On Tuesday morning at the Mega-Conference, the 2023 Mega-Innovation Award was presented to Oahu Publications and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for a program that completely eliminated credit card interchange fees in a recurring fashion.
The program delivered $1.3 million in annualized recurring savings to the bottom-line last year and enabled the enterprise to continue its mission of diversification, transformation and financial growth.
The entry was presented at the Mega-Conference by Aaron Kotarek, senior vice president, audience and operations, Oahu Publications.
Kotarek told America’s Newspapers that the savings from this program has enabled OPI to further invest capital into its core competency of gathering local, relevant and differentiated content.
In addition to the company’s flagship newspaper, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, OPI’s portfolio also includes the Hawaii edition of USA TODAY, as well as three other daily newspapers on Kauai (The Garden Island) and the Big Island (West Hawaii Today in Kona and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo).
In the company’s entry, Kotarek wrote that this initiative "propelled OPI with the elimination of all the costs associated with accepting credit/debit cards. Subscribers and advertisers who pay with cash, check, money order or bank draft avoid processing fees while others see a fee line item on their receipt or invoice.”
OPI also created a new division named Star-Merchant Services aimed at assisting small to medium sized businesses with eliminating their credit card fees. Kotarek said, "Coming out of the pandemic and into an inflationary period, OPI viewed this as an act of goodwill, in hopes of improving the financial picture of struggling SMBs. To date, OPI has worked with 137 SMBs statewide to eliminate these exorbitant and unnecessary fees from their books."
The company's entry further noted: "Star-Merchant Services also recently converted two of the largest car dealerships in the state over to the Cash Discount Program eliminating their processing fees in full. In return for our assistance with improving their bottom line(s), these two auto dealers spent over $100,000 in incremental advertising spend. Thus, elevating this program into a novel and diversified revenue center. To date, SMBs who took advantage of the Cash Discount Program, reinvested over $208,000 of their interchange fee savings back into the Star-Advertiser marketing machine to assist them with driving store traffic, spurring impulse purchases, cultivating brand awareness and improving sales lift."
Richner Communications also was recognized at the conference as a finalist for establishing Easy Tax Credits, a program designed to help local SMBs take advantage of the Employee Retention Tax Credit. The Richner Communications entry was presented by Zachary Richner, director of Richner Communications, and Stuart Richner, CEO.
NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate were honored with the 2022 Mega-Innovation Award at the Mega-Conference for their sports betting vertical: BET.NOLA.com.
"When people comment on how innovative our digital replica iPad program is, I think about the tale my father once told me about the rabbit who climbed the tree," said Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher. "When someone said rabbits don’t climb trees, the response was: this one had to do it to survive.”
Putting on events has much in common with publishing, according to Jason Taylor, president of GateHouse Live and New Media Group Ventures. Publishers, he said, create content that attracts an audience, and they try to monetize that audience. "An event does the exact same thing."
By putting a computer screen on top of a newspaper rack, Oahu Publications opened up a new profit center. Called the Digital Billboard Network, the screen runs a seven-minute loop of news and advertising in high-traffic areas where people are likely to pass by or stand in line.
When Calkins Media was named a finalist for the 2016 Mega-Innovation award, its video stream produced by the Bucks County Courier Times was a repeating four-hour content block. Now, it is essentially a local TV station.
When Vince Johnson was first named publisher of the Forsyth County News, the paper had a rule about social media. Only one article was posted to Facebook each day, at 6 a.m. In his entry form for the Mega-Innovation competition, Johnson noted that rule officially died on Jan. 20, 2014. Since then, the paper has increased its social media following by more than 1,000 percent. That's just one example of how the Forsyth County News, described by Johnson as "wildly traditional" not so long ago, has changed.