Reader callouts are a great way to unite your community. You ask readers to submit content — photos or thoughts — and publish responses online and in print. All publications should build a highly visible program in print and online to solicit content from readers.
Every week, newspapers should be seeking new stories and photos from readers on holidays, life-changing moments or special community events, such as:
Asking readers to write in for Valentine’s Day about how they fell in love with their partner.
Seeking photographs of a local Easter egg hunt or photos of kids dressed in their Sunday best.
Seeking photographs of teenagers dressed up for prom.
Below, you will find a calendar of callouts throughout the year when newspapers should seek reader stories and photos. The calendar notes when a newspaper should seek submissions in print and online and when they should run the content.
The GateHouse News & Interactive Division will develop promotional ads in three sizes: 5 x 2, 4 x 3 and 1 x 2. You can use the ads anywhere in your newspaper to generate interest. Also, an image will be posted on GateHouse News Service with the callout promotions that newspapers can use in their carousel online and place in their promotional scroll.
Have a callout always running in your print edition in an anchored position, and always have one featured on your website’s homepage. You should run each callout for no more than two weeks, then insert a new callout.
In addition to the GHNS promotions, look for local opportunities, such as major community events and happenings.
Here are some ideas:
Businesses closing or reopening: Ask readers to submit their memories of the business, whether it’s a favorite restaurant, watering hole or store. Ask for old photographs, too.
Local events: When you have parades, fairs, carnivals, car shows or other events in town where people are gathering, ask readers to send photos of themselves and their families. It’s simple to pair this callout with your coverage of that event, and it works well for a Monday “what we did this weekend” feature.
Upcoming events or shows: Ask people who are planning to attend to preview the show for you in 200 words or less.
- Celebrity sightings: Have readers send in photos of themselves with celebrities they bumped into on vacation, at the airport, etc. This is a photo gallery you can keep adding to all year long.
- Local artists: Request local artists to send you photos of their work, with a description of their medium, background and upcoming shows/sales.
Page 2 of 5 - - Recipe exchange: Create a spot in print and online for readers to request and share recipes for holidays and from local restaurants.
- Book, music and movie reviews: Ask your readers to review what they’ve been watching, reading and listening to. Offer small prizes occasionally like books and movie tickets to encourage submissions. Use the reviews prominently in print and online, perhaps even with photos of the writers.
Seeking photos: Place a promotion on your front page or in another highly visible position in your newspaper, and run house ads throughout your newspaper at least a week before the event asking readers to send photos to the paper. Run that promotion daily.
Seeking stories: Place a promotion on your front page or in another highly visible position in your newspaper, and anchor house ads at least two weeks before the holiday asking for readers’ thoughts or stories. Run the promotions daily, or if you’re a weekly, run it for at least two weeks. Provide a deadline for submissions and note when the stories will run. Provide a deadline at least a week before the stories will run in case you want to contact a submitter for more information or centerpiece art.
What to run in print and online: Run as many photos and stories or story excerpts as you can in print. Create an online photo gallery with every callout. Start the photo gallery as soon as you have two submissions, and encourage others to submit. Use one or two submitted photos in print with the callout as more encouragement. Run stories online, too — create a single story and add to it in Zope as more submissions come in.
How to promote it: To encourage submissions, place the promotion in a highly visible location in your newspaper, such as the bottom of your front page or at the top of the folio of a local news or community page. Also, place the promotion in your carousel and promotional scroll on your website or as a ranked story on your homepage.
Also: Try several kinds of callouts at first to see what works for your readers. Some topics will garner response, others won’t. The only way to tell what works is to try.
Usually, photos are easier for readers to find and send than stories. Feel free to include parameters for submissions, too, such as word counts or contact information.
New Year’s: Ask readers to submit photographs of their New Year’s Eve parties or time with their kids celebrating the new year. Seek submissions Dec. 26-Jan. 4, run by Jan. 6.
Snow: Ask readers to send in photos of kids making snowmen or playing in the snow. Run the promotion seeking the submissions several times throughout the month. Also run this callout when there is a major snowstorm. Seek submissions Jan. 5-20, run by Jan. 24.
Page 3 of 5 - Super Bowl: Ask readers for party-food recipes. Seek submissions Jan. 20-31, run by Feb. 3 (game is Feb. 6).
Valentine's Day: Ask readers to write in about how they fell in love, what they love most about their partner or how long they’ve been together and why. Seek submissions Feb. 1-12, run by Feb. 14.
Pet photos: Ask readers for photos of their pets doing something silly or amazing. Seek submissions Feb. 13-19, run by Feb. 21.
Fat Tuesday: Ask readers for decadent recipes in honor of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Seek submissions Feb. 20-March 3, run by March 7 (Fat Tuesday is March 8).
