Success Story

Magazine’s First Ballot Leads to $152K

Harrisburg Magazine increases print revenue while also driving in brand new digital revenue from their 'Best Of' ballot

Case Study Highlights

  • $152,000 total revenue from first ballot
  • $10,000-$15,000 increase to monthly print revenue
  • $33,000 digital revenue – up from $0 digital previously

The Idea

Harrisburg Magazine is a city/regional publication based out of Pennsylvania. We have always prided ourselves in delivering high quality content to our readers, and we were looking for a new opportunity for our community to engage with our publication.

Our Simply the Best reader’s choice ballot seemed to be a great fit. Not only would this allow our readers the chance to share their opinions and favorite businesses, but we hoped this could also open up new revenue for Harrisburg Magazine as well. Plus, after finishing year one – and it being a great success – we already have some fantastic insights on how to improve on year two.

The Execution

Creating our ballot meant optimizing it for revenue. After meetings with our sales team, we decided on selling three types of advertising options within the ballot itself.

For $95, every nominated business could purchase an Enhanced Listing. This option gave users the chance to make their nominated business stand out with a photo, short description, address, links to social media, and a customized shareable page. It also gave them a prime real estate spot at the top of all the nominees in their category.

While selling enhanced listings was a big revenue driver our first year, it should have been even more. I made the mistake originally of only charging per business, not per category. This meant if a business was nominated multiple times, we weren’t getting additional revenue. In year two, we will be offering a flat fee of $75 per category for each enhanced listing.

In addition to Enhanced Listings, we sold Category ads. These banner-style sponsorships are placed at the top of an individual category and can help a business secure their win. These were available for $350 per category.

And for an even greater branding opportunity, businesses could purchase Group Ads. These were much more exclusive as we only offered 12 – one for each Group. The first year, we priced the Group Ads too high ($1200) resulting in only 1 (out of 12) being sold. The second year, we reduced them to $450 for non-print advertisers and $350 for print advertisers, and they are almost sold out.

Another mistake we made the first year was only allowing print advertisers to buy our Group and Category ads. The logic was sound – we didn’t want to take away revenue from our magazine. The second year, we decided to offer discounts to regular print advertisers which has helped bring in new business that we hope to convert to print in time.

To make the sales process even more streamlined, we leveraged a self-service ecommerce platform to allow nominated businesses to purchase their Enhanced Listings and Category Ads. This meant interested businesses could make their purchases without even needing to set up a call with our team, giving our sales team more time to reach out to others.

In year two, before we even kick off our ballot nomination period, we’re asking interested businesses to register their contact information with us. The reason for this is twofold. First, it gives us quick contact information to confirm a nominated business’ information for accuracy. But second – the big benefit – is now we know who to reach out to when we want to pitch sponsorship opportunities. In the first month, we’ve had over 500 businesses register.

As far as timing our ballot, we wanted to provide ample opportunity for our community to participate. We hosted a two-month nomination period from January through February. Then, we took a month to go through the results and sell sponsorship packages, kicking off our two-month voting period from April 15 through June 15.

The extended time between our nomination and voting periods not only allows our salespeople more time to sell sponsorships, but it also has given us time to add in an additional ballot. Our Simply the Best People ballot highlights extraordinary people in our community with categories like Best Teacher, Best Dentist, and Best Police Officer. While we don’t sell Enhanced Listings, local businesses can sponsor a Category Ad. The winners of Simply the Best People will also be included in our our August issue.

Despite great results our first year, it was important to us to ensure that we weren’t excluding any members of our community. We created an additional ballot asking users to submit Simply the Best categories that we missed our first year. Then we had our community vote on their favorite new categories. This helped us deal with all the “Why don’t you have this category” questions.

We were able to create a lot of revenue opportunities through sponsorships within our ballot and advertising spots alongside it on the website. But by publishing our winners in our August issue of the Harrisburg Magazine, we were able to generate additional revenue through print and digital purchases to local winners and nominees excited to show off their success.

The Results

In total, the Harrisburg Magazine generated over $152,000 from our first Simply the Best ballot.

Afraid it might affect our print revenue, we had never attempted to sell digital before our Simply the Best ballot, so we were nervous to see the impact. Of the total ballot revenue, we can attribute $33,000 of this to digital. On top of that, it didn’t lead to a decrease in print revenue – our print revenue actually went up! We saw an increase in our profitability per page which shows our content was deemed even more valuable by advertisers.

Announcing the winners in our August issue resulted in a $44,000 increase in sales compared to last year’s August print revenue. In total, we saw an increase of about $10,000 to $15,000 per month compared to last year’s revenue numbers during the length of our ballot.

We are already putting in a lot of small, but dramatic, improvements into next year’s ballot and are sure we’ll be able to surpass this year’s revenue.

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