Business of News Circulation Cool tool

Newsletters are hot, and they can be a great tool for community newspapers

Newsletters are one of the oldest forms of communication in journalism. They even pre-date newspapers, with the first newsletter coming out in 1538.  The first American newspaper to publish a second edition started its life as the Boston News-letter.

They have increased and decreased in popularity over the years, but everything that’s old is indeed new again.

Newsletters are hot.

And why should an old medium be experiencing such a resurgence in a digital age?  Perhaps because we’re inundated with news and information from every side. Newsletters can help make sense of all that because they digest what’s important and let us choose whether or not to read it. And they give us an email foot-in-the-door of busy readers.

In its current incarnation, a newspaper newsletter is like the menu screen on Netflix.  When you go to Netflix, you see movies categorized by genre and popularity.  Then you see thumbnail pictures and just a sentence of explanation telling what the movie is about.  You can surf through to something else, or, if you’re interested, click on that thumbnail to get the movie itself.

There’s no single type of newsletter used in newspapers.  The popular Washington Post newsletters give you a headline, a photo, and a teaser.  You can then click to go to the article on the Post website.  Actually, there’s not just one – the Post offers newsletters on news, opinions, the federal government, home and garden, education, lifestyle, business and tech, sports, science – there is even a newsletter called The Optimist with stories to inspire you. And there’s more that we didn’t list.

They’re right there in your inbox, waiting for you to scan them in the viewing pane, click on what you’re interested in, and head off to the WaPo site – even if all you had planned to do was to read your email.

And as you’d expect, The New York Times offers the same service.

Both papers sell ads in their newsletters, so the newsletters themselves are a revenue source.

Some community papers in Texas have effective daily newsletters:  For example, see the Texas Gatehouse newspapers, the Hood County News, the Wise County Messenger, Community Impact newspapers and the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post.

Why are newsletters so popular for newspapers that already have print and online editions, websites and social media feeds? Because they meet readers where readers are sure to go every day:  their email in-box.  You don’t have to pick up a newspaper or go to a homepage.  All you do is check your email and there is the newsletter, viewable in your preview pane.  See something you are interested in?  Click, and it takes you to the paper’s website.

Publishers want to know, How can I monetize an email newsletter? Of course, this is another product you can sell ads for, and potentially a really attractive ad vehicle for businesses because it appears in the in-box of a wide variety of readers. But also, in an era when we’re all competing for attention and we want to establish ourselves as a go-to news source, newsletters are an in-your-face announcement every day or several times a week that our newspaper is the indispensable source of news for this county.

Once you get your template set up, newsletters don’t take that long to produce daily – after all, you’re just linking to the news you’ve already written.  And you can even use the same lead you have on the story, then link to the rest on your website.

As for the distribution, there are lots of mail management programs out there.  This site overviews what’s available.  If you’re looking for someplace to start with no initial investment, we recommend MailChimp.

Interested in looking into the world of newsletters?  Start out by finding a few (you can find links to some Texas community papers’ newsletters above).  Then subscribe.  They’re all free.  You’ll get newsletters in your inbox and just look them over to get a feel for what these papers are doing.  After a couple of weeks, you’ll have a vision for how you can reach new readers with newsletters and you can get yours started.

You can thank us later.


Business of News

Quality journalism is the foundation of a good bottom line

As I look back on a career that began when I was 11 years old, I realize how rich those experiences have been. I’ve had the privilege of working for four publishers who are in the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame, and have learned from each of them. I’ve written sports, weddings, birth announcements, obituaries, news, features, columns and editorials, taken pictures, laid out pages, shepherded talented staffs and sat down and written whole issues by myself. I’ve conceived and executed special sections that brought in huge financial windfalls, and others that made you think, “We did all that work for this?”

I’ve seen Texas newspapers make lots of money – and fail miserably. And I’ve seen newspapers struggle to stay in business, but succeed admirably.

I know newspapers have to be profitable. We owe it to our readers and our communities to thrive, to stay in business and accumulate the resources to cover the news fearlessly. My contention is that newspapers have the best chance of succeeding when they serve their communities — when they play a vital, active role in community life and the lives of their readers.

That’s not just an altruistic anthem to journalism – it’s good business. When a newspaper becomes a “must-read” in its circulation area, the positives multiply. More readers means more ads (if you know how to sell) and that means more resources. Delivering news people can get nowhere else makes you part of the fabric of the community. You’re no longer “them” but “us” – no longer “that newspaper” but “my newspaper.”

The rising tide of putting out a quality, readable newspaper, week after week, lifts all the boats – advertising, circulation, finances. If you’re not putting out a good product, it’s not likely you’ll gain in those areas. Quality journalism, “relentlessly local” and fearless in serving the community, is the foundation of a good bottom line.

It’s possible to have a good community without a good community newspaper, but it’s immeasurably more difficult. More often, great communities have a great newspaper leading the way, cheerleading, fundraising, encouraging every good thing and succeeding.

That’s what we want for Texas community newspapers. Let’s get there together.

Business of News Community Journalism

Billionaire invests in community journalism

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper.” The speaker was not a journalist – it is billionaire Warren Buffet, who just invested an additional $142 million to purchase newspapers. We are all tired of hearing that “print is dead” and that our industry is history. We all know our that newspapers have a lot to offer to the public and to our advertisers. Apparently the legendary Warren Buffet agrees with us. He just invested $142 million purchasing newspapers and has expressed an interest in buying more publications. Warren Buffet has become one of the wealthiest persons in the world by following a simple strategy—he looks for business opportunities that are undervalued because most people don’t see the potential they offer. Buffet sees the potential of print advertising. When someone tells you that print is dying, tell them they might want to talk to Warren Buffet!

