Distributing sample copies is one of the most popular ways to sell new subscriptions. The samples can be sent by using the Periodical Mail sampling privilege, or delivering them via your own carriers.
Too many papers send out samples, but don't back the effort up with visible and assertive promotion that encourages the recipient to subscribe.
My advice: do all you can to sell a subscription. And make sure the issue is a beauty. As an example of this practice, I received a copy of the Kuna/Melba News of Kuna, Idaho, one of the country's finest smaller weekly papers, The sample edition included a front page story, full page ad, and insert, all promoting new subscriptions.
Publisher Nicola McIntosh points out, "I find that it's always good to let our current readers & advertisers know what we are up to in terms of building circulation and hopefully get them to suggest subscribing to friends as well. Also, every time we do a sample issue, I find that it helps generate a small amount of new advertising from business owners who received the issue.
"While we did not make huge strides with the sampling effort, it is helping us maintain our subscription numbers in what has continued to be a challenging environment for circulation."
In general, look for about a one to two percent return from sampling, i.e. 10 to 20 new subscriptions per thousand distributed.
Nicola sent along PDFs of the front page, ad and insert. If you would like them, just drop me an e-mail to email@example.com.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ms. McIntosh.
All my best,
Comments/Readers Helping Readers
Previous question, continued: how do you type and punctuate long Web/e-mail addresses?
Use a URL Redirector
From David Leone, associate editor, The Wake Weekly, Wake Forest, NC
What I do is test the address in its shortest iteration possible. If it goes without the www., I don't use it. For longer urls, I tend to use a Tiny url redirector such as bit.ly or Tiny.cc. They cost nothing, for now at least. Often you can make up the shortened url name to be memorable. Here are some examples I've used:
The Wake Weekly Facebook link
Mormons' Faith 5K:
South Main St. construction updates
Falls Lake Draft Rules
WF Unplugged event
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Leone.
Previous question, continued: How do you Handle Election Support Letters? Keep the Big Picture in Mind
From Angelo Lynn, editor/publisher, The Independent, Middlebury, VT
Here's my take on candidate letters:
1. First, the big picture is to get people to read the paper; to think the paper is important to them and to their friends and community.
When a person writes a letter to the paper about anything, and then reads it with the pride and satisfaction of having taken a small step toward being a part of this democracy - that is a good thing, and newspapers across the country miss an opportunity if they are not supporting that. Newspapers have the opportunity, through letters to the editor, of promoting the idea of discussing real issues in a responsible way - a rarity in today's social media.
2. The details are more problematic, but if the big picture is kept in mind, it's certainly doable: On candidate letters we set some guidelines, including all the usual stuff about using appropriate language, etc., but also: the letters must discuss at least one issue the candidate supports, and must be about more than the candidate is a nice guy (or gal). Having nice hair and being a Boy Scout is not enough; the writer has to know enough about the candidate's platform to discuss at least one idea and hopefully more. Character traits can be included, but not without some discussion of an issue. We also warn letter-writers and candidates that we watch for form letters sent out by the candidate or reelection committees, and don't run any of them.
Support letters have to reflect the individual's take on the candidate and campaign. (The form letters are pretty easy to spot. We used to get more of them several years ago, but now we rarely do as our readers know they'll get trashed.)
3. The biggest problem we have today is space to run them all. But that's a good problem to have. We've run the better parts of 4 to 5 pages of editorial/op ed pages for the past three weeks prior to the election, and we have a Monday edition as well. (We're twice-weekly serving a county of 32,000 people and have a countywide state senate race, 7 state house seats, and the statewide races. We're the 7th largest paid circulation paper in the state - it's a small state! - with about 40-44 broadsheet pages on Thursday and another 36-48 tab pages on Monday. (So we are big enough to absorb these pages without overwhelming the rest of our community coverage.) Anyway, we'll probably run close to 100 letters before the election. And the letters are educational... even though we interview all the candidates and know them pretty well, we learn new things about the candidates and new insights through the letters. Not all are great or well written, not all meet our criteria, but just the fact that it's important to the readers and voters and candidates that they get letters of support in the paper says a lot about how the community values the paper as a reliable source of credible information - and that credibility is valuable in a social media marketplace that is lacking in integrity.
(Note: You do have to spend time and effort to keep the letters informative or you lose that credibility and you want to avoid, as Andy Taylor says*, free space for candidates to advertise their campaigns.)
*Ken's note - comments in the last Black Inkling.
