Hang Out In Twitter And Everyone Will Know Your Name

If you need added proof that Twitter is a journalist’s hangout, check out the string of comments prompted by TV news guy Zachary Downes’ question posted on July 12:

Why did you become a journalist? Wrong answers only.

When I last checked Twitter, retweets had soared passed 3,100 and likes exceeded 2,300. Downes is a producer at WFTV in Orlando, FL.

Some answers are funny. (“To marry a member of Congress?” “Couldn’t do enough math to be a meteorologist.” “A glass of wine can change a lot of things.”) References to pay, hours, complainers, social media, and wealth dominate the responses. 

In a pandemic, you gotta find alternative places when the bars and restaurant remain closed. And where to attempt a conversation. Or draw a crowd. 

—TAS

Localize The National Campaign To Show Greater Relevance

Cheers to America’s Newspapers for its latest campaign promoting newspapers as the trusted source for advertising in the communities they serve. It provides a timely rallying call for newspapers as a much better investment than Facebook. It also complements The Relevance Project’s emerging NEWSPAPER ADS WORK series. (Look for a new release soon.)

SUGGESTION: NAM members could localize AN’s campaign at the state/province level to be even more relevant. Get 5 to 10 (or more) examples of your newspapers experiencing explosive audience growth while covering the pandemic. Then, tell that story by pointing to the growth to show community newspapers have both the best audience AND the valued trust because they’re LOCAL. Add the impressive local impact to the AN message. In essence, YOUR newspapers are BETTER than Facebook.

AN OFFER: I’m willing to champion a NAM-wide relevance message if each association sends me the best example of audience growth among its members. IMAGINE MORE THAN 50 EXAMPLES ACROSS NORTH AMERICA.  I could work with our partners at Metro Creative Graphics on such a promotional play. Our huddle is on Tuesdays. 

Thanks for considering. And thanks again to America’s Newspapers for its consistent advocacy.

—TAS

Don’t Back Off Quality, Especially In Challenging Times

“There’s nothing to read in the newspaper.”

Ouch.

That’s a killer complaint, especially coming from a longtime subscriber.

Now what?

Try predicting how your member newspapers would respond?

Is it:

  • A. Sorry, we wish we could print more news but print advertising has declined.
  • B. Our reporters were on furlough last week. We’re still looking to replace the city hall reporter who left six months ago.
  • C. We had to trim newsprint costs to make budget. Corporate, you know.
  • D. Tell us what you’re looking for as we want you to remain a loyal subscriber.
  • E. Go to our website.

Earning more reader revenue from subscriptions should be matched with improving the quality of the newspaper. There will be strain and pain, but it’s the best solution.

Watching companies eliminate days of publications makes you wonder if that move is instinctively matched with improved news reports for the remaining newspapers that are printed.

If not, it’s only cost cutting.

And that’s a downward spiral.

Cheers to those using improve quality as a way to fight back. May the industry be with you.

I remember after a desperate period of cutting pages, this publisher received a card. Attached to it was a pair of tiny boots, with this handwritten note.

“If you’re going to die, then die with these on.”

The point:

March on with a quality newspaper that meets your reader needs.

Even when things are tough.

The reader who got my attention was right.

It’s the way out — and up.

—TAS

Newspaper Power Campaign Enters Phase II

Part II of the NEWSPAPER POWER Campaign starts a series of advertising categories where research confirms strong results for newspaper advertisers. NAM members can adapt the campaign in their sales pitches to local advertisers. The initial set of five categories is based on data supplied by Coda Ventures, which has worked with NAM members to provide readership studies. The promotions were created by Metro Creative Graphics as part of The Relevance Project. We thank our two partners for their collaboration with NAM. Stay tuned for Part III.

CLICK HERE to see or download all ads in the series.

Public Notices: The Fight That Keeps On Ticking

Retaining Public Notices is the newspaper battle that never quits.

Throughout NAM, major fights in state legislatures continue. The update: Some victories (phew), lots of worries (ugh).