Business of News

Ken Doctor offers insights on business models for news

If you’re following what’s happening in our business, you know that one of the big names today is Ken Doctor. He’s a leading news industry analyst and author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get. OK, I can hear what you’re thinking: “I’m trying to get out a newspaper in the most difficult economic times in my lifetime for this business. The last thing I have time for is some media theorist.” I get it. But Doctor writes about trends that aren’t as far down the road as we would like to think – and he definitely has some insights that everyone in community journalism needs to be thinking about. At the Center, we frequently talk about these issues as the difference between hurricanes and tsunamis. Hurricanes announce their presence with wind and tide shifts and bands of rain. Tsunamis are different. They are a gigantic wall of water created by tectonic shifts in the earth. You can be on a beach in sunny weather and be totally unaware that just past the horizon a giant wave is headed your way. The tsunami has already hit the metros, but we see less evidence in community journalism. Nevertheless, it’s coming. And Ken Doctor is one of those people who’s writing about the changing business models brought about by the digital revolution. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, here’s a great introduction. In this article, he starts out talking about Netflix and goes ahead to draw parallels to the news business. He calls Netflix “a canary in the circulation coalmine.” Take a few minutes to look over this interesting piece on the future “newsonomics” of our business.

Business of News

Mixed news from NAA on ad revenues

New advertising figures are now out from NAA, and it’s a mixed bag of news. On the positive side, there was a 4 percent increase in print employment advertising, and newspapers attracted nearly two-third of Internet users – more than 111 million unique visitors in April. On the downside, total print advertising revenues fell 9.5 percent in the first quarter of 2011. And overall, print revenues are down $10.5 billion from 2006. The figures also showed that digital is now nearly 15 percent of total newspaper advertising revenues.

Business of News

A real-life parable for our times

So we have two media companies. Both are wildly successful and make a lot of money. They have all the customers they could want. And then the media landscape begins to change. One company stands pat and believes that it offers such a valuable and appreciated service that it will weather the storm. Or to paraphrase TARP terminology, it is “too valuable to fail.” The other company realizes that it does not have to change the product it delivers, only come up with a new delivery system while still keeping the old product. Which newspapers are we talking about? Not newspapers – Netflix and Blockbuster. Netflix is still in the movie business, but changed from being a send-it-in-the-mail business to a video on demand leader. Blockbuster went bankrupt and got swallowed up by Dish Network, which is itself in trouble. There are definitely lessons here for the newspaper industry.

Business of News Hyperlocal news New media Newspaper websites Online news

Revenue-generating ideas for your website

This article, “15 Ways to Generate Revenue for a Community News Site,” was written for hyperlocal online news sites — the competitors of most newspapers. But some of these ideas can easily be adapted for use by your own newspaper’s website. Here the first one: “Find a topic of interest to an audience and a particular advertiser. Have the advertiser put together a video to be aired on the site as a webinar. Readers sign up for it for free. The advertiser gets the names and emails of the attendees as possible sales leads in exchange for a sponsorship fee. A real estate agent might conduct a webinar on how to shop for a home, for example.” Let’s imagine, for instance, that you have a restaurant that’s known for making the best apple pie in town. Take your Flip camera down to the restaurant and let the owner show how to bake a great apple pie, step by step, on video. Then he/she can talk about the restaurant and the other pies they make there. At the end of the video (and you promote this at the very first to keep people tuned in), you offer a recipe if you click on a link — that helps to build the owner’s email list with the captured addresses. And who’s going to help the owner with the email campaign and tie it into your print and Internet editions? Your paper, of course!

Business of News Online advertising

Groupon expands to San Angelo

Groupon has just expanded to San Angelo. That means the site is now found in 13 cities in Texas and obviously, it’s beginning to move toward smaller markets. Other Texas cities that have Groupon sites are Beaumont, Fort Worth, the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Dallas, Lubbock, Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, Amarillo, El Paso, Midland/Odessa and Abilene. Groupon is just one example of the move of advertising dollars to digital direct marketing. Forbes magazine called Groupon “the fastest growing company ever.”

Business of News

Survey says: Publishers believe ad revenues will rise

You can choose as to whether this is a half-full or half-empty glass. A survey just released by Cribb Greene and Associates indicates that 51 percent of 239 smaller-market publishers surveyed believe ad revenue will be up next year. But that’s down from 71 percent in the spring survey. This survey is certainly worth checking out as an indication of what publishers are thinking. Other interesting stats: 43 percent would consider outsourcing printing, up from 32 percent; 50 percent believe profits will be the same or better as in the past; and 86 percent believe their local economies are improving or stable. Cribb Greene is the oldest newspaper and publication brokerage in the nation.

Business of News Online news Paid content

Surving in the new media economy: some options

If you’re trying to get a handle on just what the options are for traditional media companies like yours in a new media world, check out this article. The options briefly outlined by the article are these: (1) Erect a paywall. (2) Put up a semi-permeable paywall (a fraction of articles are free to encourage readers to become paying customers). (3) Implement a metered system, where readers can read a certain number of articles a day and then must pay for further access. (4) Remain free – to try to get more readers and thereby create a site where advertisers will want to appear. (5) Create a better value for advertisers – in effect, turning the newspaper’s advertising department into a miniature advertising agency that offers creative advertising solutions. This article summarizes the various options out there right now, and it will help you think more concretely about what your online future may hold.