More Promotion Tips for News Web Sites

By: Steve Outing Newspaper managers have recently been sending me samples of the in-print promotional efforts they've engaged for their Web sites. I will continue to spotlight good ideas if you will keep sending them to me. (See the end of this column for my address.) For today's column, I want to continue describing some of the print promotion that's come across my desk recently.

Is your paper doing this kind of promotion for your online ventures? I would hope that everyone in the online newspaper business pushes for a greater presence in their respective print products.

On every section front!

A good number of newspapers now print Web addresses (URLs) and promotional blurbs on section fronts. For instance, the Metro section of the Kansas City Star includes in the masthead the URL to the local news area of the Star's Web site. That content-specific URL is important, because repeating the site's home page throughout the paper can simply become repetitive and ignored by readers. It's much better to point print readers to specific information on the Web, and not force them to come to your home page and then search for specific information.

Of course, the down side is that you can end up printing complicated-looking URLs that are intimidating to the Internet-unsavvy. Better than -- the URL on that Metro section front -- might be to institute a keyword system. Point print readers to the main Web site home page, then have them enter the keyword "local" into a search field which turns up the specific piece of information, for instance.

The Arizona Republic also does a good job of getting Web blurbs on its section fronts. On the business front page, readers are pointed to for "business news 24 hours a day." On the entertainment page a blurb promotes, where readers are invited to "click on the Dining button for a searchable guide to Penelope Corcoran's favorite restaurant picks as well as her weekly column."

Supplement what's in print

Many of the samples I received included Web blurbs at the end of stories -- "For more information, go to our Web site at ..." That's not exactly a new concept, but it bears repeating that this is an important technique to drive traffic to your Web site. A Washington Post end-of-story blurb for a major federal budget story featured a graphic symbol, which Web users are told to look for and click on at the home page. That's another nice, simple trick to guide print readers to online information quickly, without resorting to printing long URLs.

At the end of a Chicago Tribune major print feature, a blurb invited readers to post comments and questions about the story. For those who really care about a particular topic and they get to the end of a story, it's a great service to say to print readers, "This isn't the end. We've got more for you online." And inviting print readers to participate in online discussions is smart. Think about the emotional commitment that sports fans have for their teams, for instance; many of them will go online to converse with fellow fans if you'll just tell them in print where they should go online.

It can be OK to think small

As I've pointed out before, effective promotion of your Web site doesn't have to take up a lot of print space if it's done right. On the Chicago Tribune's business section front, there's a standing "Yesterday's market report" feature with stock index closings. Part of that feature is this blurb: "More on the Internet: Find out what's making news today and get a preview of tomorrow's business section. Get a 4:30 p.m. news update at".

Similarly, weather pages should have prominent Web references. In the Indianapolis Star, for instance, is this text positioned on top of the main color regional weather forecast map: "Forecast of conditions for noon. 24-hour updates, radar and more at"

Yes, we have e-mail addresses

While it's still rare to find e-mail addresses in print for all of a newspaper's writers, they are becoming a more common sight. Among the samples I received, a good many columnists featured e-mail addresses as contact points. A Detroit News columnist urges readers to write him at either his postal or e-mail address (no phone). An Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist, meanwhile, lists only his e-mail address.

I continue to wish that more papers would print e-mail addresses for all reporters, and thus demonstrate a true commitment to communicating with their readers. Alas, with the exception of papers like the forward-thinking Raleigh News & Observer, that hasn't come to pass for most newspapers. Columnists, however, do seem to recognize the benefit of open e-mail communication with readers. At least someone is leading the way.

The tried and true 'house ad'

Maggie Berking, marketing manager for Guy Gannett Communications' New Media Development Group (Portland, Maine), sent me a sampling of print ads created to promote the newspaper company's online services. A series of 3 column by 9 inch ads was created to promote the Maine Business Online Web site going to daily updates, for example, and she says that that print promotion combined with an e-mail list announcement "doubled the daily traffic in the first week."

Berking also says that print ads promoting ticket giveaways for entertainment events have been a great success in driving up Web site traffic. Two recent campaigns urged newspaper readers to go online and answer several trivia questions about artists Sarah McLachlan and Billy Joel in advance of concert appearances. Winners got front-row seat tickets and CDs. Online contestants also got to tell Joel what songs they'd like to hear him play at the sold-out concert.

We're getting there

While the assortment of print promotion samples I received in the mail was encouraging, I still see a lack of real commitment to promoting the Web in print at many newspapers. Obviously, online managers have made great strides in incorporating Web site reference in the print product. I only hope the industry will continue to step up print promotion. It's newspapers' ace in the hand, so why not use it?

Send me mail!

As I receive other good examples of news Web site promotion, I will describe them in future column items. If you have clips you'd like to share with the rest of the interactive news industry, please send them to me at: Steve Outing, Planetary News, 1067 Marble Court, Boulder, CO, USA 80303 (or, alternatively, describe your efforts in an e-mail message sent to Thanks!


Allow me to fix some minor errors in my last column. The St. Paul Pioneer Press is correct only without a hyphen. And the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune's Web site is no longer Star Tribune Online, but rather Also, the Star Tribune is now owned by the McClatchy Company, after last month's merger between Star Tribune owner Cowles Media and McClatchy Newspapers.


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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