Friday, May 23, 2008

Hannibal Newspaper Committes to Hyper-Local Coverage and Sees Postive Results

One Missouri newspaper has made a tremendous turn-around and its publisher, Jack Whitaker, says the upswing in subscribers and advertisers is because of a new emphasis on local coverage.

Yep, you read that right, local coverage. The newspaper in Hannibal is focusing its attention on doing what a local newspaper does best -- covering local issues. It is the reason readers subscribe. And local coverage is why local newspapers exist.

"We have a local franchise and our focus is local," said Whitaker. "Let the big national newspapers cover the national stories but we are going to protect our local franchise by providing local news coverage."

Whitaker spoke for a few moments at the Ozarks Press Association meeting this Spring. He said the Hannibal Courier-Post, which is a daily newspaper, has stopped using Associated Press content except for national sports coverage.

The change at this newspaper has been pretty dramatic. Granted, the steps they took were dramatic too. But this renewed and continual focus on local coverage has increased subscriptions and every other benchmark used by newspapers to measure success.

"People want to know what only the local newspaper can bring them. Our franchise is the local news, local people and local photos," said Whitaker.

Would a renewed local focus help your community newspaper? I think the answer is "yes" for every newspaper in southwest Missouri. If MU Extension can be of help in working on increasing your local news coverage but helping with a content audit or going over ideas for local coverage please contact me.

Next week, I'll share the letter written by Jack Whitaker to his readers about the importance of local news coverage. It is worth reading.


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