Jennifer Clark still remembers her first sales job. Fresh out of Illinois Wesleyan University, Clark immediately found herself in the sales department of the New York Daily News, running from Queens to Brooklyn, selling newspaper ads to local businesses. After 11 years with the Daily News and a fruitful stint at the New York Post, Clark now presides as the Executive Sales Director for Metro Philadelphia. Since she initially started with Metro back in 2010, as New York’s Classified Sales Director, Clark and her sales team have not only helped cultivate a stable distribution model for the Philadelphia paper, but have also established large online ad space contributions that have undoubtedly contributed to Metro’s increasing popularity and resilience in a tumultuous time for newspapers.
What do you think, in the past few years since you have been a part of the Metro team, has changed with respect to what you have done in the sales department and what the reader would notice?
I would say across the board in New York and Philly, the paper itself looks stronger. On a daily basis we are about as big as the major dailies in New York. Maybe not in Philadelphia’s case. Well, actually who knows, because in Philly our competition is challenged right now: They are still running these huge papers with no advertising to support it, whereas we have what I think is a very good sense of profit. We make sure our pages are profitable according to the amount of editorial that’s produced. I imagine that’s probably more fun for the editorial team as well because they are able to really dive in and produce more content because we are giving them larger newspapers to work with.
What has been your experience with the different markets? And was it a challenge to come from the New York market and go to the Philadelphia market?
It’s quite different here in Philadelphia. It’s a tougher city for sure. What I found when I came here was that it felt very familiar, it was almost like how New York was 15 or 18 years ago.
Wow, that long?
It really feels like that because the city is still very much made up of small businesses. You can be walking down Chestnut Street and still see small businesses. Whereas if you’re on Madison Avenue it’s chain after chain after chain. Having these small businesses also heightens prospects for new clients, making it easier for us to walk in and see if they want to advertise with us.
You do see a lot of ads in the Philly paper for smaller businesses, not necessarily the big chains that New York is putting on their pages...
Yes, and that is good and bad at the same time, because when you’re talking to so-and-so furniture store, it’s his pocket he’s taking the money out of so if it’s not working they’re not going to continue to advertise. Whereas Macy’s, who’s thankfully going to spend money at a lot of places (and thankfully we are one of those places) they don’t necessarily know exactly where their response is coming from.
Do you find a lot of local businesses have little tags in their ads that say, ‘mention this ad and get a discount’?
Not that much, but for a lot of our clients, we are their only means of advertisement. So a lot of those car dealers that advertise every single day, advertise just in Metro. They tell us that they are selling cars because of the Metro.
When you see people reading Metro what do you notice or look for in that instant?
I like to see what they’re reading. It’s funny, you’ll often see people doing the puzzles, which we know is such a popular page. I was just talking to someone at Media Audit the other day and she was saying that people spend less time with newspapers than they do online, watching TV or listening to the radio, but you could argue that time spent reading is more engaged than when doing those other things. I mean when I sit watching TV, I have my phone, my iPad and three other devices in front of me. When you’re reading something like a newspaper, you tend to be just solely focused on that.
What are your favorite parts of the paper, editorially?
I love the Word. I also love our news, because you get a sense of what’s happening in the city very quickly.
Have you guys seen an increase in ad sales for online?
We definitely have. It took some time for the print team to get their arms around selling it and how important it is, but they understand it now, and as a result all of our sales are endeavoring to being integrated because they are two very different audiences. The people that are reading the paper and the ones that are going online, the two don’t really mix. So when you sell the combination of the two, you’re selling to two mutually exclusive audiences, which is great.
It seems like Philadelphia is still steps behind New York.
Philly does have that feeling of just being a little bit behind New York because everything in New York is moving at lightning speed. Even from a property value level, Philadelphia is behind too. People can still rent a business for much lower cost, than they can in New York. Philly is 1/10th or even less than that, of the cost of the rent in New York City. You can still own a business here and actually survive.
How did you adjust to this when you moved to Philadelphia?
I went back in time. When I first started selling I was a local salesperson, so relating to these guys who go out and do that every day here, it’s like exactly what I did, but a long time ago. The thing is, the same principles still exists. These small businesses want someone to give them good service — relationships really matter, integrity really matters — and they want sales people that come in every week and makes sure the ad is perfect. That’s what they care about and the team is really good about delivering.
What makes the Philadelphia offices unique?
I think one of the most unique things we have here is our distribution model. 50 percent of our distribution is indoors at college campuses, hospitals, office buildings, residential buildings and the other 50 percent outside. So we’re hitting these people on their way to work.
What’s the one constant over the years and that you have carried through?
When I was at the Daily News, they were the underdog to New York Times. When I went to the Post, they were the underdog to the Daily News, and now Metro is kind of the underdog to all underdogs. So I think I like a challenge. Also in sales, if you’re a competitive person and you like to win, there are a lot of wins to get out there. The traditional papers are all about protecting what they had instead of going out and getting it. In my opinion it’s a stronger position to get something than trying to hold onto something.