Wick Communications

Putting the special in sections

In Ideas on July 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hey boys and girls! Gather ’round the newsroom, I’ve got something exciting to tell you: It’s time once again for … the graduation tab!

(Silence.)

Aren’t you excited?! Remember the last time we did exactly the same thing and had to beg Bertha the school secretary for all those senior mug shots? Wasn’t that fun?

(Slightly angrier silence.)

Since the dawn of newspapers, special sections have been regarded somewhere between a necessary evil and just plain evil. They drag us from our appointed rounds. They are usually additional work, to be done on top of already busy days. They are rarely presented with any enthusiasm, even by ad managers who stand to make money off them. And, let’s face it: No one ever won a Pulitzer for a feature in the quarterly “Senior Living” insert. …

I propose a shift in the way we look at these things. Let’s look at them as integral parts of our whole and products that continue to carry our newspaper’s good name. I’m talking about a shift in perception, but also considerably more than just an attitude shift. And it’s not really my idea. This is something several of us talked about in a conference call with group leader David Lewis last week. The consensus was:

The planning for the next special section should really begin the day the last one hit the street. The best time to consider what worked and didn’t work in this year’s grad tab is while it’s fresh on your mind and not 11 months later.

Don’t be wed to the past. Just because you have always produced a Progress edition with two broadsheet sections doesn’t mean that is the best thing for readers and advertisers going forward. If your Year in Review is a stinker, think of an entirely new way to do it or consider dropping it entirely in favor of something else.

Consider the digital opportunities. Ask readers online for their top stories of the year and put them in the Year in Review. Make a chart showing the top 10 online stories of the year. Talk up the grad tab on Facebook. Ask graduates for their advice to the next class.

And run house ads in your own paper touting your special sections.

These special sections are money-makers, which is why we do them. You can continue to let them make your life miserable, or you can embrace them and make them better.

Clay

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