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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recognizing which stories sell papers

In August 2007, after having owned the Kuna Melba News for less than a year, I began to recognize a troubling trend with regard to our local news coverage and its correlation to single-copy sales. I wrote a column about the problem.
Here is part of that column, which ran under the headline, “Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney — made you look”:
"When we first took over the paper in October, we were selling about 200 copies per week over the counter. We slowly worked our way up to 300 copies, 400 copies … We’ve been regularly floating between 400 and 500 copies every week.
"So it was troubling when we sold only 330 copies over the counter for the July11 issue. The lead story that week was the Kuna school board’s decision to put a $25.5 million bond issue on the ballot in September — a huge issue that will affect everyone in the school district.
"The following week, though, we sold 502 copies — about 170 more people bought the paper than the previous week. The main story? An inside tour of the castle house on Meridian Road. It certainly was a curious story of high interest in the community, but not even close in importance to a $25.5 million bond measure.
"But there you have it. Over-the-counter sales went up 52 percent because of a story about the castle house.
"In an age when newspapers are reducing their content and cable networks play up stories about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, I feel there is a niche for serious news coverage — especially local news coverage. My goal is to offer both — news that you want and news that you need.
"But my biggest concern comes when I report, write and publish stories on important matters and few people read them.
"I spoke with a couple of people in Melba about whether the Melba library district measure would pass on Aug. 7 (that was the story right next to the castle house story on the front page). Unfortunately, they didn’t know anything about the library vote, but they knew about the castle.
"So in an effort to hammer home the details of the Kuna school bond measure and the impact on the property tax levy, I will give a detailed account line by line of the district budget, annual amortization of payments based on — oh my gosh, you’re not going to believe what Britney just did."

Five years later, I daresay the problem is even worse.

P.S. Do the kids even know who Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are any more?

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