President's Column September 2015

Our audience is our product

It was a little out of the comfort zone. Walking into a room full of newspaper people and we didn’t know any of them.

It was our first NNA meeting. It was in Washington D.C.

But, as soon as the session began, it became very comfortable. Newspaper brethren from across the country were talking about the same things we were talking about here.

The National Newspaper Association’s 129th annual convention is Oct. 1-3 in Saint Charles, Missouri. This one is “Show Me The Future of Newspapers.”

Great topic, huh?

Here’s what else they will be talking about. Ron Powers, who wrote a biography on Samuel Clemens, “Mark Twain, A Life”, will speak on ‘Sam Clemens Got Me My Job. He Got You Yours, Too.’

Other sessions: 

Drone journalism is illegal and coming soon!

How can we fight ad tax legislation?

Great Idea Exchange - new ideas - a session that will pay for your registration.

There is also a trip to Ulysses S. Grant’s farm just outside of Saint Charles. It is now owned by Anheuser-Busch. There will be samples, lunch, and Clydesdale horses. See nnaweb.org/convention.

Lessons from West Texas

“It’s not that scary.” That is how Casey Holder of The Graham Leader described his use of their website and Facebook in Graham.

He was a speaker at the 85th annual West Texas Press Association meeting in Abilene recently.

Holder shared the podium with Thad Swiderski of eType Services. Their session was “Technology Roundtable: Where We Are, Where We’re Going and How to get Started.”

Holder told a story of a man that was in a police standoff at his house. Casey recorded the event with his smartphone. The man called the newspaper and told why he was doing it. The newspaper taped the phone call using a free application (soundcloud.com) and put them both on their website. The event had 17,000 views.

Swiderski said Facebook can be a powerful beginning of a story. It should drive people to the website. And the newspaper becomes the end of the cycle. He said the story begins to morph when the public gets involved and that helps with the end product.

“Editors from 50 years ago would kill for the audience engagement tools we have today,” Swiderski said.

Tommy Thomason from Texas Center for Community Journalism located at TCU was there and passed along this little tidbit. “People check their cell phones on average 214 times a day.”

Just about 50% of the people are skipping our home pages and going straight to Facebook to read articles.

Swiderski told the audience to believe in the power of the print edition. He said digital only mimics the print edition.

But, if you are a weekly, you can’t just regurgitate your print edition on the website. He said you have to expand your content on digital media.

“In your town you need to be the hub of the hot video,” he said. “You are the place where people bring the news.”

Use your website as a billboard for your print edition. Take your reader’s interest and drive them to your print edition.

Of course that brought up the conversation of how to sell digital.

Swiderski said, “Don’t sell click-thrus, that is not what we are selling.”

Take your print number (say 3,000) plus your Facebook friends, (5,000), plus your e-editions (1,000), web views (1,000). That is a total of 10,000. That is what you sell.

“We reach more people than there are in the whole county,” he said. “We now have a way to reach everybody across our platform - this is our audience.”

Another speaker was Todd Chambers, Associate Professor, Chair, Department of Electronic Media and Communication at Texas Tech University.

He gave a history of our readers:

Silent Generation/traditionalists - 1928 - 1945 (70-87 yrs old)

Baby Boomers 1946-1964 (51-69)

Generation X 1965 - 1980 (35-50)

Millennials 1981-1995 (20-34)

Generation Z 1996 - totally digital

It’s that last group that will probably never want to read a printed newspaper, he said.

As probably with most journalism schools, Tech is teaching their students how to tell stories over multiple platforms.

FYI - their j-school grads are required to do (one semester) internships. Let them know, “You will get top notch interns,” they said.

Another FYI - Abilene is the story book capital of the world. We saw it and it was fascinating.

Sure did enjoy going to WTPA. We were a part of that group for ages when we worked at some papers in North Texas. 

 Hope to see you in Saint Charles.