Thursday, August 13, 2015

Weekly papers increase in Kansas; Virginia weekly to expand to 3 editions per week, expand online

In Kansas, once-daily community newspapers' survival strategy is to go weekly, while a former fsily that went twice-weekly in Virginia is expanding to three days per week to meet the needs of advertisers and subscribers. (Wichita Public Radio photo by Sean Sandefur: The Newton Now plans to publish weekly in Newton, Kan.)

"A decline in revenue, ushered in by easy access to free, online news has forced many local publications to scale down production. And in Kansas, that means weekly newspapers are the new normal," Sean Sandefur reports for Wichita Public Radio. Some of them are new; two examples are the newly formed McPherson News and Information and the in-progress Newton Now (they capitalize the last word but we ban typographic tyranny here).

Anne Hassler-Heidel, publisher and only full-time employee of McPherson, distributes copies via mail, free to the 15,000 residents in her circulation area. She hopes the total market coverage will attract advertisers. She told Sandefur, “If I can get 35 percent ads, we won't lose any money, and then we'll look after that to maybe get myself a paycheck. But that's not the reason why I'm here. Of course I need to cover my expenses, but you get so much out of a community newspaper other than the pay.”

Joey Young, who owns two weekly newspapers, a monthly magazine and a quarterly magazine, says he is starting Newton Now with business partner Bruce Beyhmer to offer an alternative to corporate-owned papers that concentrate more on national and world news and ignore local news. He told Sandefur, "I think there's still a very good market for what we do. While the national focus is on metro dailies that are struggling to adapt, community journalism and products like ours are doing very well.”

As long as advertisers are willing to buy space, these weeklies can survive, Sandefur writes. "According to a survey conducted by the University of Missouri in 2013, 67 percent of residents living in small towns across the country read a physical copy of their hometown newspaper at least once a week. That’s what local businesses want to hear when looking for places to advertise, according to Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association. He says community newspapers have a corner on the local news and advertising market."

While those two Kansas papers are thinking small, The Virginia Review in Covington, Va., is thinking bigger. Publisher Mary Ann Beirne announced that the twice-weekly paper will publich three days a week starting at the end of September, David Crosier writes for the Review. Beirne told him, “I have been listening intently to our advertisers and our subscribers since we went to two-days-a-week in September 2013, and, in response to overwhelming sentiment, we will be moving to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays beginning Sept. 29.” Prior to the move to two days a week, the paper published six days a week.

Beirne said the newspaper will have a stronger online presence, Crosier writes. With a subscription, readers will be able to get coverage seven days a week, she said. That way readers can get late-breaking news and greater access to updated obituaries, an area Beirne said was something in which readers expressed concern. (Read more)

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