Home' Local Media Today : April 2007 Contents APRIL 2007
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IT’S NOT ALL BAD NEWS IN NEWSPAPER LAND
Most of us hear all the bad news about the newspaper industry almost on a daily basis. It
can get discouraging at times, hearing so much negativity, and trying to stay positive about
what we do. We may even wonder if what we do is relevant anymore. So I was very happy
to come across an article in the Washington Post, by Frank Ahrens, which spoke about the
many positives in the “small newspaper” industry. Those “small newspapers” would be
members of SNA, of course.
I had read the article in early March, and then Steve Parker, one of the executive committee
members from the Board of Directors for SNA, forwarded it me. It reminded me of how
much I enjoyed reading the article and I thought it was wroth sharing a few highlights with
SNA’s membership. If you would like a copy of the article, send me an e-mail and I will
forward it. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ahrens points out that while the average daily cir-
culation of all U.S. newspapers has declined since
1987, the smallest papers, -- community weeklies
and dailies with circulation of less than 50,000 --
have been able to grow circulation. I believe this
is true because, with all that the web provides, no
one can offer the kind of drill down information
that our papers provide. Local news about what
matters most to people—their families, their
schools, their neighborhoods, and more.
Our financial success, according to Ahrens, is
because we face less competition from other media
outlets and because we don’t face the huge adver-
tising swings that our big brothers in the metro
daily industry face. We work hard at SNA to get major advertisers to understand the value of
the demographics we offer. And we would all love to have a bigger share of that pie.
However, those ads come with a price tag...big swings due to forces beyond our control.
These swings in advertising linage can negatively impact our budgets. We always say in our
company that it is better to build our bread and butter business, the 2 column by 3 inch ads
that we sell to local merchants, because if they go away, they are far easier to replace. Don’t
get me wrong, I think we should, as an industry, continue the good work that the SNA
Marketing committee has done to bring awareness to major advertisers of what our papers
offer, and to help our SNA members land this business. In fact, we are a smarter buy for
them because we are more targeted and less expensive. However, I hope we never lose sight
of our core business, which comes from local merchants. The big stuff is nice. It is like the
icing on the cake. But the week in and week out local advertisers are the backbone of our
Ahrens points out that there is also less competition on the web for local news. And while
he is right, our responsibility has to be to own this market before someone either larger than
us (i.e . the Google’s of the world) or smaller than us (i.e . the neighborhood list serves) fig-
ures out how to do what we do. It is ours to lose, but it will require investment in technolo-
gy, learning to think different about how we deliver news, and running to be first in this mar-
Ahrens reports that in survey after survey, local news and information often tops the list of
what readers want.
SNA’s own Mary E Junck, chairman and chief executive of Lee Industry, explains why
newspapers in her company and our industry do well. "We're largely in markets . . . that
have pretty good local economies, a strong sense of place and strong newspaper readership,
Many of our markets are pretty homogenous and tight-knit, making it easier to pin down and
For instance, Lee Industry's La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune Web site lets hunters post pictures of
their prize bucks; hundreds have done so. Fish, too. And Lee's biggest paper, the Post-
Dispatch, is learning the block-by-block coverage lessons of community papers: The paper's
Web site posted a map that showed neighborhood power outages during a recent storm.
Small newspapers must deliver the right kind of local news. Our newspapers must stay in
touch with our communities and ensure that we are covering what matters to our readers.
We have the audience. Or in marketing terms, we have a solid customer base. We have to
make sure we anticipate what they want and continue to provide it to them, both in print,
and on line.
Chairman of the Board
SNA Board Chairman
The Loudoun Independent was named a
finalist for Product of the Year by the
Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
This county creates some amazing prod-
ucts, so we were very honored. We did-
n’t win. I think that’s a healthy thing.
Security can breed complacency.
No one is better than I am when it
Creative new approaches to business. I
love creating new programs for readers,
new strategies for advertisers. When I
believe in something, I will sacrifice
everything to make it work. Hard work
makes all the difference in business, and
even that doesn’t guarantee you success.
We took a new approach with our new
website, www.loudouni.com. Many peo-
ple said that our readers weren’t ready for
a full flash site and that it was too expen-
sive for a community newspaper, but it
has already paid for itself and our traffic
has increased considerably.
I still can’t quite get the hang of...
Leaving work at 5. I normally hit my 40-
hour mark by Wednesday, and that does-
n’t even count the constant idea generat-
ing I do in my “off” hours. In this busi-
ness, you can burn out if you don’t take a
breather. And you can take everyone else
with you. But in a business where you
rarely separate your professional life
from your personal life, it’s often an
uphill battle. There is such a fine line
between success and failure in this busi-
ness; you are one idea away from either
If you could have dinner with anyone,
living or dead, who would it be? Why?
Easy. Katherine Graham, the late pub-
lisher of the Washington Post. Read her
autobiography last year. Top 5 reads ever.
I was wowed by her accomplishments, no
doubt. She endured many tragedies
throughout her life, was an incredible
businesswoman, and truly understood the
responsibilities of a newspaper publisher.
The thing that struck me about her the
most was her complete appreciation for
the mistakes that she made. She took
major risks, put her reputation on the
line. Some risks panned out, others were
public humiliations. You can’t help but
appreciate that kind of strength.
If you couldn’t be a newspaperwoman,
what would you like to be doing?
On some days I might say a prosecutor.
I’ve always been interested in the law,
and I think I would love a courtroom. I
almost went down that career path. On
other days I might say a fashion designer.
I love the creative freedom that comes
What do you do for kicks?
I’m an antique junkie. I collect all kinds
of things—self-portraits, clocks, vintage
thermoses & lunchboxes, old fans, black
& white photographs. I love mid-century
furniture. My favorite collection by far is
my vintage clothing. I conceived and co-
chair, along with my sister Allyson, the
Vintage & Vine Gala for Inova Loudoun
Hospital that features a vintage fashion
show. Last year, half of the proceeds
went to the new pediatrics wing, while
the other half went to the new Radiation
Oncology center, named after my late
mother. We raised almost $200,000.00 . I
love the mental pay-off when you see a
concept come to fruition.
Amy Burns is the publisher of the Loudon
Independent in Ashburn, VA. She is
reached at email@example.com
More On Amy Burns
“We have the
audience. Or, in
we have a solid
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