An inside look at the new, Newspaper National Network


While the newspaper may be one of the oldest forms of traditional media, in the last decade, they have evolved to engage communities, drive advertiser results and enjoy the largest audiences ever across platforms and devices. And the Newspaper National Network has played a major role in that evolution. For almost 20 years, the NNN has focused on maximizing the local market connection of newspapers on a national level. Specifically, the NNN creates and delivers innovative, scalable solutions to advertisers and ad agencies. Operating as a unique combination of sales and marketing, advocacy and media buying, the NNN's client-centric service provides multi-market, multi-media, multi-cultural solutions, across print, digital, mobile, social and event platforms. The NNN encompasses 9,000 print newspapers, local online, mobile, tablets, FSIs, ethnic publications, and weekly/suburban papers.

The organization has seen its own evolution over the last few years as well. Since 2013, Ray Chelstowski has served as the CEO, spearheading a multitude of efforts. Ray has more than 19 years of national advertising experience, serving as a publisher of Rolling Stone (2007-2008) and Entertainment Weekly (2009-2010). He also served as publisher of Newsweek (with The Daily Beast) in 2010-2011. We had the opportunity to talk with Ray about his background, the recent initiatives from NNN and its Top 25 entity in the comScore news/information category.

Ray Chelstowski

NNN: The Perfect Union of Ray’s Experiences

Working at the NNN blends the best parts of Ray’s other publishing experiences, he says. At Rolling Stone, Ray experienced how a smaller magazine company could be rich in innovation and have a powerful impact that excites readers and advertisers. At Entertainment Weekly, Ray served as a publisher for a larger, corporate entity. Time Inc. offered Ray a tremendous amount of resources and scale that gave them the ability to go to market with fully-developed ideas fortified by corporate backing. Ray then entered the news industry as publisher of Newsweek and the Daily Beast. While there, he discovered that what resonated most with people was news within their own neighborhoods. He then knew that news was the industry he wanted to reside in because he could see how well marketers and readers recognized the power of those platforms.

From there, Ray transitioned to Digital First Media, the second largest newspaper company in the country. The company was in the beginning stages of Thunderdome, a sales and marketing initiative that allowed its community papers to focus on local market news while Digital First concentrated on the national editorial responsibilities and syndicate that content so it would be symmetrical across the network. This initiative led Ray to start thinking about a symmetrical architecture across all newspaper properties. This DFM model provided content alignment for national advertisers, allowing them to run ads in any market and know that the ad would be opposite either national syndicated content or local content that was important to that market. It was an exciting initiative that sparked Ray to use technology to effectively unite strong content with effective marketing initiatives and that led him to NNN.

NNN: The Perfect Marriage

The NNN is a 20-year-old, fast moving, nimble operation, Ray says. We operate in the moment with scale and we represent trusted news brands. The NNN has three separate pillars to our day-to-day. The first is advocacy. The NNN acts as an arm of the Newspaper Association of America to promote the power and strength of its brands. This goes beyond sales initiatives to case studies and research analysis that gives marketers an enhanced understanding of why newspapers work. The second piece is the sales and marketing arm, which Ray calls the development engine. Through that, the organization reaches out to advertisers with ideas and opportunities, which builds business for the industry and impactful campaigns for the advertiser. The last is the NNN’s media buying agency arm, in which the company operates on behalf of major advertisers and their agencies as a valued partner in buying local market media across platforms. We occupy a very unique place within the ad media landscape, and I can’t think of an enterprise in in print media that’s similar to it,  reflects Ray.

The Unique Abilities of the NNN

Last year, the NNN formalized its digital division, N3 Digital. One thing that’s very powerful about digital newspaper is that when you look across publishers and markets, you see a lot of symmetry in the way that digital platforms are designed, managed and executed, Ray says. This ability to build things with symmetry allows us to take a delivery system to a market that has a lot of common ground and build solutions against it in a meaningful way.

Earlier this year, the NNN launched its comScore Top 25, which includes properties from Tribune, Advance, McClatchy, Hearst, Gannett and Digital First, among others. NNN’s network entity is comprised of 115 newspaper websites in all top 25 DMAs. It’s extremely appealing to advertisers because this group has a potential reach of more than 100 million unique visitors ages 18+ each month. This is an audience larger than those reached by major general news sites including NBC News, FOX News, BUZZFEED and Huffington Post. Our sales story and value proposition is now supported by research, Ray noted. This comScore classification is large enough to deliver scale while also attracting a desirable multi-platform audience for advertisers. We’ve used this entity in the marketplace to support our value proposition to advertisers and it’s effective.

The NNN is also diving into native advertising opportunities with magazine content partners, such as Prevention and This Old House. These publications have well-regarded names, big circulations and big business within their print product, but have been challenged in digital because their scale isn’t at an equal standing to where they are in print, Ray says. This gives the NNN the ability to build programs that are important to local consumers using content produced by magazines that will immediately resonate. In a world where native is everything, we have content that we know is created by trusted brands the advertisers can feel comfortable being adjacent to. For example, a home improvement retailer may have specific regional needs and they were ready to build a program using This Old House content that tied to the weather for Labor Day weekend. You could say that it’s going to be sunny and dry in Arizona and here’s what you should work on with your house via tips from This Old House.

I’ve read that in the next five years, almost half of all local market advertising will be from national advertisers, Ray says. That’s because those advertisers don’t truly have national footprints or, if they do, the areas where they need to concentrate their efforts are strategic and may be against a very specific audience. Given the fact that targeting is more efficient than ever, marketers are trying to determine how to work with newspaper brands to create opportunities that connect with people in a market in a unique way. We feel like the market is moving toward us and these content and technology partnerships are critical. The audience for local from a marketing perspective is larger than it’s ever been. Advertisers and agencies are using our services to capitalize on this, and it’s working, he adds.

Bringing It to Life

Earlier this year, the NNN worked with Skittles for a campaign around the Super Bowl. Marshawn Lynch, a player on the Seattle Seahawks, is known for eating Skittles before, during and after games. In an effort to capitalize on that, the NNN worked with Mars’ agencies and the Seattle Times to develop a custom campaign where the publication changed the S in Sports and Seahawks to the Skittles S. It involved a digital play, which went a step further – when you scrolled over the Skittles S in Sports and Seahawks, a brand message “Enjoy” popped up.  Skittles also ran congratulatory ads in the Super Bowl preview section and the special Victory Parade edit that followed the Super Bowl in print and reinforced the connection between the Skittles brand, the Seahawks and the Seattle Times. The buzz that this built within one of the most cluttered media moments of the year was substantial, Ray says. Through collaboration the NNN created an impactful campaign communicating the Skittles asset and incorporating it as part of the content delivery of the paper to connect with the local community of sports fans as only newspaper media can. It made the relationship between content and reader more dynamic, Ray adds.  

Newspaper brands have evolved beyond paid newsprint. The NNN is in a unique position in the marketplace when it comes to local in that we assemble solution-based initiatives with trusted brands, Ray says. That will be critical for media planners going forward, he says. The NNN isn’t just focused on print, but also mobile, display, email, tablet and even magazine and broadcast. I believe the NNN is one of the few organizations that is capable of taking local market assets and assembling them in a solution-based manner to build the buzz for brands, move products off shelves and enable agencies to create case studies they’ll use on every business call, Ray concludes.

Thanks to Ray for sharing his experiences with us and other media partners. To find out more about the NNN, visit

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