By: Nu Yang
With summer almost here, several Western Communications newspapers have launched a series of mobile tourism guides to attract out-of-towners and local residents to eat, play, and stay in their areas. Participating papers include The Curry Coastal Pilot (Brookings, Ore.), Del Norte Triplicate (Crescent City, Calif.), Union Democrat (Sonora, Calif.), Baker City (Ore.) Herald and La Grande (Ore.) Observer. The family-owned Western Communications is located in Bend, Ore.
Partnering them on this venture is Bar-Z (bar-z.com), a company based in Austin, Texas, focused on providing mobile solutions to publishers. The company has developed more than 300 apps—60 percent of that include newspaper clients.
Bar-Z founder and chief executive officer Lee Little said his company approached Western Communications about introducing mobile tourism apps into their markets. Since tourism is an important part in their communities, Little said publishers thought it was a good idea.
One of them was Union Democrat publisher Gary Piech. Although he admitted he was not a “techy guy,” working with Bar-Z made delving into mobile very easy.
The Union Democrat, in a partnership with the county’s visitors bureau, recently launched Explore The Mother Lode. With Yosemite National Park nearby, the app promotes local current events, arts, entertainment, dining options, and deals and coupons.
With Go Wild Rivers Coast, the Curry Coastal Pilot and Del Norte Triplicate papers built a mobile app to compliment a print guide and tourism website. The app offers users interactive tools such as location and topic-based search, turn-by-turn navigation, digital postcards and access to current travel alerts.
The Baker City Herald and the La Grande Observer worked together to produce GO! Northeast Oregon. The app is partnered with the newspapers’ annual visitor guides and weekly GO! print and online magazines.
The tourism apps have also allowed the papers to explore new advertising opportunities, such as banner advertising, video and sponsorships.
Piech said his paper sold advertising around lodging to professional services. He also plans to expand into real estate.
“Our sales team loves (the app),” he said. “They see it as a new product as we slowly develop beyond print.”
Piech said his goal is to see 6,000 app downloads this summer. He plans to put quick response codes in the windows of advertising businesses and in the paper to encourage downloads.
Little said the papers in a good position to make money from these apps. While many papers are exploring mobile apps in news, weather and sports, he said specialty apps put newspapers in a better revenue generating situation.
“Western Communications is following that model,” he said. “They can go to the tourism organizations and say, “We will get that app together for you,” generate revenue, and find advertisers.