After so many years of consulting and advising newspapers, it still never ceases to surprise me when I find questions from publishers in my email. Still, when I click on Apple Mail, there are questions concerning circulation, design, business practices, and more.
As we begin a new year, let me share some of my best advice that might just improve your business in 2022:
Put serious effort into growing readership
Two months ago, I wrote a column that included ideas from Tony Cox, a publisher in Tennessee. Tony’s newspaper in Clinton, Tennessee, has been growing, in both readership and advertising revenue, in no small part because the staff puts serious effort into growing circulation. Tony mentioned that a redesign three years ago seemed to “kickstart” a season of growth.
Get training for your staff, and get free on-site training
I still do a lot of online consulting and training, but I don’t do nearly as much on-site consulting and training as I did a few years ago. The reason is apparent: the ability to get training online cuts the expenses involved significantly. With no travel, hotels, and rental cars, the cost of a day or two of training is a lot more affordable than it used to be.
Still, I get requests to visit newspapers for two or three days to provide on-site training. And lately, I’m finding that a good bit of this training is being underwritten by state grants. In several states where I’ve worked over the past couple of years, the entire bill, including my travel, hotel, and training fee, was paid for by a grant from the state.
Many states, maybe most, offer grants to locally owned businesses providing training for their staffs by “experts.” It seems grants often require the business to be locally owned and operated, that training is provided for all staff members, and that the training benefits the business in the future.
I would suggest contacting your state Small Business Administration to learn what is available in your area.
Redesign to keep your readers interested
When I visit with non-newspaper readers, and sometimes even people in the newspaper business, they are surprised there are newspapers growing in readership and advertising. One factor that correlates among most growing papers I hear from is design. Most papers I’ve run into who are growing redesign their pages every five to seven years.
Do not believe that print is dying
Most of my income comes from a book publishing business I began four years ago. This year, we’ve published about a dozen best sellers among the 30 or so titles our company has released in 2021. I’m not sure why people are so surprised when they ask how much of our book sales come from digital books. Even though most of our books are available in Kindle and other digital formats, the income derived from digital books sales is less than 5 percent. Book publishers know that the number of sales via digital and audiobooks is tiny compared to printed books. Don’t let anyone convince you that people have quit reading print.
Experiment with color
It’s easy to fall back on old habits, and updating colors used in ads and on pages is vital in keeping readers interested. Stay abreast of the latest in color by checking out the most popular colors at pantone.com or by keeping an eye on what national advertisers are doing with color. You’ll notice that clothing, paint, carpet, cars, and just about everything else correlate with the colors Pantone reports are most popular each year.
Update your hardware regularly
Last month, I wrote about the difference adding more large monitors made in my design efforts. Even so, I still seem to replace my monitors about once a year with bigger, higher-resolution monitors. I update my computers about every other year—the payback: increased speed and output. And let’s face it, time is money.