Have readers take your newspaper for a spin

June 1, 2015

By Thad Swiderski

President | eType Sercvices


inyl records will never go away—they sound better, look better and provide a lasting representation of the music. But today’s vinyl records come with a digital download card that also provides that music in a format people can take with them. Print newspapers are the vinyl records of content. They will never go away, but mobile devices and computers have forever changed the way their content is consumed. A newspaper’s “digital download card” is the website and e-edition. 

We are living in the Golden Age of audience engagement. The tools at our fingertips enable us to see our readers’ habits. The last century’s editors would have loved to have access to these types of tools. Sadly, though, we find that today’s editors do not use the tools that are readily available to them. 

It is an easy step for writers and editors to use the Web effectively to drive reader engagement.


Effective web presence

The features of a robust website can drive traffic, and effective strategies at newspaper websites can drive readership and subscriptions.

The goals of an effective website are easy to understand. The first goal is to drive readership and page views so that we can sell advertising. The second goal is to drive subscribers to the print and digital products. In order to reach these goals, there are several rules: 

First, do not give away your content. No further explanation necessary.

Second, use an integrated login to access content. Whether they’re reading the news from the Web, e-edition or a mobile app, users want a single login. Ultimately, this must be integrated with your print circulation.

Third, the website cannot just contain the same content that appeared in the paper. If you are simply cutting and pasting your content to your website, your digital presence is competing with your printed product. An e-edition is a great way to share your content in digital format. The website should be unique content that drives readers to the website, even when they read the paper. The goal is to have your readers check your website every day.

Fourth, responsive design websites are critical for the mobile user. Half of all website visits today come from mobile devices. Everyone is carrying what in effect is a little computer right in their pocket, and they like to access the news at all times of the day and night. Your website must be ready for those visitors.

Now that we have outlined some basic parameters, let’s look at some features that help drive page views. Keeping in mind rule number three—not regurgitating your content on the Web—here are some features that can help double page views on your site. 

Video: Technical advancements in the last five years have made it easy for video to become much more of a focal point on your website. Readers want to see coverage of the football game, city council meetings and important events in a video format. No other media outlet can provide this, and nothing drives traffic more than having relevant videos on your website.

Daily updates: Updating your website with fresh content each day gives people a reason to come back often to your site. For weeklies, this content is particularly critical to keeping readers engaged. The daily update should not necessarily be news items from your paper, but rather, information about what’s happening in town or in the coming edition.


SEO of ROP ads

Converting your ROP ads into digital ads that are optimized for search engines is the easiest way to begin driving page views and collecting revenue on your website, while greatly benefiting your advertisers. Google will send you visitors based on your ROP advertising. Each time readers search for a business in your town, the results should send them back to your site and a landing page developed for the ROP ad. This can be easily accomplished with a variety of services.

Here are some effective strategies for driving readership based on the size of your newspaper.




Bearing in mind the rule to never regurgitate your content on the Web, we recommend putting teaser content from your printed edition on the site, and driving people to the e-edition. This strategy uses your printed edition in electronic form and keeps your staff from too much cutting and pasting. We have found that readers will pay a subscription price for something that they think is the newspaper. In effect, your website becomes a billboard for selling subscriptions to your paper. Weeklies can employ this strategy to drive subscriptions (goal number two), but to drive readership, they must also include the features that the paper doesn’t offer.


Community dailies
and twice weeklies

Papers of this size create a wider variety of content and can keep a website populated with the “rest of the story.” We recommend a login website with a companion mobile app that also includes the features listed above. Dailies still need to provide content that is not in the paper, but the bulk of the content needs to be uploaded behind a paywall. We recommend that editors meter the stories—that is, make one or two of them free each week.  

These are just a few of the techniques that we have uncovered to helping community papers on the Web. Design and content go hand-in-hand to create an effective Web presence. Papers need to be engaged digitally to survive. 

Let’s not let what happened to the music business happen to the news business. Sure, vinyl records are making a comeback, but like the music industry, the newspaper industry will need to adapt to meet the needs of today’s consumers. © Thad Swiderski 2015


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