When I ask what are “the issues that keep you up at night,” Public Notices fall in the Top 3. Often, it is the No. 1 concern.

We all the know the reasons well: They still represent valued revenue, but they also remain an important anchor to transparent government.

No one has total confidence in local and state/provincial officials being the beacons of informing the public in a trusted medium. (Ask me how long it took my city to change the address for my property tax bill and how many times I had to visit City Hall to explain the problem.)

At the same time, have you asked yourself this:

What else do I need to do to keep Public Notices? Is there something new to change the discussion?

In Virginia, committing to putting all Public Notices on a statewide web site helped beat back opposition. Many of you have taken that route.

What’s the 2020 win?

In my Relevance Project discussions with executive directors, I encountered only a handful who acknowledged an annual effort to collect data about the use of Public Notices.

This might be the year to conduct thorough reader and member surveys on the public need, interest and use of government notices.

Your value propositions is linked to whether government is doing a great job of informing the public.
If they’re not, there’s your thunder.

If they are and they don’t cite you, you’re going to stay awake at night for sure. Start digging into the reasons.

Getting fresh data or public-survey results could be the ticket to new victories. It might also open your eyes to fresh opportunities.

Good luck. We want you to win.

—TAS

What’s A Publisher? Consider This Updated Definition

Publishers are an endangered species these days.

It used to be a given that the top officer was called a publisher.

No longer.

The role has been crushed by digital focuses, changing business conditions, consolidations, new missions at companies, and cost-saving.

That’s why an updated definition caught my attention.

The new America’s Newspapers, a valued NAM member, pinpointed the term “publisher” when assisting the lobbying of Congress for stimulus aid for the newspaper industry.

The organization’s legislative affairs committee listed four points that frame today’s under-sieged publisher:

  • Whose primary business is the publication of news and information about current events.
  • Employ professional journalists and pay them market rates of compensation.
  • 52% of whose readers (print and digital) live within a single Designated Market Area.
  • Have met the conditions above for at least two (2) consecutive years immediately prior to the enactment of the legislative act.

Cheers to those newspapers that still have publishers.

Applause to America’s Newspapers for putting the updated definition in strong terms.

We might want to keep these points handy.

You never know when a student will ask you:

“What’s a publisher?”

—TAS

Support From NAM Members Is Vital To The Relevance Project

One in a series of updates on The Relevance Project

NAM members want The Relevance Project to succeed.

That’s clear from talking with nearly 40 executive directors since I started as executive director on May 1.

The support is much appreciated.

Awareness about The Relevance Project’s mission falls into three buckets:

  • Very knowledgeable.
  • Somewhat in-the-know, but fuzzy on details or lost track of the project.
  • Unaware.

The very knowledgeable include those NAM members on the Steering Committee that helped create The Relevance Project and those that started to install the strategic initiative called the Community Forum (more of that action in future updates). They also include skeptics of the project who have doubts while hoping for the best.

The fuzzy folks acknowledge that their own priorities could have taken their eye of The Relevance Project. But periods of starts and stops as the project develop also were cited. And skeptics in this camp want more convincing before embracing any actions.

The Unaware are mostly those new to NAM, a comparatively larger than normal group given the association’s long history and stable membership. It was helpful to hear about their plans as they move their organizations forward.

In my discussions with NAM members, I asked a core of seven questions:

What do you know about The Relevance Project?

What did you like most about it and the Community Forum?

What did you like least?

What would you change?

In your association, what are your to strengthens and best services?

Top weaknesses or an issue that keeps you up at night?

Finally:

What advice would you offer to advance The Relevance Project?

You have an initial overview of The Relevance Project in my introductory column distributed in May.

Future Relevant Points will summarize the answers I collected. Your time spent with me on the phone and in follow-up emails further guide the project.

My focus now is to take what I heard, add it to the work already done and reshape the project given today’s challenges. It’s already a far different world in June 2020 than when The Relevance Project started to develop in 2018.

The pandemic and its destruction of economies have stamped URGENT on relevance.

I heard that over and over again.

