This reader-propelled issue focuses primarily on the electronic side of newspapers, including the use of Facebook for reader input; and opinions and observations on the local websites - called Patch - being launched across the country by America Online.
Note the opportunity to receive free PDFs of postcards used in a sampling campaign. Thanks to the Ellsworth (ME) American.
With kind regards,
Comments/Readers Helping Readers
Previous question - I'm wanting to incorporate some sort of reader feedback vehicle into our operations. What suggestions do other newspapers have to garner regular reader feedback? What works?; what doesn't?
Communicate with your Readers on Facebook
>From Roger Harnack, publisher, The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle, Omak, WA
We are using Facebook for that very purpose. Look up Omak Chronicle on Facebook and you'll be able to see how much interactivity we have with our readers. We've set up Facebook "friend" and "fan" pages, allowing us to have a conversation with our readers on nearly every topic you can think of. With more than 4,000 connections already, we have been able to effectively engage readers on a variety of topics. We have also been able to mine their posts for news tips, some which have led to very good stories. At the same time, we use Facebook to tell people what is in this week's edition of the newspaper as well as what is on our website. Since adding a Facebook presence, our Web site traffic has grown 50 percent and our print sales have risen nearly 2 percent.
Another Facebook Example
>From Bill Garber, founder, Interlink, Inc., Berrien Springs, MI
The social side of media appears to be where the momentum is today, both on the consumer side as well as on the business side.
Some papers are using Facebook, including Interlink client, Spotlight Newspapers:
As you can see comments are possible, and readers can click to 'like' a news item. However, not many comments appear here. Perhaps they encourage conventional letters to the editor, which they accept by e-mail at the website
I think that with a little promotion in the paper, readers may get more involved by way of commenting on various news stories, too. And Facebook is really easy to host those comments … and it is FREE!
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Harnack and Mr. Garber.
Postcards Used for Sampling; Great Results
>From Deborah Tucker, circulation manager, The Ellsworth (ME) American
We did sampling last year with our two weeklies using a trifold postcard that residents could use to request 4 weeks free. The Ellsworth American sent out 19,318 offers, received 1,019 requests and converted 215 to paid. Our smaller island newspaper mailed out 7,150 offers, received 442 requests and converted 105. We were pleased with the results.
NOTE - if you would like PDF copies of the postcards, just drop me an
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ms. Tucker.
Needed: Subscription Software
>From Sarah Burns, The Hinton (AB) Voice
As an owner of a new startup paper In Hinton, Alberta I find your e-mails invaluable.
I am wondering what subscriber based papers out there are using to organize their subscriptions. We have tried to use our accounting, but it is not ideal. We are about to resort to building our own uber excel sheet and are wondering if there is something already in use out there.
NOTE FROM KEN - you may want to check out a unique and eye-catching feature on the Hinton Voice website. The flag at the top of the home page rotates local pictures of the Hinton area with the nameplate in the foreground. At the top right of the flag, there is a moving tab - click on it to order a subscription to the Voice. It's great to see an effective way to sell print subscriptions on a newspaper website.
Go to: www.hintonvoice.ca
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ms. Burns.
Reader Observations about Patch Websites
Topic: Patch is a relatively new business venture financed with tens of millions of dollars from AOL, which is setting up hundreds of local news websites across the country that will directly compete with community newspapers.
Here's how the Patch sites work:
- A local editor is hired, perhaps a person from your staff who applied for the position. An attractive salary is offered.
- The editor recruits local contributors.
- Local advertising is sold on the sites. As the number of sites increase, I'm sure AOL will offer all sorts of regional/national buys.
Can Patch Attract Ads?
>From Bob Bobber, RJ Publication Services, Orlando, FL
I think the financial model is flawed.
Why does AOL think they can sell enough Internet advertising at a profitable level for their local sites when community newspapers are having a tremendous problem doing it for years? Up till now (keep in mind I didn't think USA Today would succeed) Internet advertising on a newspaper's website has yet to be a very successful venture.
Readers go to news sites for news - what a concept - not to shop. The amount of advertising that can be sold is limited (usually the rotation is only about 4 or 5 banners) and the effectiveness hard to measure.
