Attendees came prepared with great ideas

November 4, 2013

By Stanley Schwartz

Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

PHOENIX, AZ—If you were looking for ideas on how to promote your paper, generate more revenue and increase your circulation, then the Great Ideas Exchange at the 127th Annual National Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show was the place to be.

In a room packed with publishers, editors, managers and even journalism students, more than two-dozen people brought workable ideas to help out their peers. NNA President Robert M. Williams Jr. moderated the group, keeping the participants focused on the ideas, and even adding a few of his own.

Gene Johnson, with Press Publications in White Bear, MN, talked about a four-page, broadsheet wrap developed by his son, Carter. It is placed in the local hotels and motels, with the local Chamber of Commerce, picking up the bill for it. The wrap promoted White Bear Lake and its local businesses and happenings. And by being wrapped around the newspaper, it provided extra distribution for the newspaper.

John Galler with the Hillsboro (IL) Journal News introduced his paper’s multi-platform dissemination of news. In addition to the paper’s website, the staff also posts information on a Journal News Facebook page and recently began doing video reviews of local businesses, which helped drive traffic to the website, he said.

“It’s been pretty effective,” he said.

Deb McCaslin with the Custer County Chief in Broken Bow, NE, said the local tourism council produced a glossy magazine about the area, but it was going to outsource the production because of costs. McCaslin said she looked into it and was able to obtain a grant to pay for the printing expenses, increased the page count and was able to sell it out in three days.

Jennie Moore, with the Forney (TX) Messenger, said she took back a few ideas from last year’s Great Idea Exchange and implemented them at the weekly paper. She said they tried the half-price subscription sale, which was only available for two hours during one day if the people called in. To promote the sale, she said, they decided to call it “The Don’t Tell Judy Sale.”

Moore said people in Forney know that Messenger co-owner Judy Griffin does not give anything away. “We thought people would really buy into this,” she added. The sale worked, garnering 50 new subscribers to the paper.

She also tried the readers’ choice awards idea at the Messenger. They came up with 50 categories that readers could vote on. Moore started the program in May and by last June had a stack of submissions nearly four inches tall. She ran a special section at the end of August to announce the winners, giving said businesses the chance to buy ads.

Covering schools is a big part of a community newspaper’s legacy, and for Jennifer Chciuk with the West Essex Tribune in Livingston, NJ, that meant putting together a special graduation section for all the schools in her coverage area. They go through yearbooks to match photos with names and run graduation ceremony photos as well.

“We get ads from the parents and ads from the townships,” she said, “and every year this sells out on the newsstands.” Additional copies are kept in the Tribune’s office for sale, too.

Another project she said they worked on was anniversary issues. The town soon will be celebrating its 100th anniversary and about three years ago the paper began mining its archives for old photos on the history of the town. Advertisers could receive discounts off their ads in the section, depending on how many years they have been in the community. Chciuk took off $1 for every year, up to 60 years.

Lori Pankonin, with the Imperial (NE) Republication, said another thing to think about when doing graduation sections is checking with your state’s colleges and universities about advertising. She noted that they are interested in having graduating high school seniors come to their schools.

Brian Kramer, with Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, also touched on doing history sections within the paper. In each week’s paper he would cover about two years worth of the town’s history until the present day.

“It proved really popular,” he said. So much so that they took those articles and photos and turned them into a book, on heavier stock paper, he said. He printed 5,000 books and have sold more than 3,000 so far. They sell the books at the local Wal-Mart and at local events.

In extremely rural areas, where potential subscribers are way outside of the town limits, Tom Mullen, with the Newscastle Newsletter Journal said that the best way to reach them is by phone. He provides his people with a script. They call everyone, asking if he or she subscribes to the paper. If the answer is yes, the caller is asked if he or she has ideas on improving the paper. If person doesn’t subscribe, he or is offered a free two-month subscription. At the end of the two months, the person is contacted and asked if he or she would like to subscribe.

Jeff Mayo with the Sequoyah County Times in Sallisaw, OK, brought back an idea he has been using—take your paper on vacation. Subscribers take a copy of their paper when they go traveling, then take photos of themselves holding the paper in the various vacation spots and send them to the newspaper.

From there, Mayo said, he holds a contest for the best photo. At the end of the summer he runs all the photos in full color along with a voting form.

“It’s subjective,” he said. So people show up and buy multiple copies so they can vote more than once.

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