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GHS Newsroom
  • Q&A: Canton Repository shares its First in Print experience

  • Before GateHouse News & Interactive Division launched its First in Print strategy, the Canton Repository had its own print-first promotion in place. Executive Editor Jeff Gauger shares why the paper decided to implement the strategy, what he says to the naysayers and how it's worked so far.

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  • Before GateHouse News & Interactive Division launched its First in Print strategy, the Canton Repository had its own print-first promotion in place. Executive Editor Jeff Gauger shares why the paper decided to implement the strategy, what he says to the naysayers and how it's worked so far.
    Why did you decide to execute a First in Print strategy?
    To position our newspaper, The Repository, and our main website, CantonRep.com, differently. And, as I’ve told many a Web reader who called to complain, to add to the premium value of buying our print edition. When I’ve put it that way with complainers, most have backed down. They know they’re getting something of value for free.
    Where do you run the First in Print explainer and how do you promote print stories in print — do you tag individual stories? If so, how many? Do you run some sort of an ad listing some of the First in Print stories? Do you promote print-first stories online?
    We promote First in Print stories in several ways.
    We anchor a “First in Print” logo and short text explainer at the bottom of the left rail on Page A-1, the editorial page, our Your Life feature front and our Sports front. The text in each explainer is different, depending on location and context.
    A “First in Print” logo and text appear with selected stories in news and sports, where there is a mix of First in Print and Web-first content. In the feature section and in our opinions pages and sections, we do not badge individual content, because all content there is First in Print and, honestly, because space is so tight on some days that I’m not willing to spend even an inch on another logo. Often, our Page A-1 big hit is a First in Print story — if it’s a feature or an enterpriser without a breaking news element. The number of stories badged daily with the First in Print logo is determined by the nature of the stories, not by formula.
    Online, we mark First in Print stories as just that. In the Zope carousel, the “First in Print” text appears as a related content line below the main story intro. On a story page, First in Print usually appears as a sidebar in the right rail, with a short text explainer.
    How do you decide which print stories to promote? Do you use some standing content?
    It’s a subjective judgment based on the nature of the story. Breaking news, even breaking news with some enterprise elements, publishes Web-first. Event previews usually publish Web-first, even if they’re more than a brief, because it’s silly to publish a preview after the event. We’ve added First in Print as a topic to discuss at our afternoon news meeting. Actually, “discussion” is a highfalutin word for the 12 seconds it takes to review the content lineup and determine what will be “First in Print.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Yes, some standing content is First in Print. Most columns, including a sports column called “Sunday Special;” it publishes online Monday — called, without shame, “Sunday Special.” Repository editorials and letters to the editor publish first in print. Most feature cover content, except event previews, is first in print.
    How long ago did you start? Have you had reader feedback? Or have you noticed any increase in subscriptions, etc.?
    I wish I could say we started with a grand plan, with all the wrinkles figured out and everything in place at the start. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the plan evolved.
    We moved to the new Zope template Jan. 13. Ahead of that, in December, we started discussing a First in Print strategy with the goal of launching it when we adopted the new template. We did a top-to-bottom review of online content, including looking at traffic analytics. The result was that we stopped publishing many items online altogether, mostly smaller stuff that was getting 15 to 50 page views a week — not worth our effort, in other words.
    At the same time, we identified content that we could publish first in print. We created a staff guide and, come Jan. 13, went to town.
    Sort of.
    The staff guide was complete and detailed, but these things sometimes take time to change. We’d spent two-plus years building a Web-first metabolism in the Rep newsroom. Now we were saying “Web first, except when print first.” Our execution was spotty at first but improved steadily over the first month.
    Still, we weren’t calling the initiative First in Print, and we were not badging stories in print or online. That came in April prompted by:
  • Reader questions. With our new Zope template, we started publishing an image of today’s front page daily, and fairly prominently, on CantonRep.com’s home page. That prompted observant readers to call. “I see that story I wanna read on your front page. I can’t find it online. Wassup?” A good question, and one we should have thought to address before readers prompted us.
  • Morphing good ideas we’d seen in a couple of other Ohio daily newspapers (non-GateHouse papers), proving — again — that there is no shame in adapting someone else’s good idea to your own circumstances.
  • So we sharpened our initial idea, gave our print-first initiative a name and decided to tell readers about it daily.
    We’ve seen no increase in newspaper sales that we can attribute to First in Print.
    Do you have a similar promo in print for online-only content? What sort of content do you promote?
    We push aggressively from print to online, because the paper is our best and cheapest vehicle for telling readers about our website. We have a standing Page A-1 element that touts two or three things you’ll find online only — a video or photo gallery, a blog post or blogger, some other multimedia. We also push daily from specific content that has associated Web-only content.
    Page 3 of 3 - Online, we promote our Friday entertainment tab with a carousel package each Thursday morning that teases to the coming content. We don’t publish the content early, just tell readers that it’s coming.
    Anything else we need to know?
    It’s important to differentiate our print and online publications. At the same time, I bridle at the notion that our Web sites must become the online equivalent of the late-night local newscast — bloody and lusty, filled only with content meant to titillate, scare and enrage. Delaying online publication of thoughtful, enterprising content sets our fiber edition apart while providing content to entice some online readers to stay after they get their breaking news fix.

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