People have already learned to go to Web pages and block out the adjacent advertising. Research has shown us so far that people go to the Internet much in the same fashion they used to go to the Yellow Pages. They have generally made buying decisions and are researching prices, phone numbers and locations. Rarely does someone go to the Internet to "shop" but rather to "buy".
What this basically means is that if you are in business you need a website that your customers can come to but advertising it on someone else's website is not that effective if at all.
One way to get customers to come to your website is advertising in a community newspaper. We don't have to fear the Internet we just need to figure out how to use it to our advantage.
The Big Question: Do Readers Like It?
>From Thomas Nash, publisher, Hersam Acorn Newspapers, Ridgefield, CT
We have Patch sites in several of our towns, competing directly with our online sites (there is also the Patch-Like, but smaller MainStreetconnect.us). Several of our editors have left to go to Patch for more pay and, presumably, more opportunity.
We see lots of advertising on the MainStreetconnect sites but understand that the ads are being given away and we don't see many ads on Patch. I would be less interested in what other publishers and journalists have to say about Patch than what the readers in our community have to say about it. Thanks for undertaking the study, however.
Competition Makes Us Better
>From Bill Glazier, editor, The South Pasadena (CA) Review
If nothing else, I think Patch has made us better. In some ways competition is good. We've worked hard over the years to maintain our loyal readers and gain new ones. With the presence of Patch, it only gives us an incentive to work harder to make our product even better.
Concern about Aggregators
>From Gary Sosniecki, former Missouri weekly publisher, now regional sales
Personally I think small community papers should be more concerned about aggregators like American Towns and Topix right now. Patch seems to be concentrating in suburban markets. But, just as with print competition, all
potential online competitors need to be monitored.
So Far, Patch Targets Suburbs
>From Cindy Thayer, advertising manager, Hells Canyon Journal, Halfway, OR
I looked at the Patch listings for a couple of states in which I used to live, and found that most of the Patch sites were for suburban communities. The Patch sites for New York, for example, were all downstate, and the majority seemed to be on Long Island as far as I could tell. Nothing for the more rural small towns mid-or upstate, like Skaneatales, Dunkirk, Fredonia, Jamestown, or even suburbs of Buffalo or Rochester. Same thing in Maryland--lots of Patch sites for suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, even one for Bethesda! But I didn't see any for the small farming communities in western Maryland.
Rural communities, who actually could be best served by a potentially instantly interactive news source such as Patch (no local radio or tv for informing the community about school closings, road conditions, etc), evidently are not on the AOL financiers' radar. We don't represent enough financial power, so I don't see Patch as being a threat to rural small-town community newspapers. We're the only ones who will do the job for such little pay!
Patch in the Big Apple
>From Walter Sanchez, publisher, Queens Ledger, Brooklyn Star Newspaper
Group, Maspeth, NY
Patch has launched a few sites in our circulation area. They are attracting a few local advertisers taking none of the advertisers away.
However, we see their focus on community journalism as a positive influence on our papers. We have been around longer and have had a longer and deeper Web influence. Their launch has motivated our staff to do more online and to use social media to gain wider reach.
We have launched a few wordpress blogs, recruiting local bloggers to make daily entries. They see us as a good outlet because we put those blogs on our newspaper Web sites as community columns. We also run excerpts of their blog entries in our newspapers. They see this as getting a better reach, and love seeing their entries in our print publications.
Our model in this effort is to solicit their advertisers at a lower price because we have better economy of scale for producing our sites. We share Web advertising income with our bloggers.
We do not fear their entry into our community at all. We think they are getting advertisers and we can offer them more. By offering local advertisers our blogs, Web site and newspaper we are getting more interest and more clients.
We intentionally do not brand these blogs with our newspaper logo. We just sell the site separately.
Ken's note - also check out www.queensledger.com
More Information about Patch
>From Bill Garber, founder, Interlink, Inc., Berrien Springs, MI
Sites about Patch that you can cut and paste into your address bar:
Patch … how much can $50 million buy, by way of journalists?
The fact that patch is focusing on journalistically 'underserved' 'communities' in the 15,000 to 100,000 residents -- http://www.rjionline.org/in-the-news/stories/research/stories/triple_pundit/index.php
It means that it is of no serious threat to community journalism of the conventional stripe.
