You think I’d have learned this advertising lesson long ago

Kevin Slimp

Jun 1, 2023

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It dawned on me this morning that my schedule changes significantly from day to day. There are always some things that have to get done most days. Regardless of what else is on my schedule, I spend an hour or two contacting customers and developing marketing ideas. One thing I’ve learned about marketing: the more time I spend on it, the more it pays off.

In addition to my other businesses, I own two businesses in the online training arena. Most of you have probably visited at some time. I also own a company that provides online training and CECs (continuing education credits) for folks outside the newspaper world. Most people began attending webinars as a result of the recent pandemic. However, I’ve been leading webinars for almost 30 years. I remember when Bob DeBusk, then executive director of the Tennessee Press Association, and I visited with the president of a local college to begin planning webinars using the college’s satellites — this was very early in the development of the internet — to teach classes to newspaper staffs across the globe.

After so many years leading webinars, you would think I’d know just about all there is to know about the webinar business. It wasn’t until three or four years ago I noticed a significant trend. The more I advertise and promote a webinar, the more people attend.

What is it they say about doctors? Something about doctors being the worst patients. ...

After training newspapers for more than 30 years, owning an advertising business when I was younger, and co-leading sessions with the brightest minds in the advertising world, I should have figured this out a long time ago. I’m a slow learner.

So, what happened three or four years ago? Before then, I was always careful not to “bother” my potential customers. For instance, if I had an upcoming webinar, I would send the information out to press associations, hoping they would promote it. I’d probably send an email blast to my customers so they could put it on their calendars. I was afraid by overpromoting an event, I would turn off potential customers. What was I thinking?

I began collecting email addresses from everyone in the newspaper business who had ever written to me, every group I had spoken to, and others in the industry. As my list grew into the thousands, I experimented with sending out a couple of reminders about an upcoming webinar. It helped, but I didn’t notice a significant increase in attendance.

Things took off when I began consistently reminding folks about upcoming webinars. Now, if I have an upcoming webinar on photo editing, I’ll start sending mass emails a month before the event. Then, as the date approaches, I’ll send out an email a week before the webinar, then another three days before the class. Finally, I’ll send a reminder email the day before the webinar.

What have I learned? Registrations generally come in three waves. A good number of folks, usually about a third of the attendees, will register when they see the first announcement about a month before the webinar. Another group will register after seeing an email three days before the class. Finally, about half of my attendees sign up for a class after seeing an email one day before the webinar. If you pay attention, you will probably see at least five or six emails about each of my webinars.

My other company, which offers CEC credits for folks outside the newspaper industry, hosts multiple webinars each week. We are constantly reminding customers of those webinars about upcoming classes. The more we remind them, the more they register.

What does this have to do with newspapers? Tomorrow, I’ll be spending all day with the advertising staff of a newspaper in Tennessee. I always enjoy working with nearby papers. It’s nice to work in person instead of online now and then. We’ll discuss ways to increase advertising and help our advertisers create more effective ad campaigns. One lesson I’ll try to instill is there is no such thing as too much advertising. We’re helping our advertisers when we help them understand that — and find ways to reach more potential customers. Another lesson is that we need to stay in constant contact with advertisers. Like my webinar attendees, the more we keep in touch, the more we’ll see results.


Publisher Bill Derby wrote to me yesterday to ask if everyone else sees a slowdown in inserts at their papers. He also asked, “If so, do they think they’ll be coming back?”

I created a quick post on social media, asking publishers for their take on the subject. I got a lot of responses. Those at larger papers wrote that inserts are way down and probably not returning. Answers from smaller papers ranged from “Ours are way down” to “We’re doing OK, but the bigger papers around here are struggling” to “Ours are up, and we’re getting more inquiries each week.”

So, there you have it. Most folks say their insert business is down or “way down.” However, some say their insert business is holding up, and some are even increasing. I need to look into what’s happening at these papers that are increasing their inserts and see what we can learn from them.

Kevin Slimp is former director of The University of Tennessee Newspaper Institute and founder of