Spring break: Ask readers to send in photos of their spring break trips taken with their kids. Seek submissions March 1-8, run by March 12.
St. Patrick's Day: Ask readers to send in photos of their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Seek submissions March 14-19, run by March 20.
Spring: Ask readers to send photos of flowers, robins and other birds, or their gardens. Seek submissions March 16-30, run by April 1 (spring begins March 20).
Earth Day: Ask readers for comments on what they’ll do to help the Earth and why: Will they plant a tree? Clean up a park? Try a green product at home? Seek submissions April 1-14, run by April 22.
Easter: Ask readers to send in photos from Easter egg hunts or Easter programs at school and church. Seek submissions April 15-25, run by April 26 (Easter is April 24).
Prom: Ask readers to submit photos of their kids all decked out for prom. Seek submissions April 26-May 12, run by May 15.
Mother's Day: Ask readers to submit stories about the best lesson their mother taught them. Seek submissions May 1-6, run by May 8 (holiday is May 8).
Summer drink recipes: Ask readers to send in recipes for their favorite cool drink to help counter the summer heat. Seek submissions May 7-22, run by May 25.
Memorial Day: Ask readers to submit photos showing how they’re enjoying the warm weather, from grilling to water sports. Seek submissions May 26-June 2, run by June 4 (Memorial Day is May 30).
Graduation: Ask readers to submit photos of their kids’ graduation ceremonies and parties. Seek submissions June 1-10, run by June 12.
Father's Day: Ask readers to submit photos of father and sons who look alike. Seek submissions June 12-17, run by June 19 (holiday is June 19).
My favorite car: Ask readers for old photos of their first cars, their favorite cars or their family’s cars. Seek submissions June 18-28, run by June 30.
Page 4 of 5 - Fourth of July: Ask readers to submit photos of fireworks or Fourth of July celebrations (parades, concerts, community picnics). Seek submissions June 29-July 6, run by July 7.
Little League: Ask readers to send in photos of their kids’ summer Little League action. Seek submissions July 6-19, run by July 21.
Your bucket list: Ask readers to send in the top three things that are on their bucket list. Seek submissions July 20-31, run by Aug. 2.
Summer vacation: Ask readers to submit photos of summer vacations, especially notable locations such as the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, or quirky places, such as the spot with the world’s largest ball of string. Seek submissions Aug. 1-14, run by Aug. 19.
High school football: Ask readers to submit photos of their kids’ high school football practice and first game. Seek submissions Aug. 15-23, run by Aug. 26.
Back to school: Ask readers to submit photos of kids on their first day of the new school year. Seek submissions Aug. 24-Sept. 7, run by Sept. 9.
Labor Day: Ask readers to send pictures of their barbecues, picnics or other Labor Day activities. Seek submissions Sept. 1-6, run by Sept. 7 (Labor Day is Sept. 5).
Sept. 11 memories: Ask readers for stories of where they were on 9/11, or tributes to people who volunteered or died in the disaster. Seek submissions Aug. 28-Sept. 10, run by Sept. 11.
Homecoming: Ask readers for photos of their kids dressed up for the big game or the big dance. Seek submissions Sept. 12-29, run week of Oct. 2.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Ask readers to write in about how breast cancer affected their lives or the lives of their family and friends. Seek submissions Sept. 30-Oct. 17, run by Oct. 19.
Fall foliage: Ask readers to submit photos of their favorite images of fall foliage in their communities or their foliage trips. Seek submissions Oct. 18-25, run by Oct. 27.
Halloween: Ask for photos of kids or pets dressed up for Halloween, or readers’ houses decked out in Halloween decorations. Seek submissions Oct. 26-Nov. 1, run by Nov. 2.
Veterans Day: Ask readers to send in their photos of patriotic events to honor the holiday. Seek submissions Nov. 6-11, run by Nov. 13.
Thanksgiving: Ask readers to submit stories on what they’re thankful for this year. Seek submissions Nov. 12-21, run by Nov. 24.
What you hunted: Ask readers for photos of animals they have killed this year during hunting trips. Seek submissions Nov. 22-Dec. 4, run by Dec. 6.
Christmas lights photos: Ask readers to submit photos or addresses of their favorite Christmas decorations and light displays. Seek submissions Nov. 25-Dec. 14, run by Dec. 16.
Page 5 of 5 - Kids' letters to Santa: Ask readers to have their kids’ Santa letters submitted to the newspaper. Seek submissions Dec. 15-22, run by Dec. 24.
2011 memories: Ask readers to write in about the stories — in the news or in their families — that had the biggest impact on their lives this year and why. Seek submissions Dec. 23-29, run by Dec. 31.