Idea Exchange

Become the go-to vendor for local print products


In the search for new revenue streams, no stones should remain unturned.

And while the news out of Washington, D.C., is about sequestration and budget cutbacks, local governments are still a good place for newspapers to look when it comes to finding new products that meet community needs and bring in new money. In fact, your local government may already be sending funds out of town that your newspaper could be earning.

Sean Ireland
The Palatka (Fla.) Daily News, owned by Community Newspapers Inc. of Athens, Ga., produces several different print projects for branches of its local governments, including three once-a-year publications and a monthly magazine. A fifth project is awaiting grant money and a sixth is currently in negotiations. The newspaper works with its local sheriff's department, emergency management center and school system on the publications.

Each entity and project has different needs and different bureaucracies to navigate, but the Daily News has learned how to work best with each one. The result is that the newspaper has become the go-to vendor when local governments need a print project.

For Daily News and Special Sections Editor Allison Waters-Merritt, building the portfolio of these public-service print projects has been a long-term process. "The first exclusive government entity publication we produced since I have been here was the sexual predator/offender listing called Neighborhood Watch," Waters-Merritt said. "At the time, 'How to Catch a Predator' was very popular on TV. The show happened to be filming in Flagler County, which borders our coverage area, and we found out that one of the people caught on the show was from Putnam County. This gave me leverage with the sheriff as to the timeliness of doing a publication of this nature.

"The show airing coincided closely with our county fair, so we produced the section with enough extras to be handed out at the fair at the booth the sheriff's office maintains. I had research at the time showing that most of our residents do not have Internet access, so having a published document was beneficial. We just finished the seventh year of this listing."

Neighborhood Watch is distributed once a year in the full circulation of the newspaper, with an additional 1,500 copies given to the sheriff's office for distribution at the fair and other locations. The sheriff's office pays for the publication with funds from its Crime Prevention program – money from the sale of property recovered during drug seizures. That money must be used for Crime Prevention programming.

With that publication as a launching point, over time the Daily News has added:

  • Red Ribbon Week, a special annual section distributed on an NIE day in the full run of the newspaper. Extra copies are given to the sheriff's office for the fun day at the end of the week. It's also funded with Crime Prevention money.
  • Putnam County School District Schools, a monthly magazine distributed on NIE day in the full circulation of the paper with extra copies given to the schools for parents. The county schools pay for it through an annual budget item and through advertising sold to three of the school district's sponsors. The advertising goes directly toward increasing the number of pages in the magazine.
  • All Hazards and Fire Watch, two special sections produced for Putnam County's emergency operations center. All Hazards is a budgeted item for the department, while Fire Watch is funded through a grant. Both are inserted into the full run of the paper with extra copies distributed through local hardware stores and fire stations.

As one might expect when working with government, putting together these projects isn't easy. "Each special section has to be treated differently, because while these are government organizations, they are all run uniquely – the sheriff is elected, and the person in charge of the Emergency Operations Center is hired," Waters-Merritt said.

"I think it is important to have an idea of whom and what you are working with before ever presenting an idea," she added. "In dealing with government agencies I found that the more you know about their departments, the easier they are to deal with. My recommendation is that if you do not already have a solid contact with these agencies, you need to talk to the reporters at your paper who cover these agencies and find out who makes the decisions. Is it best to contact the sheriff or the undersheriff or even the public information officer? Your newsroom is your best resource."

Preparation is the key to winning over these projects. "Most of these agencies are doing some sort of outside print job and sending the money elsewhere. If you are looking to print magazine quality, get samples from your printer if possible. If you have something in hand, they can then visualize themselves doing the publication," Waters-Merritt said. "Like any governmental agency, these people are overworked, so make it as easy a decision as possible. Have a concept of paging, sizes, etc., and that way you can give them pricing up front. When working any new project, I already have the distribution numbers, the type of paper, size of the publication and number of pages in mind with the price quotes ready. Then if they decide they want to do something bigger, smaller or different, you can get back to them with new numbers.

"It's important to get samples and take ideas directly to them with the attitude of, 'Look what we can do for you.'"

For more information, contact Allison Waters-Merritt at (386) 312-5200.

palatka-daily-news, revenue, niche
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