A key point indeed.

—TAS

Here’s A Newspaper Quote Worth Framing

A follow-up point to the last posting about the Freeman Courier in Freeman, SD. I forget to include an inspirational quote from the Waltners, Jeremy and Tim. It captures the never, never, never give up spirit of newspapering:

This is new and this is challenging, but our objective is clear:

We have to survive.

And we’re prepared to do just that — whatever that looks like!

Amen

—TAS

Nothing Like A Crisis To Shift Your Newspaper Strategies

One of the treats of The Relevance Project is reading NAM-member newsletters that tell success stories.

They inspire me to get out an underliner and notebook to capture the embedded strategies that won the day.

A good recent example is the story of a weekly newspaper in South Dakota that used the pandemic to speed up its digital transformation. The article appeared in the May newsletter of The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Jeremy Waltner, and his father, Tim Waltner, of the Freeman Courier described how the immediate need for vital health-care information caused them to quickly become a daily news provider.

They had been moving in that direction over a couple of decades, they added. But then BAM, COVID-19 hit and the Waltners went all in.

“As a weekly publication, the speed of reactions and responses from the health care and business community that followed — as well as the schools in our community — far exceeded our Thursday publication schedule,” they wrote.

Rather then stick with the routine, the Waltners met the challenge and changed.

“A once a week print product would have been reflective rather than dynamic,” they wrote. “No other news organization provides this comprehensive information to our community.”

The paper’s web site and its social-media channels formed an update machine, embracing the impact of COVID-19 as “increasingly local.”

The strategy:

Online: Offer immediate updates, daily.

Social: “Enhance that component of our role as an information portal for our community.”

The Freeman Courier’s daily COVID-19 report zeroed in on local impact — number of cases, health-care insights, announcements from schools and organizations, events status and other details.

It was translating the state and county information into local terms that hooked print readers into following the daily updates online.

“Readers could get that information on their own, but they are relying on us to deliver it to them,” the Waltners wrote.
I would add it’s because the community trusted the newspaper, even if it was a new experience for some readers to keep going online for the updates.

The Waltners also were mindful of not abandoning print. They made sure it shifted its strategy as well.

Print’s role was “broader coverage of both the impact of the pandemic on community life as well as information from our health-care community.”

I’m sure strategic shifts are occurring throughout NAM-land during the 2020 shutdown. But let’s tip our thinking caps to the Waltners for telling a great story.

NAM members, please keep sharing success stories. Can’t get enough of them. Better than aspirin.

—TAS

You Can Thank 2020 For Why We All Could Be ‘Dailies’

Is it time to redefine what a “daily” is in a multimedia world?

Change in our industry is happening so fast that it’s getting difficult for press/newspaper associations to answer a simple question: How many daily newspapers do you have as members?

At least one press association recently ran a scorecard on the front of its newsletter to explain all of the many ways its member newspapers were shifting days of print publication.

The pandemic-caused rush to eliminate print days makes any once-a-year update inaccurate the day it’s distributed.

Heck, last week’s total may need to be adjusted today.

This difficulty also surfaced when I was helping Michelle Rea in New York this month update descriptive data about NAM members. (Note: We’re still missing numbers from several groups.)

An association wanted to know how NAM was defining a daily. 

Pause.

For this purpose, the answer was: “More frequently than weekly.”

This issue isn’t going away.

Weekly and daily definitions are baked into laws and circulation rules that worked well in the past.

Long term (whatever that means these days), we could benefit from a different concept, one that’s forward-looking Isn’t a weekly a “daily” news outlet if its web site or newsletter is updated every day, or at least four or five or six times a week?

The argument arrow points to yes.

Add in how weeklies are doing more online to answer the urgent need in their communities for immediate news and information throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.  

They’re not looking to go back to just a weekly newspaper. 

Changing the frequency definition to match what you do online, rather than only print, would help our industry turn an important page. Imagine if we were all dailies. 

Pause there. 

(We’ll save the quality of online updating for another day.) 

—TAS