If Patch is the enemy, here is their battle plan and mug shots of the leadership --http://www.patch.com/about
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Bobber, Mr. Nash, Mr. Glazier, Mr. Sosniecki, Ms. Thayer, Mr. Sanchez and, again, Mr. Garber.
More Unique Newspaper Names
The Hi-Desert Star - Yucca Valley, CA
The True Citizen - Waynesboro, GA
The Landmark - Platte City, MO
"Local, local, local is back in vogue as more and more consumers are embracing things like: micro brewed beer, locally grown produce, vegetables and meat raised close to home, coffee blended and roasted for one insular market . . . and news that reflects their neighborhood or community. People want to be connected to their 'home'; however they define it."
Dave Bruha, owner/editor, the Consort (AB) Enterprise from an article in the ISWNE newsletter.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Bruha.
Black Inkling: Tip for Hometown Papers (1/19/11)
>From Ken Blum
Dear Black Ink readers:
It's not called a "special section" for nothing.
Special sections typically take a special effort and extra expense, but the vast majority of newspapers charge the same rates that apply to ads run in the flow of the regular paper.
This is why it's perfectly legitimate to tack on an extra charge for ads run in special sections. A good rule of thumb is 20% more than open, earned or contract rates.
Consider this policy for your newspaper. It can yield tens of thousands of dollars in annual plus revenue.
All my best,
Comments/Readers Helping Readers Previous question - I am wondering what subscriber based papers out there are using to organize their subscriptions. We have tried to use our accounting, but it is not ideal. We are about to resort to building our own uber excel sheet and are wondering if there is something already in use out there.
>From Nicola McIntosh, publisher, The Kuna/Melba (ID) News
In response to the folks looking for an affordable subscription management system, I highly recommend Interlink. We find it to be quite affordable. For us, the postal savings generated by Interlink more than pay for the ongoing monthly costs as well as the initial upfront investment. The software is tailor-made for the community newspaper business and the staff at Interlink is highly knowledgeable, helping us get set up quickly and then being available for customer service calls anytime we need them.
Contact is Helen Sosniecki, (888) 473-3103.
Any Experience with Extra!32?
>From Michael Jaeckle, the Beacon, Deland, FL
We're just getting ready to switch to Extra!32 by Dennisoft to manage our subscribers. Do any other publishers have experience with this system?
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ms. McIntosh and Mr. Jaeckle.
Increase Revenue from Auto Dealers
>From Barry Merrill, publisher, the Princeton (NC) News-Leader
Ken's note - I am repeating this tip from Barry Merrill because Mr. Merrill has since sent along copies of the cover and inside page of this auto section. If you would like the two PDF's just drop me an e-mail to email@example.com.
Some other community newspapers may find some increased revenue during these hard times in the same way we did, and from a place they haven't had much from lately - car dealers.
One of the regional dailies in our area began a substantial discount program to car dealers, selling at less than the weeklies were charging. We tried to figure a way to get some of their business back, but kept coming up substantially empty, particularly in this tough automotive market.
A few months ago we decided to try an auto tab. We decided to target the auto dealers with a full color product, no editorial content, giving the participating dealers a logo on the cover, along with a Sizzling Summer Deals theme (or whatever is appropriate for the season).
As it is a solid advertising product, not lifting any editorial content, we basically cut our rate in half and threw in the color, quite an incentive for our auto dealers to participate. They know it is a tab page, but it still sounds impressive when we say you can buy the back page in full color for $600.
We price the inside pages slightly less, have tried to sell the double truck (full broadsheet page turned sideways) but we have sold a number of fulls and halfs inside. We get more per inch on halves and quarters, and have sold a few quarters to help fill the tabs out. We did run a four page, but have sold six pages of most of the eight page tabs we run, usually one every six to eight weeks.
It's helped get our foot in the door with some dealers and we have picked up some business in the regular paper, on our auto recession rate there. Challenging times call for some creative thinking, and sometimes you can stumble across an idea that actually pays off.
Thanks and a tip of the hat again to Mr. Merrill.
Question from Ken:
I am in the process of writing a book about photojournalism. I have about 3/4 of the prints I'm going to use as illustrations, and I need to create a couple dozen more prints from 35 mm negatives. I did a lot of dodging and burning in the darkroom for the original prints and, needless to say, it's almost impossible to find a working darkroom these days, and I just can't seem to get a quality print from scanning the negatives.
