Enhancing our online services
by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor
LANSING, Ill. (April 18, 2020) – One of the advantages of being a digital as well as a printed source of local news is that we can publish news every day. That kind of frequency has been especially important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our community. If we were limited to a monthly (or even a weekly) print publication, most of the news on those printed pages would be outdated by the time it arrived in your mailbox.
Relying only on a monthly printed publication might also be a disadvantage to our advertisers right now. It’s difficult to publish sales and coupons during economic uncertainty; in fact, it’s difficult to even publish hours of operation when you’re winging it day by day.
So we’ve been experimenting with some enhancements to our online presence.
Increasing content (3 changes)
1Pre-pandemic we typically published 2–5 articles each day. That seemed to be an optimal number for our daily readers to process each morning without any of those headlines getting lost in the shuffle. But over the past several weeks we have often published 6, 7, or 8 articles a day—updates from Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, announcements from Walgreens and other companies with a local presence, and information from our own local government, schools, churches, and businesses. Because our readers are also spending more time online, this increase in information has been seen as a benefit rather than an overload. We still do our best to space stories appropriately, but often we find ourselves publishing as much as possible as soon as possible because we want to post before the information is outdated.
2The speed of information has also led us to change our social media strategy. Pre-pandemic, our email subscribers were almost always the first to receive the news we published—fresh headlines arrive in their inbox each morning at 5:00am. We would then share those stories to our Facebook page at various intervals throughout the day. Now, however, there are times when we publish a story and share it to Facebook immediately, while our subscribers receive it the next morning. If you’d like to follow our Facebook page and receive those early shares, you can Like us here:
3You might also have noticed that we do not limit coverage to Lansing exclusively. Many of our surrounding towns do not have a local newspaper, so to help them out we publish their news whenever we can. A couple of our reporters do not live in Lansing, and sometimes they are reporting from home now, so we welcome that broader perspective. And recently a reader expressed interest in COVID-19 numbers from our neighboring state, so we’ve begun adding Indiana information to the daily reports we release from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Our goal is to find a balance in being hyper-local while serving area communities who have expressed a need.
Increasing readership (1 change that we’re still tweaking)
You’ve probably noticed the pop-up form that now invites you to sign up for our daily email. This pop-up is not yet behaving quite the way we want it to—it sometimes shows up, for example, even after you click “Do not show this again;” and it can’t distinguish between people who are new and people who have already subscribed. I apologize for that. Yet this little pop-up is the most successful method we have for gathering new subscribers—within the first five days of using it, we added more than 200 subscribers to our list. So thank you for your patience as we continue tweaking the settings.
Increasing ad opportunities (to serve businesses as well as readers)
Many of our regular advertisers are small businesses who now find themselves competing against online retailers with much more experience and much larger advertising budgets. We want to help these businesses.
So we’ve added some new online advertising opportunities. Not only are these ads more affordable than a similar print ad, but the results are more measurable. We can tell advertisers exactly how many people are seeing their ads, how many people are clicking, even what towns those people come from. That kind of information is critical for local organizations who want to be as efficient and effective as possible with their advertising dollars.
If you are a business, church, or organization that is ready to see what digital advertising can do for you, please click over and look at the new options we’re offering:
Readers, we appreciate your patience throughout the past 10 days as we experimented with these new ad styles and placements. There were times when ads were out of position, or moving instead of staying stationary, or appearing all at once instead of taking turns. Please know that these mistakes were my fault, NOT the fault of the advertiser. I appreciate the feedback I received from readers, which was helpful as we made adjustments and corrections.
Local content, local ads, local community
The Lansing Journal’s first purpose is to provide local news, and advertising should not be an impediment to that purpose. Rather, I hope our readers will consider it an enhancement.
One of the advantages of a local newspaper is that even the ads are local. Rather than overlooking the ads that now appear in our sidebar, under our logo, and even within our stories, I hope readers will be reminded that these local advertisers are serving our community too.
I hope even as you are reading this article, you might make plans to eat at Mancino’s, buy spring flowers at Waters Edge, worship at First United Methodist Church, get your oil changed at Fine Tune Auto or Unlimited Service Auto, and eventually see a show at Theatre at the Center. All of these advertisers are working hard to adapt in these uncertain times so they can continue serving our community.
And their advertising dollars allow us to keep serving our community too.
Keep letting us know
Thank you for the different ways you have shown your support, particularly recently. Each new subscription, each new donation, each new advertisement equips The Lansing Journal to keep reporting, publishing, and distributing community news.
And as we continue to adapt and adjust, please keep letting us know how these changes are impacting you, and please share whatever ideas you have for improvements we can make. We depend on input from our community to be the best community newspaper we can be.