Newspapers Seek New Business Plan

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Nov. 24, 2008 12:00 am  

Tom Larimer, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, says community newspapers can create new revenue by publishing a wider variety of products.

The Newport Independent also dropped from two editions per week to one this November. Just seven years ago, the Independent was a daily paper.

Maintaining a community newspaper requires remembering what the audience is, said Mike Graves, CEO of Graves Publishing Co. of Nashville (Howard County).

The company publishes the Nashville News and three other newspapers. Their content is as local as possible, including a recent two-page spread in the News of deer hunters displaying their kills.

That kind of coverage might not seem trivial to others, but it sells.

"I would say that a lot of our readers, that if we got away from covering local sports, we would lose lots of readership," Graves said.

The lack of younger readers does not concern Graves either, he said, because the papers target an older audience. As the younger generation ages and settles down, they too will take the paper, he said, because no other source covers local news.

Disappearing Dollars

Hussman has made a name for himself nationally as a contrarian when it comes to online news. He has preached for years that the news industry shot itself in the foot by giving away news content for free, and the Democrat-Gazette requires readers to buy a monthly subscription for full access to its Web site, www.ArkansasOnline.com.

Hussman is not as dogmatic as he lets on; the Democrat-Gazette's northwest edition publishes stories for free at its Web site, www.NWANews.com.

"That's much more competitive up there," Hussman said. "The Morning News [of Springdale] offers content for free, and it really hasn't hurt us that much because it's a smaller market."

ArkansasBusiness.com embraced the philosophy of free content when it launched eight years ago, and Hankins said the Web site and the free e-newsletters it pushes to anyone who registers do better than break even.

"Our Web site has been profitable for several years, with revenue up 26 percent this year," he said. "I remain amazed by the comments the Democrat-Gazette executives make regarding free content. They give it away on their Web site in northwest Arkansas, and they are launching free publications in central Arkansas."

 

 

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