|New member profile: Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, Wash.
By Jeremy Weber | Associate Editor
Providing local news to communities scattered along a 160-mile-long strip of the Olympic Peninsula is quite a challenge. Yet the Peninsula Daily News has rapidly grown its circulation for almost a decade with two strategies: zoned editions and "chicken dinner news."The Daily News publishes two heavily-zoned editions, one for each county in a market stretched along the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The front page, inside stories and letters-to-the-editor are all zoned by county. Even the masthead changes: Clallam County's features a mountain backdrop, while Jefferson County has a more nautical theme.Launched in 1998, the zoning strategy has proved to be a true success story for the paper."We were feeding our Clallam readers Jefferson County government news and other news they couldn't care less about, and vice versa," said John Brewer, publisher of the 16,700-circulation daily owned by Horvitz Newspapers. "Our market area had just gotten too big. We were trying to please everybody and by doing that we were pleasing nobody."We've become truly a local newspaper for both counties," said Brewer. "The zoned editions have made us a better paper and allowed us to do a better job of focusing on each community."The Daily News is based in Port Angeles, the Olympic Peninsula's gateway to Olympic National Park and Vancouver Island. The peninsula is not a growing market, but the Daily News was the fastest growing paper per capita in the Northwest for seven years until gas prices slowed its growth last year.The zoned editions allowed the paper to grow into Jefferson County and the nearby town of Sequim and better compete for advertising with three strong weeklies that compete in its market area. In September, the Daily News took further aim at its weekly competitor in Sequim by launching a TMC product. Sequim This Week is a free weekly tab distributed by mail to 10,500 area households.The Daily News serves an older demographic that includes many retirees from nearby Seattle. The paper provides newcomers with close coverage of local government as well as extensive events listings of things to do.Brewer once took a road trip through Washington state, buying the local newspaper at each town. "I was just astounded," he said. "The papers gave us no hint of what there was to do in those towns." His paper has long emphasized a local calendar as an important readership driver.The other component of the paper's growth has been its continued embrace of local community news submitted by readers."We publish tons of reader-driven 'chicken dinner news'-type notices sorted by city," said Brewer. "People getting checks, kids getting awards - we do a lot with those pictures."Many newspapers quit running photos like this years ago, but for us, it's our bread and butter and one of the reasons we've done so well circulation-wise."The paper experiences so much reader participation that it runs extra pages on Wednesdays and Sundays just to fit in all the community submissions it receives."Thank God everybody seems to have a digital camera," said Brewer. "We don't have to go out and shoot those events. Readers shoot those events themselves."This strategy of tailoring "chicken dinner news" to specific communities creates a close relationship with readers. "Our goal is to be seen as accessible and visible in our 160-mile-long circulation area," said Brewer. "We want to help build a sense of community and promote the role of the newspaper in our community."The Daily News, founded in 1916, was instrumental in the creation of Olympic National Park. Among its readers are the Makah, the only remaining Native American tribe that hunts whales.Brewer said the Daily News enjoys excellent readership among the tribe. "We do all their 'chicken dinner' stuff as well," he said.The Daily News supports local communities through the Peninsula Home Fund. In 2006 it raised almost $200,000 from readers to help improve living conditions for 2,000 individuals and families.Contact: John Brewer, firstname.lastname@example.org