4. Long story short, while the public tires of the campaign, they still appreciate the attention we pay to the elections and the space we devote to it for the three to four weeks it takes every other year.
And the advertising follows. Because we are the paper that devotes attention to the elections, we're also where most of the candidates advertise. That, of course, doesn't mean the letters or the ads are substitutes for candidates needing to go door-to-door to win votes; but, if done well, the letters help connect candidates to the people and helps make the community more receptive to the public discourse of each election. After all, if a reader sees that a neighbor or friend endorses a candidate (and they have heretofore tuned out, or support someone else), my bet is that reader is going to read the letter, and if either candidate knocks on the door to say hello, that person will be more receptive to hearing what the candidate says and even asking a tough question or two. And that, in an editor's world, is success on many levels.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Lynn.
A reader who prefers to remain anonymous asks: Are you aware of newspapers with Employee Stock Option Plans? How well do they work?
Needs Software Advice
From Dennis Lombard, publisher, The Home Times, West Palm Beach, FL
Does anyone know of a simple (inexpensive) program for keeping track of ROP, Directory, and Classified ads in our monthly paper?
Also - a repeat of the question from the last issue: What software are weekly newspapers using for ad tracking, classified line ads and pagination? We are using Macs and InDesign.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Lombard.
More Unique Newspaper Names
The Advertiser-Gleam* - Guntersville, AL
The Gleaner** - Henderson, KY
The Outlook - Othello, WA
* "Gleam" def. - shine brightly
** "Gleaner" def. - extract (information) from various sources.
"Almost every one of us (age no longer matters) has an electronic leash. It can be your e-mail, Facebook, cellphone, pager, Twitter, Skype, MSN Messenger, chat rooms, texting, and the list goes endlessly on it seems. You think you're up to date? Wait a week, and you're obsolete. But the ultimate effect of all these communications miracles is that you're always on call.
" . . . There are times I have gotten so frustrated I have actually started texting people at the table just to start a conversation even though we were already face to face."
Bill Nicholls, editor-in-chief, The Nation, Montreal, Quebec in the ISWNE newsletter.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Nicholls.
Black Inkling #2: Tips for Hometown Papers
Dear Black Ink readers:
Recently, a reader posted a question about Patch - 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. Note! - Patch sites are aimed toward smaller communities served by hometown papers like yours.
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.
Here's a request for those unfamiliar with this new venture, as most of us are. Go to www.patch.com
Check the sites already launched or soon to be launched in your state (at the right side of the home page).
Check some of their other plans - such as PatchU, which is designed to train LOCAL editors and reporters; and the "about us" section.
Pass on a few of your thoughts about Patch and its potential impact on community journalism to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much,
Comments/Readers Helping Readers
How to Get Reader Feedback
From Jessica Giard, editor, the Chamberlain (SD) Sun
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?
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ms. Giard.
More Unique Newspaper Names
The Reaper - Richfield, UT
The Spirit of Jefferson - Charles Town, SC
The Gyp Hill Premiere - Medicine Lodge, KS
"Our duty is to keep the universe thoroughly posted concerning murders and streetfights, and balls, and theaters, and pack-trains, and churches, and lectures, and schoolhouses, and city affairs, and highway robberies and Bible societies, and haywagons, and a thousand other things which is in the province of local reporters to keep track of and magnify into undo importance for the instruction of readers."
- Mark Twain, referring to his time as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to the late great Mark Twain and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors newsletter.
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.
"A new set of knowledgeable eyes . . ."
Steve Mores, publisher, the Harlan (IA) Tribune - "It's always good to have a new set of knowledgeable eyes looking at what you're doing. Ken gave us that. He offered suggestions, gave us input as to what "norms" were and where we might have varied from them. His closing report and notebook of ideas have been very helpful. Compared with what we've spent with other "consultants", he was the one who was well worth it."
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Mores.
"Provided a roadmap for a turnaround . . . "
John Greider, General Manager, The Mid Valley Town Crier, Weslaco, TX - “Ken's visit was a Godsend. My predecessor had given notice the same day Ken was scheduled to wrap up his visit. Needless to say, as the new interim
GM, I leaned heavily on Ken's findings once his report came in. Without this roadmap, I doubt we would have been able to turn the property around as quickly as we did. Now three years later, I still refer back to many of Ken's suggestions. His insight, in particular with community newspapers, has been
invaluable. I would highly recommend a market visit to anyone who is seeking guidance from a highly objective point of view.”
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Greider.
Write at any time
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