Putting people in the paper
An advertising photo special section proves popular and profitable for The Greeneville Sun
When The Greeneville Sun published its "Around the Clock" special section last year, it not only made money but readers and advertisers asked for more. The paper obliged.
General Manager John Cash describes the section as featuring "ordinary people doing everyday things." That's all it is: photos of people taken over the course of a day. Only now it's a quarterly special section called "Around the Town."
"I think what people really liked is these are people who would never get their picture in the paper, probably," Cash said. "These are just every day, normal folks, doing whatever they do at work and during all hours of the day and night."
People are attending events like festivals and football games, working on utility lines, making donuts in the early morning, going to church, attending meetings, even just walking down the street. All of it is put together by the sales staff; no one on the editorial side is involved.
Cash is also chief revenue officer for the Adams Publishing Group properties in Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Greeneville is in East Tennessee and The Sun circulates about 9,300 copies Monday through Saturday.
Around the Clock was based on "A Day in the Life of Hawkins County," published by The Sun's nearby sister paper in Tennessee, the twice-weekly Rogersville Review. The brainchild of Rogersville Editor and Publisher Tommy Campbell, the section had been a popular feature since 2015. The Review's circulation is 3,500.
Cash said people simply want to see themselves and people they know in the newspaper. When Around the Clock was published, people commented in person, via email and on social media that they liked the idea of good, positive coverage of the community and they wanted to see more of it.
The Sun sales staff got together and brainstormed ideas for what photos to take for the inaugural Around the Clock edition that was published in September. They divided into shifts and called ahead where needed to let people know someone from the paper would be coming. Cash said they were mindful of privacy concerns in cases of small children, hospital patients and the like.
The photos were not tied to advertising; no one was required to buy an ad to get in. However, Cash said a few advertisers did ask to have their photos taken and those requests were honored.
Around the Clock was published on Sept. 29. By Dec. 29, Around the Town was a quarterly that didn't focus on a single 24-hour period but did cover people at all hours of the day and night, including weekends. The next issue is due at the end of March.
At 32 pages, Around the Clock generated just over $7,500 in total revenue with a profit of 50 percent. The December issue of Around the Town in Greene County was also at 32 pages with total revenue of nearly $8,800 and profit of 56 percent. As of late last week with sales still going on, the March issue was projected to generate about $9,500.
Cash said the feature has become more popular as readers and advertisers grow familiar with it. The Rogersville Review has also gone quarterly with its version and is showing similar profit margins.
Beginning in March the Greeneville issue will have a $2 price tag attached for stand-alone copies, Cash said. Around the Town will remain free to subscribers as an insert to the regular paper. Only a few hundred extra issues are printed.
These days The Sun has more photos than it can use. Although The Sun doesn't guarantee that all photos will be published, Cash said some may be held over until the next issue.
As for advertisers, Cash said, "People are just waiting to get into the next one. They're glad to be a part of something that's so positive and just showcases who we are, who the town is."
For more information, reach John Cash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at email@example.com.