Rallying cry: Innovate or die p.22

By: Ken Liebeskind From circulation drives, to more local reporting
Amid the flurry of competition among newspapers to provide the quickest and the slickest coverage of Washington sex scandals, several editors and publishers who responded to the E&P/TIPP poll discussed their views on refocusing attention on local community coverage, fostering staff cooperation, and avoiding source pitfalls.
local reporting
As newspapers report contemporary issue stories, they are losing touch with their local communities, Rex Smith, editor of the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., says. The Times Union has tried to buck that trend by launching two stand-alone sections this year that report local news for individual counties.
"In our effort to shape stories that are relevant and broad, we have lost the connection to the very local communities of interest," Smith says. "We have substituted interesting issue stories about the way people lead their lives for the community news people need from their local papers."
team selling
John Roberts, president and publisher of The Victoria (Texas) Advocate, says his paper transformed its sales department recently to a five-team staff of three-member teams. Each team features two salespeople and a creative services person who not only creates the ads, but also deals directly with the accounts, calling them to set up appointments for the salespeople and discussing the ads.
"Bringing them into a team makes them more self-directed and motivated to develop ads because they talk directly to advertisers," Roberts says.
They can also direct their creativity to securing new advertisers. "They may see a new business on the way to work, suggest it as a potential advertiser, and create spec ads that salespeople use to bring in the business," Roberts says.
The paper eliminated the position of retail advertising manager and replaced it with two team leaders, Roberts says.
building circulation
The best way to boost circulation is by providing a quality paper, not offering gimmicks, according to David McCollum, publisher of the Las Cruses (N.M.) Sun-News.
He claims that many papers are losing circulation because "they don't offer enough value." The Sun-News relies on strong, local coverage that it believes will draw readership by giving the public what it lacks.
"We are careful not to over-promote ourself with gimmicks to build circulation among marginal readers," McCollum says. He adds that the paper does very little discounting, indicating that its goal is to "maintain our baseline circulation."
The baseline is growing, with daily and Sunday circulation up by nearly 1,000 over the past year. Circulation has grown between 7% and 10% over the past two years, making it one of the fastest growing papers, McCollum says.
A common criticism of today's newspapers is that they are too sensationalistic. By refusing to use anonymous sources in its stories, The Frederick (Md.) News/Post believes it avoids the sensationalism that pervades the mainstream press because everything it writes is attributable. The News/ Post has banned all nonattributed material, says managing editor Mike Powell. "If it means we're not getting enough news, it also means we don't get as much junk and the sleazy rumors you normally get."
profiting from the web
Every major newspaper has a Web site but not every site is profitable. Now, by increasing revenue and streamlining operating costs, sites can turn a profit.
David Zeeck, executive editor of the The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash., says www.tribnet.com, its 5-year-old site, is now "profitable by a bit." Profit has been generated by selling banner ads, hosting other sites on its server and designing the sites. The paper charges a monthly rate for hosting and an hourly rate for design.
Profit is also generated by keeping online production costs to a minimum, Zeeck says. The paper has software that posts articles immediately in its online library, which saves the cost of librarians who are paid to catalogue the online information. Most of the tasks associated with creating content are automated, Zeeck says.
The McClatchy paper gets some of the material for its site from the group's Nando site. It pays for the content but saves money because the cost is split among the group's other papers, Zeeck says.
The paper's site should become more profitable in 1999 because it will link to cars.com, an auction site, and other Classified Ventures sites with whom McClatchy is partnered. It will also redesign its site to make it more user-friendly and generate more page views. Profitability can accrue with more page views because it will make the site more attractive to advertisers.

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?(copyright: Editor & Publisher January 2, 1999) [Caption]


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