With limited resources, keeping up with the 24/7 news cycle can be out of reach. Read how one publisher is driving traffic – and revenue – with stories from AP at no cost.
With publishers looking to create more targeted content, I checked in with Bobby Ford, who runs the website and e-edition of The Winchester Star in Virginia.
The Star, which has a circulation of about 20,000, was the first newspaper in the state to use an offset printing press and also the first to adopt a paywall.
I asked Bobby how he generates revenue from the Star’s digital properties and why he uses our free, ready-to-publish Digital News Experiences to attract audiences to the website.
As a publisher, what are the challenges of producing engaging stories?
We’re always trying to make sure we provide as good a product as we can for our readers, and we’d like to become more of a 24-hour operation where people are coming back throughout the day.
We see traffic increase when we post breaking news; we just need to make sure we consistently do it. With some of the limitations we have, it makes it difficult to get everything in and on the web in as quick a manner as you would like.
How do the Digital News Experiences from AP help maintain a consistent flow of coverage?
We aren’t able to cover the NFL. We aren’t able to cover NASCAR. We can’t really cover college football or basketball come tournament time without The Associated Press.
The DNE microsites give us something that people have a real interest in that we just would not be able to provide on our own. And when you know you’re going to have local teams that show up in the rankings, it’s always important to be able to show where they stand.
We’ve had a lot of success with those microsites no matter what sport they are.
You use the DNEs outside your paywall. How do they play into your editorial strategy?
Honestly, you want to have your main content be available only to your subscribers, but you also want to make sure there’s a reason for everybody to come to the site.
I look at it like when you see a newspaper on a rack – the stories above the fold are meant to draw readers in. The DNEs give people an opportunity to get a little better understanding of what’s on the site that day. We want to make sure people are engaged all the way through.
How do you use the revenue generated by the DNEs?
Every bit helps. It gives us an opportunity to put some financial resources toward things we otherwise might not have. Obviously, it’s drawing people to the website, so those eyeballs are creating revenue in other ways, as well.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a real positive for us.
Do you feel like the Star is in a good position as a newspaper in general?
I feel like we’ve done very well to this point and we’re certainly looking to the future, trying to make sure we look at the right technology before we really dive into it. But we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what’s available and what we can do to serve our readers best.
Hopefully, people will think about us a little bit more when it comes to national stories, international stories and keeping up with things throughout the day than they have in the past.
Jake is the text and multimedia product manager at The Associated Press and the former editor of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for AP and helped design its multi-year strategic plan.