By: Jaci Smith
Whenever I talk to publishers, editors and advertising managers about integrating digital tools into their workflows, there’s always one word I hear more than any other.
“I don’t have the time to train people.”
“It takes away from the print product. Why would we give away our news online?”
“I don’t have the resources to stay up to date on the latest tools.”
“I can’t make as much money on digital advertising as I can print.”
“My staff is already stretched too thin. They don’t have time to maintain/sell a website/social media.”
“I don’t have a budget to spend on digital tools.”
Welcome to “no buts” digital. This is where I answer your questions, review products, offer tips and, with the help and support of the Minnesota Newspaper Association, develop customized training to help you get where you want to be on the digital spectrum.
Maybe your paper doesn’t have a website but you don’t have the time to explore which platform is the best for you. Maybe you want to dive into selling digital advertising but are not sure where to begin. Maybe you want to get better at analyzing metrics. Maybe you want to use some social media tools, but aren’t sure where to start. Maybe the “likes” have plateaued on your Facebook page and you’re not sure what to do to take the page to the next level.
I can help you with that. I am currently the managing editor of the Faribault Daily News, a 5,000 circulation, five-day daily that’s part of APG Media of Southern Minnesota, but my digital roots go back decades. At the Herald News in Passaic County, New Jersey, working with Bill Ostendorf at Creative Circle Media, I developed the paper’s first interactive online newsroom, where readers could view the paper’s daily news budget and vote on the stories they wanted to see on the cover of the paper. Our paper won an award from the New York City Press Club for our use of social media in covering an election, beating out both Newsday and the Wall Street Journal for the award.
As the city desk editor at the Duluth News Tribune in the early 2000s, I helped that paper develop a convergence relationship with a local TV station and was involved in the construction of the paper’s first mini-studio. While at APG, I created the Digital Ninja School (name shamelessly stolen from Chris March at Digital First Media, who was kind enough to share his company’s idea with me), a series of self-taught classes for employees to bone up on their digital skills, and helped oversee the company’s conversion to the Town News web platform.
Most recently, I finished a nine-month fellowship with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, where I studied native advertising and created a successful program to implement it at small market newspapers. Along the way, I’ve learned much about digital advertising at papers of all different types and sizes. I continue to be an advocate of alternative forms of advertising like native and sponsorships, both of which have been used in my company on a routine basis.
I figure, given all the wonderful opportunities that have been afforded me during my career, the least I could do is pay it forward to others who want to learn. Coaching is the best part of what I do every day.
Here’s my “but”: This project won’t succeed without your input. I have a lot of ideas of what I think may be helpful, but what I really want is to find out what you think would be most helpful for you; what questions do you have? What are your training needs? How would you like to see that training happen? Let’s get this ball rolling.
Send me your thoughts at email@example.com, or give me a call at 507-649-1693. You can also follow me on Twitter @FDNJaciSmith. And of course, watch for new topics in this column in your MNA bulletin.