Saving Print

There are at least 25 ways to improve your print product

Here are two of them

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When publishers lift their heads up from their tablets and smartphone screens, they should realize that there's not just life left in the print newspaper business model-there are opportunities to optimize print, thereby optimizing revenue.

The Inlander over the next few issues will be showcasing these ways by publishing a series of suggestions taken from "25 More Ways to Improve Your Print Products in 2017." We may even from time to time slip in some tips that came from "25 More Ways to Improve Your Print Products in 2016."

Both white papers were created by the SLP Print Solutions Team of Southern Lithoplate Inc., Creative Circle Media
Solutions, Presteligence and MW Stange LLC.  

This issue's installment touches on legal ads, and native advertising.

You can download the books from Creative Circle's website: http://25printideas.creativecirclemedia.com/

Get Serious About Legal Ads

Publishers have regarded legal ads as an important revenue source  for an eternity. And lately, they have been worrying about losing this Golden Goose. They are battling back via legislative lobbying to protect the print portion that provides so much money to support local newspapers around the country.

Here is the problem: We have never addressed the core issue. We need to make reading legals easier.

Too often, legal advertising  doesn't get the respect accorded other advertising.

We can all agree that municipal efforts to cut costs by putting the legals online somewhere is probably a bad idea. Online, people only read what they know, what they are familiar with, what they like. Online, legal ads and public notices would never be seen by the vast majority of the public. Burying legal notices on a municipal web site or some statewide public site that ONLY lists public notices, would make them even more invisible and impenetrable. It would indeed defeat the reason we have legal notices in the first place-to make sure the general public is aware of the spending and actions of public entities.

How can newspapers turn the tide? By doing with public notices what any good reporter would do with this kind of information: cover them, highlight them, make them understandable, expose their inconsistencies.

Here are six ways you can do the right thing with legal ads:

Run them in bigger type without charging more. Yes, the legislature sets the point size but look at that as a minimum. 

Make a commitment to make them legible.

Write a common-language summary of each press release (as news content) at the top of each press release.

Write a headline (as news content) on each legal notice.

Illustrate them with photos, maps, or graphics.

Run house ads or news stories explaining what legal notices are, and the kind of useful information readers can find there - auctions, business opportunities, sales, etc.

Promote this valuable content. Anchor them somewhere in the paper and make them a feature readers can count on. Refer to legal notices from news stories, section flags, or page one.

And while we're at it, let's use our lobbying efforts to promote that officials do the same six things.

Lobby to make legal notices legible with larger type and readable with language and formats that make sense and foster understanding and easy reading.

What if the legislature mandated that each legal notice had to have a brief summary, written in common language, that described what it was about? What if all legal notices needed to highlight, in bold, in the body of the notice, how much money was at stake for each notice? What if legal notices had to have headlines, visuals and/or graphics? 

That will get legal ads read. 

- Creative Circle Media Solutions

Combine native with classifieds

Native advertising has been popular online, but newspapers have been slow to embrace it in print, which is a huge missed opportunity.

There are a dozen ways newspapers could do a better job of delivering native content in print. But one of the best concepts we've developed focuses on native as a way to re-energize classifieds.

Like print, we believe classifieds not only can be saved but can once again thrive in newspapers. You've got to take your blinders off and learn how to think differently about this incredible, valuable ad type for newspapers. 

We've had success creating new classified categories for food, health, business, pets, outdoors, sports, travel, and more and packaging those with related content in sections throughout the paper. Using native-like adjacencies, food ads go in the food section; outdoors ads in the outdoors section; business ads in the business section. 

Here are a few of the secrets to success with this new kind of classifieds:

  • Don't call them classifieds! Our classified sections are ugly, poorly managed and poorly designed. Our market research shows SBAs don't want to be in the classified section. Classifieds are associated with cheap, used, and unprofessional. Instead, echo Google AdSense or Facebook Ads and call them "targeted text ads" or anything but classifieds!
  •  Think broadly about these categories. Food isn't just where to buy food, it's also where to carry out food, learning how to cook food, and buying the right tools to make food. We've created more than 40 new classified categories for food. So targeted food ads can include appliance sales, kitchen remodeling, game butchers, carry out restaurants, cooking classes, and coupon book sales.
  • Forget 100 upsells. Every classified department is obsessed with silly and unproductive upsells and limited word counts that are crippling our classified efforts (see tip #1). Every ad should START with a headline, visual and 30-50 words. Forget the ugly borders and reverses and colored type that have junked up your classified section. Think classy and sophisticated. That's what SMBs are looking for.
  • Stick with flat rate pricing. Keep it simple and uncomplicated.
  • Don't skimp on typography. Use normal, legible type, standard column widths and full column width images and logos.
  • Whatever native classified categories you create in print should also be found online. Native classifieds need to find their way across all your digital brands - newsletters, web site, apps, etc.

- Creative Circle Media Solutions