When the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open golf championships arrived in Pinehurst, N.C. in June, The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines, N.C. was ready. This year marked the first time in history both tournaments were played in the same year on the same course.
With 43 golf courses in the community, publisher David Woronoff knew having the U.S. Open in town would boost the local economy. To give it some perspective, Woronoff explained there are about 3,000 total hotel rooms available in the area and he estimated the U.S. Open brought in between 375,000 to 400,000 people into town over two weeks.
Knowing they were competing with larger publications and television outlets, the weekly newspaper that’s normally published only twice a week moved into a seven-day schedule in order to put out its coverage of the golf tournament in Open Daily. Woronoff said he wanted to create an “aggressive approach.”
“Not only did we want to create a standalone product, we wanted to create a community paper that wasn’t just about the U.S. Open, but also filled with local history, tourism, travel and entertainment,” he said.
Woronoff said he prepared for two years, putting together a staff, and planning distribution and advertising.
Open Daily had a 175,000 circulation and was delivered to homes, hotels and on the golf courses. Clients had the choice to advertise in several ways: the June edition of PineStraw magazine; Images, a newspaper supplement containing the best tournament photos; the 72-page Open Daily; or in the regular Pilot paper. Woronoff said about 90 percent of their clients chose to lock-in and advertise for both weeks. He asked his salespeople to pursue print aggressively because it was the “most profitable platform.”
“We generated enough revenue during those two weeks to add a thirteenth month to our year,” he said.
On the editorial side, the Open Daily operated with its own team of writers and photographers. Woronoff also had a full-time social media editor in place, a position that didn’t exist in 2007 when the U.S. Women’s Open was last in town. Woronoff said he recruited golf journalists who all shared his mission: to make the Pilot’s U.S. Open coverage the standard—something he feels he accomplished because it had been a “team effort.”
Looking back, Woronoff said his most important lesson was, “Plan, plan, and plan some more.”
“The more you plan, the more flexible you become,” he said.
Things may have settled down for the small weekly newspaper, but Woronoff said they met their goal to deliver the best product they could, and if the U.S. Open chose to return to North Carolina, Woronoff said his paper would again be ready. Even with other media outlets descending into the area, Woronoff said, “This is our backyard. We want to be the paper of record for the U.S. Open.”