Home' Local Media Today : February 2006 Contents Late last year I had the opportunity to address attendees of the New
England Newspaper Association (NENA) Fall conference on the topic
of weekly newspapers. I’ll grant you, there’s nothing like the daily
business for that “instant” shot of adrenaline. However, if you are
looking for higher growth opportunities, then sit back and let me bend
your ear. As our industry faces the challenge of maintaining or grow-
ing daily circulation, I encourage those who aren’t yet publishing
weekly newspapers to get in the game.
I’m aware of the old school of thought
that it’s best to stick with what you
know. But in my view, publishing com-
munity news is what you DO know.
I’ve heard publishers’ concerns ranging
from a fear of cannibalizing their daily
newspaper, to a view that they already
sufficiently cover their market, to the
negative perceptions about “free news-
papers.” There’s also the concern that
many prime communities often already have a weekly newspaper.
Let’s begin with the cannibalization worry. If you have much less than
50% penetration in a town with at least 5,000 households, and you
deem that community important to your business long-term, you’ll
vastly improve your market position through the combination of your
daily and a weekly newspaper. Major accounts, classified advertising
ads can all be sold in combination and you’ll grow your market share at
the zip code level. Whether you launch a free weekly (my preference if
you are starting a paper) or acquire a paid or free weekly, your goal
should be to offer the best combined penetration for that community.
If you have a competitor already publishing, don’t underestimate your
prospects to create a serious rival. Consider pricing, day of week,
method of delivery, content, online strategy, staff strength and commu-
nity connections as important components of your differentiation strate-
gy. For a time, your weekly will rely on your daily’s credibility and
relationships until it grows its own roots in the community.
I hope you’re not still worrying about the old perceptions about free
papers. If you publish a high-quality, free, newspaper, whether it’s a
daily or weekly, you need only worry about whether it gets read, and
whether there’s a sufficient advertiser base to support your cost struc-
ture. In time, you can demonstrate the readership your weekly newspa-
per achieves and advertisers will follow the readers.
There are undeniably vast challenges for a daily newspaper company
that expands into weeklies. You should hire additional staff, or at least
make sure your weeklies have a dedicated staff. There may be some
internal conflicts and culture clashes, although I doubt you’ll
encounter anything your SNA colleagues haven’t seen before. We’re
I really believe in weekly newspapers. They enjoy a strong shelf-life,
vibrant readership, stable circulation, help local businesses grow and
are often an enduring source of emotional attachment for readers.
The new school of thought is that the old-school of thought regarding
cannibalization, monopoly dailies and entrenched cultures is out. In
many markets, there’s still a land-grab for weekly newspapers, whether
you’re looking to start them or buy them.
What are you waiting for?
SNA Board Chairman
Chairman of the Board
AOR has conducted editorial, advertising, cir-
culation, strategic, branding and online
research for more than 500 newspapers and
hundreds of other companies ranging from
Procter & Gamble to IBM.
Reinventing Your Special Sections
Presented by John Humenik, Publisher/Editor,
Arizona Daily Star, and Gareth Charter,
Publisher, The Landmark, (winner of 1st, 2nd
and 3rd place in SNA’s most competitive con-
test category - Best Special Section).
This session is for any newspaper professional
that thinks their special sections have become
dull, unappealing and overdone. Our panel of
experts will discuss how they have ‘turned the
corner ’ on special sections resulting in both
increased readership and advertiser participa-
tion. You’ll also hear how some newspapers
use online ballots, photos and reader comments
to produce incremental ad revenue for their
website(s). There will be time at the end of the
session for conference attendees to share their
latest and greatest special sections.
These informal sessions with senior level
advertising executives present an excellent
opportunity to learn more about these compa-
nies and to partake in meaningful discussions.
Confirmed advertisers include Rita Jurczyk,
TNN/Vertis, New York; John Casey, Ace
Hardware and Louisa
Koken, former VP,
will specifically dis-
cuss hard to land major
accounts and provide
her advice on how to
handle these types of
retailers from getting
in the door to making the presentation). Other
retailers that have been invited include
Modell’s Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart. SNA
guarantees to have a minimum of at least four
participants at these roundtable discussions.
The price of $189 covers the symposium and
includes access to the America East exhibit
hall. America East Newspaper Operations and
Technology Conference is the leading regional
trade show for the newspaper industry. For
more than 50 years, the show has succeeded as
an affordable and accessible avenue for ven-
dors and attendees to reach one another. In
spite of the challenges of recent years, America
East remains constant, providing an invaluable
resource for newspapers and vendors.
Located in the chocolate-scented and welcom-
ing town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, America
East is conveniently located in south-central
Pennsylvania. Harrisburg, the state’s capital, is
a short distance away and is a convenient air-
port for attendees to use for this event.
Registration details are available at www.sub-
urban-news.org, or by calling 888-486-2466.
continued from page 1
aren’t yet pub-
get in the
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