Short answer: We’ll see
by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor
LANSING, Ill. (Jun 18, 2020) – As a small business, The Lansing Journal was forced by COVID-19 to make some adjustments during the past several months. Most notably, we didn’t publish a print issue in May or June, and it’s doubtful that we will print a July issue either.
Our pre-pandemic way of doing things was to contact advertisers during the last week of the month to find out what they wanted to advertise in the upcoming monthly print issue. The money they paid for their ads allowed us to print 10,000 copies of a 24-page newspaper, mail almost 9,000 of those directly to people’s homes, and distribute the rest to locations in Lansing, South Holland, Riverdale, Chicago Heights, and Munster. Our advertisers include small businesses, churches, school districts, elected officials, marketing staff, and others.
Adjusting to new realities
The Illinois stay-at-home order changed all that. With so many organizations closed for May, April, and part of March, many have not had anything to advertise, and some did not have the money to spend on advertising.
So we chose to focus on digital for the time being. It was a logical choice for a number of reasons:
- Digital news can be published daily, or hourly, and with so much news happening every day, we wanted to be able to publish as quickly as possible.
- Our readers were spending more time on their digital devices during quarantine.
- Local businesses were also working to enhance their digital presence during quarantine.
- Publishing digitally is about one-tenth of the cost of publishing and mailing a printed paper.
In addition, the press we were using to print and mail our monthly print issue has also suffered economic consequences of COVID-19, and starting over with a new printer will take some time and research.
The Lansing Journal enhanced our digital advertising options, giving advertisers a wider variety of spaces, sizes, and features at lower costs than print ads, with the added bonus of being able to measure results. And in order to help out our fellow business owners as much as possible, we often ran free ads or deeply discounted ads.
Organizations who made the transition to digital with us saw great results. The enhancements to our digital advertising program allows me to send weekly reports detailing how many people viewed those ads, hovered over them, and clicked on them, as well as the various towns those people were clicking from. It is exciting to send those reports each week!
Innovation, patience, results, and plans
I’m grateful for the people who have been willing to try this new form of advertising. It required a change in thinking and some experimentation—for me as well as you—and the results are showing that our innovation is paying off.
I’m also grateful for Lansing Journal readers who were patient while we were experimenting and gave me important feedback. Most of you understand that advertising pays for news. And some of you understand that local advertising is a message from our community organizations to our community readers. These local organizations are investing in our communities, and their ads contain information they want the community to know. So please continue to notice and click on the digital ads in our sidebar, at the top of our website, in our Daily News email, and within the articles you read.
So far, those digital ad revenues are not enough to cover the cost of printing and mailing a 24-page newspaper. We’ve talked about other options—printing fewer copies, printing fewer pages, printing but not mailing, printing quarterly instead of monthly. All of those are possibilities, but for the time being we will continue to focus on digital.
Continuing to work together
As state restrictions are gradually lifted, I’m hopeful that our businesses, schools, and churches will be increasingly confident about making plans and advertising those plans to our readers. And I’m hopeful that our readers will respond as enthusiastically as they always have.
Organizations, if The Lansing Journal can help you communicate with your constituents—or reach new ones—please let me know.
Readers, if you are in a position to help The Lansing Journal continue to provide local news in unprecedented times, we welcome your support.
I can’t predict what the future of our print issue might look like. But working together as a community, we made it this far. I look forward to working together into whatever the future looks like.