The Waynesboro News Virginian has started doing something clever, Lindsay Barnes writes for The Hook—they’re saving their best stories for their print publication. Though a few years ago it made sense for a publication to drive traffic to its website, plummeting online advertising revenues, along with circulation rates for print publications, have made it a better idea for a publication to use its website to promote its print publication. In today’s paper, they promote a story about “sexually explicit lyrics” contained within a song played at a middle school dance, cutting off the story after the fourth paragraph and encouraging readers to “pick up The News Virginian today at an area newsstand to get the full story.” The story is a print-only exclusive, until tomorrow, when the full story goes up online. If it goes well for them, Progress managing editor McGregor McCance says they might try it, too.
Media General has their publications do a lot of dumb things, but this isn’t one of them. It’s actually a sensible strategy, because it drives readers to where the advertising (and copy-sales) dollars are. This might have been a foolish move a few years ago, but now newspapers are in such dire financial straits that it seems well worth a try. We do this at VQR, putting about half of the contents of each issue online and accessible to the non-subscribing public, and putting only the beginnings of the rest of the stories online, with promotions to read the rest by picking up a copy. The more time passes, the more of each issue is available online. After five years we open up everything to the public. Here’s hoping it works out for the News Virginian.