What I receive the most in my mailbox

June 15, 2024 |

By Kevin Slimp

It has already been a busy summer, and I’m not sure summer has officially begun yet (It’s June 1 as I write this). Upon returning from my latest trip – to Pennsylvania – yesterday, I was greeted by a stack of packages from publishers – most containing newspapers to critique – and an email folder with plenty of messages from editors, designers, and publishers. To keep all the newspapers I receive from getting wet, I purchased a waterproof container about the size of a pirate’s treasure chest, which I placed on the porch by my front door. The mail deliverers and UPS drivers have become well acquainted with my box.

What’s on the mind of newspaper folks these days? The answer is “a lot.” Whoever first coined the phrase “newspapers are dead” in the early 2000s apparently never had to go through my email or my box.

Growing Readership

The most common question I receive is, “What can I do to get more readers?” That hasn’t changed in the 30 years I’ve been working with newspapers. We always seem to be looking for a magic potion to make more people want to read our products. I’ve addressed that question many times in these columns, often with a list of ways to grow papers, but most often, the answer comes down to improving the quality of the newspaper.

Quality is a funny thing. It encompasses more than the “look” of a newspaper. It includes writing high-caliber stories that meet the reading desires of potential readers. Quality entails research, such as focus groups, to understand what readers want – and don’t want – in their newspaper. And obviously, the importance of design can’t be overestimated.

Improving the Product

The packages in my front porch box usually contain newspapers to be critiqued. Upgrading the content and design of your newspaper should be at the forefront of growing your paper. That doesn’t mean you have to send your paper to me. This means that your paper should develop a method of critiquing every element of content regularly. But couldn’t I just look at these pages on the screen? Sure, but seriously evaluating a newspaper requires taking notes on the pages. After I critique a page, it generally looks like someone has bled all over it.

Increasing Ad Revenue

Increasing revenue is on everyone’s mind. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t. I lead a lot of webinars on various topics. There was a time when photo editing or page design classes would be the most popular. These days, sessions related to increasing revenue draw the biggest crowds. I’ve written my share of columns on increasing revenue, but the best way I know of to increase ad sales is to go out and visit more potential advertisers physically. It sounds simplistic, but those of you who have been around the block a few times know it’s true. Don’t worry. If you happen to be signed up for one of my future webinars on increasing ad revenue, I’ll have more to share than “just get out more.” However, if you want to sell more ads, just get out more. It works.

Next up for me? North Carolina, Virginia, then over to see my friends at Arkansas Press Association. When I return home, I imagine the box next to my door will be full.

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