Five contributors made for a solid hour of insights during our webinar on Nov. 12, sponsored by TownNewsView recording (via Zoom)

We started with Taylor Buley, McNaughton Newspapers: “We’ve shifted some of our coverage from entertainment and sports, the things that look good and do well in terms of entertainment, to stories of small businesses and resilience and feel-good stuff,” he said. “These are stories that make people feel special, that give them the spotlight, that help them through these tough times.”

Buley, who is general manager and co-publisher of the Davis Enterprise along with publisher of the Winters Express, also highlighted such newer products as a digital directory of in-county explorations and a local e-commerce site for merchants. He also reported on reductions in office space and people, along with print-day reductions. 

And he noted the company’s move to mailed delivery for one paper: “I had to because my carriers were over 65 and the government ordered them to stay home. And so if I didn’t deliver them by mail I would have had to deliver myself.”

Learn more at Winters Express and Davis Enterprise

Greg Robinson, The Press, Brentwood, described the long season of change that began in March: “Like most of us, you know, we lost 75 to 80% of our revenue in a week. So we had to make some very serious changes. … During that time, we never missed publishing our paper because of our strong digital presence.” 

Robinson credited a digital edition and page-turner software. “We stopped printing the paper for a little bit, but never missed an issue … kept producing the paper and put out the weekly paper every single week,” he said.

Robinson also explained how the company transferred from free TMC to free on racks and paid subscriptions. He also mentioned the push for reader contributions via a web widget provided by TownNews.

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Jim Iovino discussed the NewStart program at West Virginia University, which aims to train those with an interest in acquiring and operating solid community newspapers that are embedded in their communities.

“These owners are having trouble finding people to move to these oftentimes rural community settings,” he said. “We’ve started collecting a basically a whole database of publishers who have approached us and said, ‘Hey, you know, I’m looking for someone who appreciates quality local community journalism and wants to see that continue. So if you have someone coming through your program, who is looking at an area like ours. Let’s talk and let’s try to match them up.”

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Pivots offered by Chris Smith and Eric Erickson of CNPA Allied Member Global Newspaper Solutions included creating closed-circuit video for local merchants, optimizing classified-ad entry, offering more online business directories, pushing coupons via text message and utilizing USPS to move from carrier to same-day mail delivery.

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John Montgomery, executive media sales manager for TownNews, mentioned several options clients have used during the pandemic: 

  • Donation pop-ups: “I think we found that that message really resonates and readers are willing to contribute.”
  • Targeting potential subscribers: “I think digital subscriptions is something that we all really need to focus on; it’s an opportunity for revenue growth.”
  • Virtual events: “… where graduates could have profiles up and and the superintendent and the principal could put a message and they could even live stream their graduation.”

“I think now more than ever, newspaper publishers need to really be turning to digital revenue streams to sustain their business,” Montgomery said.

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Special thanks to TownNews, a class-leading provider of digital content-management systems and data integration. Its recent tools include the iQ Audience+ platform and the News Nirvana Initiative. 

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