2020 Survival Playbook for Local Media: 25 Ideas from the Publishers

Written by: Alona Melnyk

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Since the onset of the pandemic, Fojo Media Institute has organized a series extra events for the media managers to share best crisis strategies. In this article, we have summarized some of the best ideas that publishers from Eastern and Central European publishers have shared with us.

Community work and advocacy

  1. Keep your doors open for the members of local community or at least make sure they can always call you and get an answer. Uncertain times make people turn to trusted sources for information, and if you are missing on some topics – your readers will be quick to point it out, coming to you with questions. Use this feedback to make you content even more relevant.
  2. In a crisis, many are feeling left behind, and many issues go unnoticed in the face of the bigger evil. Help your community to make its voice heard, be extra attentive to local issues and initiatives. Publishers notice that these efforts are worth the while: their readers’ loyalty converts, for example, in smaller subscription churn rates.
  3. Unite with your fellow publishers through associations and professional communities. Use your joint negotiation power to advocate for government grants for local media or tax exemptions.

 

Team Management

  1. Take care of your staff: safety first.
  2. Cooperate with other media to optimize the workload. You can “share” reporters when covering certain events or topics.
  3. You can also cooperate with other media at local, national or event international level to exchange publications for free. For example, someone might be interested in sharing your human-interest story, while you yourself could benefit from re-printing an expert interview that your colleagues from another media made.
  4. Unite with other publishers to arrange tailored educational events for your teams or invite experts for in-house consultations. This way, you can share the cost and engage more qualified specialists.
  5. When school and kindergartens are closed, let your colleagues bring children to work or even pull your resources and launch cooperative babysitting among the staff members.

 

Advertising

  1. Local business is the part of your community: support those who are worst hit. Offer discount prices for advertising, create a page on your website where you publish news on small local businesses. It is in your interest to help local companies survive, and when better times come, they will know who to turn to for advertising.
  2. Pay extra attention to businesses that are likely to go online or have recently done it. For example, if a local language school is used to working and advertising offline, they might be looking for tools to attract users to their new online lessons. Make a special offer for them and explain how you can create extra value through advertising on your website.
  3. Educate and provide examples of successful digital advertising campaigns. In might be difficult, especially for smaller businesses, to understand the benefits and mechanics of online ads. Keep a simple explanation on your website and give example of successful advertising cases from other local businesses.
  4. Sell advertising in your social media channels as a separate product. It is more affordable for businesses with tight budgets and can deliver great results.
  5. Launch thematic issues or “topic pages” in your newspaper. Offer relevant businesses to place their advertising there.

 

Digital Traffic and Subscription

  1. Turn to reputable programmatic advertising solutions like Google or Yandex for better monetization of the website traffic.
  2. Use multimedia content – games, music, infographics, video – to increase the traffic and monetize it more effectively.
  3. Remember to adjust your content to the platform and audience you are serving through this platform. Simple re-publication from print to website and then to Facebook does not work.
  4. Do not be afraid to experiment with digital subscriptions, even if you are a smaller local publisher. Think about “premium” products that you could offer your subscribers.
  5. Segment your digital readers. Find the most active and loyal ones – those who visit your website often or spend a long time reading your articles. Make targeted subscription offers for them.

Print Distribution

  1. Use QR codes to make it easy for the new customers to subscribe.
  2. For print sales, make a list of businesses that do not close even during lockdowns: grocery stores, pharmacies, other critical infrastructure. Focus on these locations and try to arrange so that your paper is sold there. This will ensure your distribution continues even in case of strict lockdowns.
  3. Bundle up your newspaper with other useful items. Add a mask to each copy, sell a “newspaper + hand disinfectant” package for a reduced price. Put your logo on these items for extra brand promotion.

Content

  1. Check out user generated content (UGC). Ask your readers for information, footage, pictures when you cannot travel or be present at the site of the event. At the same time, be ready that you will need some time and resources to verify the data.
  2. Engage your readers through a contest: launch a photo competition on a topic that many care about: local history, stories about older members of the community, children, animals. This will drive traffic and engagement on social media, but also potentially provide you with interesting content.
  3. Ask an expert you are calling for a commentary to turn on their camera and make a short video of this conversation. We have all become better technology users recently, so short video-interviews are easier to arrange.
  4. Make sure you keep the balance of negative and positive publications to fight against the “pandemics fatigue”. Turn to infotainment, for example: add informative quizzes, tests or games to your publications. Many topics work in this format: events of the week, history, culture.