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How would you improve this paper?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Write-brained, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. I may be asking too much with this thread but I've been trying to think of ways a friend of mine can improve his newspaper.

    He actually owns a small weekly, about 1,000-2,000 circulation, in a rural county deep in the South. He comes to me for advice every now and then because he's a businessman, not a newspaperman, and he's considering giving up.

    The county already has a twice-a-week paper of record that's about twice the size and he's struggling to grow. The bigger paper, part of a small chain, often pisses people off with its editorializing and politics so there's definitely an opportunity to steal some of its readers.

    The problem is there's not a lot of talent in the area - writers or ad reps - and his turnover is through the roof. He can't really afford to hire someone from off.

    I've suggested he find a niche such as going tabloid and tackling one issue a week or slanting coverage to black readers (he's black and has a lot of connections in the community that is about 40 percent black.) As an aside, he's even had some potential advertisers tell his reps that they don't want to advertise in the n----- paper ... so why not embrace the black community?

    He says he's considered it but right now his solution is to spend more money to become a twice a week paper as well - launching a bigger edition on the weekend to beat the other paper in coverage.

    I don't think it's a great idea because I don't see how he can compete with the bigger paper. Anyone have any ideas?
  2. Oops. Forgot to add one thing. The thing he is doing well is creating a web presence with a website and a blog. The bigger paper is ignoring the internet altogether.
  3. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    There's your answer. Use the paper to supplement the online coverage, instead of the other way around.
  4. Can you give me an example of how you would do that?
  5. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    The thing I'd do might be along the same lines as what you've already suggested to him. Create a niche for his paper that the other paper can't fill.

    If the other paper is the dominant player, perhaps focusing on stories it doesn't cover might be a good idea. He could also have his staff go more in depth with its stories than the twice-weekly does.

    More important than that in my opinion is creating a working environment where the people he has WANT to work for him. If you make people feel valued, that will go a long way toward slowing down some of the employment turnover. Of course, paying people a competitive wage also would help.
  6. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Is the other paper covering issues affecting the African American readers who take your friend's paper? If not, his staff should focus even more on issues affecting those readers. Embrace them with coverage of their community. Word will spread. Readers who like the paper will tell others and that's where new subscribers come from.
  7. I'll never tell

    I'll never tell Active Member

    I know this sounds stupid and it would be a pain in the ass, but for $25 get a person in the community to write something like a "Hometown Folks" column.

    Let's be honest, I worked in one of these for a while, and REAL journalism is often lost on most folks. They want to see their name in the paper and they want happy news.

    The only time they want real journalism is when a city councilman is banging his secretary.

    Also, I don't see ignoring the internet as a bad idea in the rural south. I'm in the kinda-rural south and these folks are still working off dial-up connections. They're clueless.
  8. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Drop paid distribution and go free. If people still want home delivery, then they can pay for mail delivery, but make it a free pickup.
    Go tab, it will save on productions costs and newsprint. Do a modified form of free classifieds. First 25 words free or something like that.
    Bump up local content by having people write community columns.
    Do a kids page(s) and lots of pictures.
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Well-Known Member

    Depending on where you are, you're supposed to keep this quiet, too, since the secretary could be someone's cousin's sister's aunt who is friends with the publisher or a prominent city business leader.

    Y'know, those personal things don't need to be discussed in the paper. Better for the coffee shop and after Sunday services at church.

    Just keep it happy, talk about the giant squash that looks like Richard Nixon's nose and the BlueBelles 10-under softball win last Thursday night.

    Seriously, have some folks contribute "community news." Friends visiting friends, taking vacation, growing giant vegetables, whatever. That stuff does attract readers.
  10. DGRollins

    DGRollins Member

    Go Biiiiiig on community sports. Treat the BlueBelles u-10 softball team like they are the Boston Red Sox. People like sports--it's why we all have jobs--especially if their kid is playing.
  11. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member


    Free distribution. All local. Snazzy design. Great Web site with community involvement. (And no, I don't work at Bluffton Today)

    But more importantly, he has to be patient. Start-up newspapers take forever to grow. It's hard to beat a paper that has been part of the community for a long time.
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