For newspapers where graduations are around the corner still, there's a best practice to pay attention to at a GateHouse Media newspaper.
The Observer Dispatch, a GateHouse paper located in Utica, N.Y., has a popular feature called I Spy, where photographers attend events and take true snapshots — the kind of stuff you would post on Facebook — of those in attendance.
The content is extremely popular with readers. In fact, Utica's I Spy photo galleries typically make up for 5 of the 10 most popular pieces of content on our websites each month.
This week, I ran across an I Spy gallery of a recent graduation, which got me thinking about the popularity this feature could carry in print for other newspapers that are covering graduations.
Yesterday, I received in the mail, this week's edition for the weekly paper that services the town I live in. In the middle of the paper were two full pages featuring nothing but photos from one of the high school's graduations. There were pictures of the valedictorian speaking, kids hugging their parents and general crowd shots. Those are all fine things to have in your newspaper.
Editors should ask themselves what readers really want to see in the paper the day after a graduation? Maybe a few quotes from the valedictorian's speech, a list of graduates and photos, would make my list. Clearly, there are coverage photos, like the ones I listed above that were featured in my hometown newspaper, but the real reader value are photos like the ones that are in the I Spy gallery. Grips and grins. Stuff mom and dad want to clip out.
One of the most popular special sections I helped produce when I was an editor were graduation sections that featured every kids photo in a graduating class. It's no brain surgery on why they were such a hit, parents wanted to get a keepsake that had their kids photo in it. Imagine the opportunity around selling out the day-after-graduation edition if it was packed with a page or two of grip and grins of graduating kids with their friends and family. It's huge.
This isn't to say that we turn professional photography at our newspapers to Facebook quality. We need a photo or two to go on our front pages and local fronts, from a coverage standpoint. But when it comes down to what readers really want from an event like this, it's those grips and grins and lots of them.
Grip and grins don't work for every assignment and it's up to editors to evaluate when and where they make sense and when they can supplement our coverage. Making good decisions in this area has the potential to excite your readership and sell newspapers and drive lots of web traffic!
At the end of the day we have to find ways to make our products special. This is a way.
David Arkin is Vice President of Content & Audience for GateHouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com
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