- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
By Jodi Schwan
Don’t tell Cory Johnsen print publications are going out of style.
The performance of the Sioux Falls Shopping News suggests otherwise.
“2016 was our best year in well over a decade, which in our business is very rare,” said Johnsen, sales and marketing manager for the weekly publication that dates back to 1939.
“We’ve increased our reach, our revenue, our advertisers and our staff because we’ve had so much more production.”
Several elements are contributing to the positive trajectory – and 2017 is shaping up to be an even stronger year, Johnsen said.
The publication added digital services last year, hiring Shane Speck as the digital marketing manager and adding everything from digital display ads to consulting.
“By adding new digital opportunities, it has helped the Shopping News provide more multimedia solutions,” Speck said. “We have been successful at providing packages of print and digital to help our clients reach more potential customers.”
Adding digital services is part of a broader shift in how the publication interacts with customers, Johnsen said.
“We want to understand marketing solutions and strategy and make sure we’re giving clients the best results possible,” he said. “The Shopping News has been around forever, and it was just that we reached the most doorsteps. We might, but what if you only want to reach a male audience or a certain age? Marketing has changed.”
The product still reaches plenty of households, though. Circulation is about 58,000 households in the Sioux Falls area and almost 80,000 when counting racks at grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations.
“We know that we’re a newspaper,” Johnsen said. “Our readership is a little bit older. Our target is the 30-to-45-year-old mom. They’re looking to save money, probably recently started a family or bought a house. That’s who our target is and who our reader is, according to an audit we use.”
Advertisers respond, he said. National advertising has increased, especially with new grocers Aldi and Fareway entering the market.
A new publication called Deals Direct has sparked additional growth. More than 100,000 copies are directly mailed to homes in Sioux Falls, Brandon, Dell Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford and Tea.
“It’s a way for us to put coupons in the mail into everyone’s house,” Johnsen said. “The response has been phenomenal. Almost every advertiser in there has said results are great, and that’s why it keeps growing for us.”
KA Lesnar has owned the Shopping News since 1973. His background was in accounting, and he came to the paper to do an audit. The primary investor asked him if he was interested in becoming a partner.
“I wasn’t familiar with that. I grew up on a farm,” said Lesnar. “So I said, ‘No, I’m not interested.’ And the next thing I know, he came back to me and said, ‘If you do this, you own the paper.’ I said, ‘OK, let me have at it.’ And the rest is history.”
Business has grown as the city has, he said. He evaluates new neighborhoods weekly and just added one near Willow Run Golf Course.
“Whenever we know an area gets at least 50 homes, we put a carrier in. During the summer, we watch it extremely closely,” he said. “We’re adding as builders build.”
Consumers “absolutely” are becoming more focused on value in their shopping, Lesnar added.
“And we’re pretty much handling all the grocery business in Sioux Falls, so that’s been a great plus,” he said. “People were saying the internet is going to affect your business, but we’ve revamped our website and are trying to be more user-friendly, and I think that has been a good thing. The internet has helped us. You have to work harder. That’s the key in this company and any company.”
The office at 4005 S. Western Ave. is shared with Western Commercial Printing, which Lesnar also owns. That business prints everything from banners to fliers and mailers, including mass quantities.
“We’ve seen a ton of growth,” Johnsen said. “If you’ve ever gotten a Billion post card or Hy-Vee mailer, a lot of those come from us. We’re one of the largest direct mail businesses in Sioux Falls.”
People can request not to receive the Shopping News, but more complain if they happen to miss a delivery of it, Johnsen said.
“I look at news, especially over the next 10 years, and you’ll see everyone goes online,” he said. “There are so many avenues, but there aren’t a ton of avenues to get deals. There are coupon websites and Groupon, but those are things you seek out. We just show up on your doorstep.”
The leaders of this print publication say it’s on a positive trajectory because readers are always looking for ways to save money.