As a publisher of a small weekly newspaper in Hartington, Neb., Peggy Year knows firsthand the difficulties facing local print publications, particularly when it comes to maintaining an engaged advertising base. So when a conversation at last year’s state press association convention sparked an idea that intended to better serve both the readers and the advertisers, she figured it was well worth the risk of pursuing.
News First, an online widget that allows users to access content from a variety of Nebraskan newspapers in a centralized online location, was formally launched last November with a total of 15 publications on board. Links to content of participating newspapers can be found at newsfirstne.com, and Year expects more publications to join in the future.
“We were trying to broaden the scope for our own advertisers and hit that digital advertising realm that everyone seems to want but nobody knows how to monetize,” Year said, who co-publishes the Cedar County News alongside her husband Rob Dump. “There’s lots of stuff that happens in small towns but to be able to reach that audience can sometimes be difficult.”
Participating newspapers now feature the News First widget on their homepages and provide links to content from their respective publications on a regular basis. Readers can not only freely access stories, photographs and videos from their hometown newspaper, but also any one of the 14 other papers involved.
“The feedback we’ve received from our advertisers has been very good. The page views the widget has drawn more than exceeded our expectations,” Year said. “Were hitting a huge chunk of Northeast Nebraska and getting readers from all over the state in this single location.”
The process of getting more than a dozen newspapers on board with the plan, Year says, was surprisingly easy.
“We were amazed and thrilled at how quickly all the publishers jumped on with this. They were really excited about the whole idea,” Year said. “It gives us that digital presence we’ve all been looking for.”
Kent Warneke, editor of the Norfolk Daily News, the only daily paper involved in the project, said the News First widget was an “easy sell” for publishers and advertisers alike.
“It’s really been a very straightforward and an smooth process because the goal of the widget was to show collectively that newspapers in Northeast Nebraska—whether they are daily or weekly—are still the most accurate, reliable and thorough news source for our readers,” he said. “To be able to work together to spread that message is pretty special.”