Does anyone know a service that can do quality custom prints from 35mm negatives? I can send a newspaper clip of the original picture to use as a model. Or, is there any way to scan a negative to output a quality print?
More Unique Newspaper Names
The Constitution - Lawton, OK
The Barnstable Patriot - Hyannis, MA
The Mercury - Manhattan, KS
“Newspapers cannot be defined by the second word -- paper. They've got to be defined by the first word -- news.”
- New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberg, Jr.
Books To Help Your Newspaper Succeed
A reminder about the two books I offer to hometown papers.
- In 1998, I released "Black Ink/The Book" which is chock full of ways for hometown newspapers to improve their products and profits. Since that time more than 3,000 copies of the book have been sold, and it's likely the best-selling how-to book of all time for community papers.
The first two printings of the hardcover edition sold out, and now I offer a softcover version that's reprinted periodically.
Black Ink/The Book is 280 pages and includes 133 chapters, nearly 200 illustrations from newspapers from all over the country and dozens of "Black Ink Tidbit" ideas. There are four sections including management, advertising, circulation and editorial.
- I also offer an e-book with 700 pages and 1,000 ways to build paid circulation.
Here's the scoop:
- A quarterly publication called Publisher's Circulation Reference (published between 1997-2004) was a superb source of ideas for increasing the paid circulation of paid community papers.
- I bought PCR, and put all the issues on a single CD - a great big bundle of practical techniques, including 30 issues and more than 700 pages. There are more than 1,000 ideas, including subscriptions sales promotions, management columns, in-paper ads, renowned circulation Expert Ron Anderson's "Circulation Ideas at a Glance" columns, tips for increasing single copy sales, and circulation marketing strategies.
- The e-book is done in a PDF format that will work on almost any computer. I've set it up so all you have to do is click on any topic in the table of contents, and it goes right to the page. Print it out if you like. Click on the upper right hand corner of any page and it takes you right back to the table of contents. It's simple as 1-2-3 to navigate through this treasure of advice.
- Also included is a printed copy of the table of contents that you can peruse away from the computer.
The cost is $95 for Black Ink/The Book and $129 for the circulation book. The cost includes shipping. A SPECIAL - BOTH BOOKS FOR $200. Just e-mail your name, address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send the book(s) out with an invoice. If you would like to get payment out of the way, just ask me to give you a call for a credit card number.
My Advising Service
I've worked with hundreds of hometown papers as an advisor.
I prefer the term "advisor" rather than "consultant." I ran hometown papers for over 30 years, and I know that every newspaper faces a different set of challenges and opportunities.
I've written a book and more than 375 columns in Publishers' Auxiliary about all aspects of their operation. I've visited hundreds of papers. I'm a friendly, low key guy who is here to help your good newspaper become even better, and much stronger financially for both the short and long term.
Best of all, I'm affordable for even the smallest weeklies. I would like to send you the details - just drop me an e-mail to email@example.com.
>From a Fan
"A breath of fresh air . . ."
Jim Schmitz, Publisher/General Manager, STAR newspaper, Cambridge, MN - "Ken Blum is a breath of fresh air. His ability to politely point a finger at both opportunities and potential stumbling blocks makes his "second opinion" invaluable. After his visit last Spring, we found the courage to make several significant changes in our operation that we could never get past the planning table. Ken's fee was recovered in la short time on just one circulation idea. Ken helps you think about strategies and options."
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Schmitz.
>From a Fan
“One of my best business decisions . . .”
Larry Atkinson, president, Bridge City Publishing, Inc., Mobridge, SD - “I've always prided myself on being very analytical about my business and knowing what the benchmarks should be, but after 27 years in the same business, it becomes more and more difficult to be truly objective. Ken provided the objective examination we found out we so badly needed. His suggestions for increased revenues and cost cutting amounted to $102,324 to our bottom line. While we disagreed with a couple of the suggestions, we are instituting most of them and expect to see more than $85,000 which will be an incredible addition to our net profits. Hiring Ken was one of the best businesses decisions I've ever made!”
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Atkinson.
Write at any time
2,800 community newspaper professionals receive Black Inklings. Feel free to send your comments and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know another person in the community newspaper field who may be interested in receiving this free newsletter, have them e-mail their name, job title, newspaper and e-mail address to email@example.com.