Black Inkling 9-23-10

By Ken Blum

Dear Black Ink readers:

This issue consists entirely of reader contributions, and I can't say how much I appreciate input and ideas that help thousands of your hometown newspaper brothers and sisters all across the US and Canada (and hundreds more overseas).  Keep them coming!

And remember, if you have friends in newspapering who could benefit from this newsletter, all they need to do to join our family is drop me an e-mail to Please include name, position, publication and location for my address book.

With kind regards,


Comments and Readers Helping Readers

Xerox Machine Matches any 4-Color Press
From Chip Hutcheson, publisher, The Times Leader, Princeton, Ky.

Notice the item you had in your newsletter about the paper charging 99 cents for an 8x10 color print. We've taken a different route. We use My News Photos, and that has been moderately successful. I like it because it takes the load off us and we can post every picture we take, not just the ones that were published.

However, recently we bought a Xerox 700 for our sheetfed printing operation. Its quality matches any 4-color press you will find. We are just starting this, but I think it will catch on like wildfire.  We will provide a reprint of any page of our newspaper on a 12x18 sheet for $5. The product is a high-glossy, magazine style looking page, suitable for framing. My out-of-pocket cost for this is 17 cents (paper and click charge, not figuring in depreciation, etc.)

Of course the press is expensive but our thought is that this will give us added volume at a markup we cannot get on traditional printing.

Re: The Consequences of Leftover Copies of Your Paper
From Tom Ward, publisher, The Valley Breeze, Cumberland, R.I.

(Ken's note - The Valley Breeze is a free circulation weekly paper.)

It's far more damaging that just the cost of the papers. Imagine advertisers walking past that pile and thinking "what am I doing spending money in that paper. Nobody's picking them up."

If you put 500 papers somewhere, and 200 - even 100 - are there a week later, it's a DISASTER. The ad customer doesn't see the 400 that went home, only the 100 that are left over.  DISASTER.

We print on Thursday, and deliver 59,000 papers to more than 1,200 locations. The goal: all gone by Saturday. Generally, that's what happens. Total  returns? 200-300.

Always leave the readers hungry for more, and let them know if they don't get their paper right away, they're out of luck. (And, of course, advertisers know their ad reached the market!)

Minimum Pressrun for Smaller Weeklies
From Anne Cassens, publisher, The Herald Tribune, Edgemont, S.D.

If you're dealing with small weekly papers you need to understand that the cost to print 650 (which we distribute) is the SAME as printing 1,000 because that is considered the minimum press run. We "make" them give us only 850, but cutting that number down would not save one penny in printing costs. 

Needed: Fun and Prize Ideas for Readers
From Keith Peters, publisher, the Community Advertiser, Farmingdale, Maine

I'm looking for some ideas. In some papers I have seen fun things for readers to do to get them to look through a paper and get a prize for doing it. Searching for the fake ad, or looking for a logo or symbol. Win a free pizza or something of that sort. What have other publications done along this line? 

Question from Ken:

Okay, editors, how do you spell the following?

-Is it, "e-mail" or "email"?
-Is it, "website" or "web site"? Is it a small case "w" or capital "W"?

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Hutcheson, Mr. Ward, Ms. Cassens and Mr. Peters. 

Re: Front Page Advertising

(Ken's note - I was wrong about front page advertising no longer being a controversial issue. There are still plenty of hometown newspaper publishers who oppose this practice. Let's look at one more "pro" and one more "con", and then the topic will RIP in this newsletter.)

From Mark Bellune, editor, The Chronicle, Lexington, S.C.

I've reported, edited, photographed and designed page A1 at dailies and weeklies. I have long said these words: "An ad will go on the front page over my dead body!" Now that it is MY newspaper, last year's recession threw my statement out the window and we have been running a 5 column by 2 inch front page ad every issue. And I haven't dropped dead!

From Cindy Thayer, Advertising Manager, Hells Canyon Journal, Halfway, Ore.

I must differ emphatically with Bob Bobber's opinions on what will kill newspapers and the desirability of advertising on the front page.

If you want to capture and hold an audience, it's all about content. Yes, we need advertising revenue, but there is a fine balance between increasing revenue and alienating your readers.

When (news) content is what subscribers want, they won't mind a reasonable amount of advertising. But if they see ads encroaching on the front page, they may think the dollar takes priority over information. Good content increases readership, and increased readership makes the advertisers' investments more effective. It's a synergistic relationship that brings us to the win-win situation we need to survive.


From a national campaign to promote magazine readership. The point can also apply to hometown papers:

"Will the Internet Kill Magazines? Did Instant Coffee Kill Coffee?"

More Unique Newspaper Names

The Quiz - Ord, Neb.

The Plain Talk - Newport, Tenn.

The Watchman - Onida, S.D.

From a Fan
"Fun to work with, but he doesn't hold back . . ."
Brinn Clayton, publisher, The Courier-Times, Roxboro, N.C.

"I needed a new set of eyes to look at my business to help see how we could weather this economic storm. I have had consultants before, but none who knew anything about the newspaper business. Mr. Blum was able to bring the knowledge he has gained in managing newspapers, plus the knowledge he has gained in consulting others.

"Mr. Blum is fun to work with, yet he does not hold back pointing out> hard things a publisher needs to look into. Our time together was more like building a friendship than working with a stuffy consultant.

"Mr. Blum provided me with a 50 plus page report on my newspaper and ideas to make our operation better in producing a good newspaper while wringing out the profit.

"His visit was definitely worth the money."

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Mr. Clayton.

© Ken Blum 2010

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Ken Blum is a specialist dedicated to improving the bottom line and quality of newspapers, from smaller weeklies to midsize dailies. For complete details about how his advising service can benefit your hometown paper, call 330 682-3416 or e-mail