Attracting younger readers

That’s the challenge, isn’t it?
It’s no secret the newspaper circulation is dropping with each year. The Herald hasn’t been immune to this, despite producing a better product than we’ve had the past five years (in my opinion, but I’m biased). The truth is … older people make up most of the newspaper subscribers. Younger people make up most of our online readers. Nationwide, subscribers are falling in all age groups, while online readership is going up in all age groups.
And sadly, our subscription number doesn’t take into account those online readers.
So what to do? Well, as an editor, I have to go after all these age groups the best way I can.
And for younger readers, it means more entertainment and news relevant to them. It also means attacking like hell online.

Blogs
That was originally the purpose of this blog — to attract online readers to our newspaper. I’ve had this blog for about a year and a half now, and I’m up to an average of 500-600 readers (or visitors) a day. When I began, I had 500 visitors in the first month.
Since then, several of our reporters and editors have begun blogs. Does it attract people to subscribe to our paper? Maybe not … but it gets our name out there. And often, what we write about on our blogs is related to what appears in our paper. The hope is to get people interested in the paper part of it.

Facebook
facebook
Just this week, The Herald created a group page on Facebook. Already 45-plus people have “joined” the group. CLICK HERE to join … you must have a Facebook account.
Again, will this lead to more subscribers? That remains to be seen. But it does get our name out there on a social networking site that has millions of people who’ve joined. To have 45 people join the group in a 24-hour period is impressive.

The future
I’ve worked for papers that send text messages to phones when news breaks. I’ve seen newspapers have 5 p.m. news broadcasts posted to their site. Newspapers across the country are thinking of innovative ways to buck the trend of losing readers.
But when it comes down to it, we have to remain relevant. It’s hard to do when papers across the country are cutting staff. We weren’t immune to that either, though our cuts were minimal compared to what we’re seeing in Raleigh and Greensboro right now.
There may be no future for the newspaper … but I’ll fight like hell to keep The Herald and future newspapers I work for relevant as long as they’re in business. I think the Obama election and the huge sales the following day are proof that newspapers have a place in our society. Unlike Internet news sites, newspapers are history etched in stone.
I think they’ll always be around. We just have to rethink the way we’re doing them.

If you have any ideas on ways to make The Herald better, please e-mail me at bliggett@sanfordherald.com.

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5 thoughts on “Attracting younger readers

  1. Pingback: The Herald’s Facebook Page « B3’s Blog

  2. I agree. It’s kinda hard to save a printout of cnn.com’s homepage for all of eternity.

    I am hopeful that soon newspapers will come back en vogue. And I think it will happen, much like bellbottoms and Johnny Cash…

    The best way to be an informed, well-rounded news consumer is still the paper. Plus, it pays my bills.

  3. I’m not sure what ‘silver bullet’ or ‘killer app’ that may yet be out there to stave off the continued decline of print newspapers(The Christian Science Monitor just quit publishing a hardcopy for Pete’s sake) …. but I absolutely believe that local newspapers provide huge value to the community.

    Along with local news, a physical newspaper helps promote a sense of ‘place’.

    But specific to small papers, the real value is in local news, which CNN and the larger metro news outlets will never cover in any depth, if at all. If we lose our local papers, who will be there to cover local elections, issues, and simple community news? No one except maybe a grassroots blog.

    Unfortunately to cover more local news, one needs staff, and to have staff, circulation/funding…. which puts papers with every shrinking subscriber bases between a rock and a hard place. It is not an enviable position.

    But what I can say for certain is that if/when a local community loses its local paper, only then will they realize what they’ve lost… and it may be too late by then to do anything about it.

    I wish I had a suggestion to turn the tide, but although we can indeed turn to an online local grass-roots presence, or even digitize the Herald’s output, there really is no substitute for an actual local newspaper that one can sit down with every morning. I hope that never goes away.

    Al

  4. The end of newspapers will be the end of past and current culture. It will be slow, and hard to see, but it will happen. We will lose the account of events of our area, both positive and negative, should newspapers fail. We will lose the permanent record of our time. For the newspaper is that what historians look back to when trying to make sense of how the future might relate to the past. For when family members try to capture the essence of past generatons. Can nouveau-news meet recordkeeping role of newspapers? I think not. I believe it will lead to revisionist history. How will we maintain the benchmark of our history when a few quick clicks can change an article in a few seconds, thereby changing history. Only through web-captures can internet based media be stored and preserved for progeny.

    It will be truly a dark day if no newspapers grace our breakfast table and add insight to our contemporary happenings.

  5. So have newspapers switched to low acid paper? I am 66 and the birth announcement my parents saved for me is basically dust. Long before Mr. Liggett’s time there used to be a plant here that received shipments of every copy of that famous New York City newspaper “All the news that is Fit to Print” ( I’m having a senior moment and can’t recall the correct name). Anyways they used huge cameras and converted the newspapers to mircofilm. It is that microfilm that is still around not the actual newspapers. Do you have any Ideal of how much space would be required to store only one years worth of the Herald? Even with the dinkly pages used today….
    I expect the Herald makes up a good part of the landfill since I see no organized recycling of newsprint…
    Without being too nasty, just how much of the newspaper’s content is worth saving?
    I am new here, recently been given more free time by RIF at a local employer, you are likely to find me contrary, I can usually see the other side of any issue.

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