Stuff a last-minute sales stocking

In Bay City, Texas, people still like to see their kids in the paper


As the holiday sales season comes down to the wire, here's a quick way to generate a little more revenue, make readers smile and sell some more papers.

The Bay City Tribune in Texas, which circulates about 4,000 papers twice weekly, filled up two full pages at Halloween with photos of kids in costume, got a major business to sponsor the promotion and made $500. There's no reason the same plan can't work with Santa Claus.

"I know it's not a huge revenue-maker like a tab or a magazine or something like that, but these little things count. For small papers, we've got to think outside the box," said Dena Matthews, advertising manager for the Tribune. "A little bit of revenue here and a little bit of revenue there, it adds up."

For the last few years, the Tribune has invited parents to bring their children to the office on Halloween in full costume to get their photos taken. The photo shoot is free of charge and the photos are published in the next issue, enticing family and friends to buy the paper.

"We've got what we call our red carpet. It's a big red mat," Matthews said. The children, and an occasional costumed parent or other adult, pose on the carpet against a backdrop Bay City Tribune sign. Someone at the paper who can take good pictures does the honors; it need not be a staff photographer.

The kids get some Halloween candy as an incentive, generating goodwill toward the newspaper from the juvenile set.

This year, Matthews decided to ask a local chemical company, the Oxea Corp., to sponsor the event.

"Not only did we do well on getting the sponsorship and the people to come here for Halloween, we also sold beaucoup papers after that," she said.

On Halloween day this year, 55 families turned up to have their photos taken. The Tribune filled two full pages and placed a strip ad prominently at the top of each thanking Oxea for its support.

Brenda Burr, publisher of The Bay City Tribune, suggested doing the same thing with Christmas photos of children with Santa Claus. Given the time constraints, if the paper isn't able to bring in a Santa, Matthews said she may ask a couple of business already holding Breakfast with Santa events to contribute their photos and tell the kids and parents to look for them in the newspaper.

"I'm looking forward to 2019 and maybe trying it with some other events," Matthews said. The Easter Bunny hops to mind.

One important piece of advice Matthews offers for an in-house event is this: Have a parent or responsible adult do the paperwork. Families lined up at the paper's office and filled out forms ensuring that all children were listed with their names spelled correctly. Rather than "left to right" the cutlines listed everyone as "pictured" because groups of children were bound to shift positions during the photo shoot. There were no complaints about inaccurate IDs, she said.

"We just have a good time with it," Matthews said.

For more information, reach Dena Matthews at

Jane Nicholes

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

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