What was the most exciting new initiative your department introduced in 2019?
Two things compete for this: The introduction of the Asheville Field Guide and the beginnings of a membership support program. Both initiatives are designed to fill the gap created by a decline in traditional advertising revenue.
What were advertisers looking for in 2019?
Many businesses are seeking cost-effective ways to reach the river of tourists that flows into Western North Carolina.
Which special issue or theme resonated most with local businesses this year?
Best of WNC continues to be the granddaddy of all themes. Our spring and fall nonprofit special issues come in second. The Home Style issue was a new product that was successful this year.
What was the greatest challenge for Xpress’ advertisement team in 2019?
The ways local businesses are marketing themselves are rapidly changing, and many clients are trying other platforms.
2019 continued the trend away from traditional advertising. The pressure for media operations to sell content continues to mount, leaving operations that don’t sell content — like Mountain Xpress — at a financial disadvantage. We also indirectly feel the pressure businesses experience as they stretch their budgets to accommodate search engine optimization and sponsored posts on Facebook. More and more businesses are paying savvy marketing staffers to write alluring press releases in lieu of buying advertising packages. Of course, without the advertising that supports editorial content, those press releases won’t be able to reach their intended audiences.
A less obvious challenge is the changing nature of printing: Increases in the price of paper have led to the use of thinner stock, which changes how the ink sits on the page.
What might surprise the community about your department?
We haven’t raised our regular weekly advertising rate card in over 15 years. We are a noncommissioned sales staff. We believe in teamwork.