Honoring innovation!

BET.NOLA.com is the media initiative that captured this year's Mega-Innovation Award

Award recipients are NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate

Vince Johnson (center), group publisher of The Sumter Item and Gulf Coast Media and one of the judges for the Mega-Innovation Award, presents the 2022 award to (l-r) Kevin Hall, chief revenue officer; Judi Terzotis, president and publisher; Alisha Owens, vice president, sales; and Robert Young, vice president, digital solutions. (Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / PME Photography, Inc.)

America's Newspapers

NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate were honored with the 2022 Mega-Innovation Award at the Mega-Conference on Monday afternoon for their sports betting vertical: BET.NOLA.COM.

Sports betting is an extremely competitive multi-billion business across multiple states.  In the fall of 2021, in-person sports betting came to Louisiana and was legalized in 55 of 64 parishes across the state.  In January, mobile sports betting went live across Louisiana. 

In anticipation of legalized sports betting, the staff of NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate knew there would be a large appetite for relevant and engaging content across a myrid of platforms.

During a Monday afternoon session at the Mega-Conference, Judi Terzotis, president and publisher, and Kevin Hall, chief revenue officer, presented the entry that was recognized this year with the Mega-Innovation Award. They were joined by Alisha Owens, vice president, sales, and Robert Young, vice president, digital solutions.

They said the success of this content vertical was important for two reasons:

  • To satiate readers in Louisiana hungry for betting content.
  • To provide an advertising platform for sports betting companies that were entering the space.

Finalists for the Mega-Innovation Award were the Border Belt Independent and Stacker.

In the summer of 2021, BET.NOLA.COM was launched with a staff of four journalists.  The entry submitted by NOLA.com notes that a micro-site was built within the existing framework of the NOLA.com platform. BET.NOLA.COM was chosen as the brand because of the incredible statewide reach of NOLA.com, Lousiana's largest news website by a wide margin.

The site features a myriad of content, including:

  • Relevant storytelling about sports betting.
  • Interactive wagering modules.
  • Podcasts.
  • Daily content emails.
  • Weekly video broadcasts across the company's websites, YouTube and Facebook Live.

Each week, the papers' Sports Betting Director Zach Ewing hosts several weekly video shows covering a range of relevant sports betting topics from gambling to fantasy shows.  They include:

  • At the Book — Live every Thursday from Harrah's Casino in New Orleans.
  • Cashin' in with Carville — A weekly pics show with political analyst James Carville.
  • Bayou Bets — A weekend sports wrap up show every Monday.  Bayou Bets has more than 10,000 subscribers, with an open rate of nearly 30% on topical sports betting emails — well above the industry standard.  These content emails are sent out five to six times a week.
  • Fantasy Roundup — A weekly show on everything fantasy sports.
  • Dattitude — A three-times-a-week podcast featuring interviews and analysis.

To make BET.NOLA.COM stand out clearly to consumers, a direct integration with live odds with its sports betting content partner, Caesars Sportsbook, also was launched.  It includes:

  • An interactive ribbon with live odds on major sports undated in real time.
  • When merited, an interactive betting widget with live odds relevant to the game/event a particular story was covering.

To leverage the power of the papers' statewide audience to promote the launch of BET.NOLA.COM, campaigns were deployed to maximize impressions and reach the sports betting audience.

The papers tracked and optimized those deliverables and adjusted them accordingly based on performance.  Those deployments included:

  • Online display
  • Organic social posts
  • Organic social stories
  • Email marketing
  • Push notifications
  • Newspaper advertisements
  • Point of purchase advertising

The metrics:

The Mega-Innovation entry noted: "Spinning up a content initiative from scratch is clearly a collaborative endeavor.  It required yeoman effort cross-departmentally from News, Sales, Marketing and Information Technology. The result has been a measurably successful product that exceeded reader and advertiser expectations and proved once again the power of our audience."

Performance metrics from Sept. 1, 2021, through Jan. 31, 2022, included:

  • Story page views — 437,409
  • Email subscribers — 11,375
  • Video views — 321,016
  • Podcast listens — 29,133
  • Marketing impressions — 123,585,983

Learn more during a Mega-Conference session on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 in Griffin D & E: "Gaming — Big Gamble or New Business Model."

Congratulations to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The Advocate | The Acadiana Advocate ... recipients of the 2022 Mega-Innovation Award!

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Award Finalists
The Border Belt Independent, a nonprofit, online newsroom that covers four rural, high-poverty counties in southeast North Carolina, has developed a model to bring in-depth reporting to underserved areas, both online and in print.
Stacker's entry for the Mega-Innovation Award centered around the launch of its local storytelling offering.
Previous Innovation Award Recipients
2020 Recipient

The winner of the 2020 Mega-Innovation Award was the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for its iPad strategy. Pictured with the award is Eliza Gaines, VP of audience development at WEHCO Media Inc. (left), and publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. (Photo by Nu Yang/Editor & Publisher magazine)
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is awarded the Mega-Innovation Award
By Cindy Durham, America's Newspapers

"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.”

2019 Recipient

Pictured left to right: John Temple (one of the Mega-Innovation Award judges), and Jason Taylor, Rebecca Capparelli and Lyndsi Lane of GateHouse Live.
GateHouse Live puts on the show
By Jane Nicholes, SNPA Correspondent

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."

2018 Recipient

Broadcasting from a newspaper rack
By Jane Nicholes, SNPA Correspondent

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.

2017 Recipient

Local newspaper also provides local TV
By Jane Nicholes, SNPA Correspondent

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.

2016 Recipient
Innovation for all sizes
By Jane Nicholes, SNPA Correspondent

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.