartments, fitness centers, colleges/universities, restaurants, bars, medical offices, etc. We are now testing limited free home delivery in targeted zones. Our return rate hit the single digits last week.

Q: What's surprised you since you started Link?

In addition to reaching our target readers (18-34 year-olds), we hear from a number of readers on either side of this age range who love Link. So the desire for quality, concise, colorful, quick-read news and entertainment
information seems to know no age boundaries.