By Dorothy York, President and CEO of North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
Newspaper have pivoted to digital advertising on their sites to bring their publications into the modern era with some easy, low cost improvements. With little or no technical knowledge, publishers can create a beautiful digital site in less than an hour, for very little cost or can add various optional enhancements which will help attract more readers and sell more ads.
Many are succeeding with website development while others are struggling or afraid to try. Here are several fear inducing website development myths busted, with a no holds barred strategy for tackling site upgrades, to guide publishers on the road to progress:
1- “I don’t need a website.”
Today, every newspaper needs to have a digital version in addition to the printed version. Even local papers often generate from 10 to 30% of total revenue from their websites. Newspaper websites have contributed significantly to the bottom line. Having a digital website means reaching a bigger audience. Only about 30% of newspaper readers read printed papers currently. That means 70% of the potential audience can only be reached online, including young people, out-of-towners and people who have cancelled their print subscriptions.
2- “I don’t have time to deal with changing websites now.”
With the help of a good consultant, the job is much easier. Upgrading a website involves as little as 1 hour of your time, to just a few hours, maybe four one-hour meetings, over four to six weeks, to plan and build out your new site. You can transfer everything over from your old site and set everything up on the new one, easily and quickly.
3- “Having a website will erode my print business.”
Print subscriptions, which can be sold online, tend to increase when a beautiful new site is launched. In addition to generating more subscription revenue, which ads value to advertising, managing print subscriptions more efficiently online tends to help cut costs. A full website with a good pay wall can add lots of digital only, and print subscriptions from people who would otherwise never buy the paper version. Print ads can be showcased and enhanced online, to drive more traffic and increase ROI for grateful advertisers.
4- “We don’t have any IT skills or web people here, so we can’t do this.”
There are many free online tutorials to help you, if you want to do it yourself, without needing to know how to code. A good consultant can take care of all your IT needs and may provide a platform that is easy to learn, and run, with minimal training, advice and support. You don’t need any tech people to manage a fully functional digital site. Your consultant can help you learn to use the best search engine optimization strategies for your stories, what maintenance and software upgrades may be needed and which occasional tweaks to the design may help to enhance the user experience.
5- “That seems expensive and I can’t afford it.”
Some basic sites can be developed for little or no cost, and may be less functional. Valuable options can be added to increase the cost-effectiveness of a project, and to justify the expense. A good digital publishing platform will pay for itself by helping to grow audience and create more value for advertisers, which will help generate more ad revenue.
Here are several tools and features that can be added for better performance:
1- A dynamic website CMS to better showcase content
2- A custom design that reflects a brand and content
3- A robust pay wall that controls access to content and serves as an e-commerce platform too. Print or online subscriptions can be sold on a site. Donations can be received on a site. Recurring payments and auto renewals can be set up, including sending out notices to subscribers or generating printable labels through a subscription platform.
4- A full classified platform that lets users post and pay for their ads online. A complete classified system allows for reverse publishing of ads and the option of offering paid or free online only ads.
5- A web ad server can handle lots of different kinds and sizes of advertising.
6- National programmatic ads help generate some added revenue.
7- Free content can be provided for use in print or online, which can be monetized with relevant ads.
Good websites have helped save many publications which have learned to survive and thrive in the digital age. Communities need and want news and the role of publishers with essential information has never been more important. Innovations have emerged to satisfy demand and leading newspaper publishers have responded to shifting trends, setting a shining example for the rest, by finding new paths, violating norms and listening to new ideas.
Some have become stronger, by increasing readership, boosting circulation, and ad sales by focusing on content, approach and design. After learning how easy it is to create a simple website, many publishers created a new revenue stream by offering website design as a service to their advertisers.