Posts Tagged ‘Lisa DeSisto’

Service of Drastic Measures that Saved a Newspaper Section: How Long Can It Last?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Sarah Mervosh’s New York Times article about the creative marketing measure The Portland Press Herald took to preserve its regional book reviews intrigued me as much as I worried that the rescue will last only a year. The dwindling number of these sections around the country is appalling and indicative of the poor health of the newspaper industry.

After reading that the largest circulation newspaper in Maine was going to cancel the section, best-selling author Stephen King, known for his horror books, asked his 5+million Twitter followers to “tell the paper DON’T DO THIS,” according to Mervosh. The paper challenged King—who worried that the lost publicity would rob local writers of the ability to buy bread and milk—to ask “his followers to buy 100 digital subscriptions.” They would reinstate the local reviews if he did and they did.

The Press Herald ran with the ball and this Twitter conversation took place with King:

  • TPH: “We’d be willing to bet a retweet by @StephenKing would get us over the threshold.”
  • SK: “Sales pitch? Blackmail? Either way, 71 people have subscribed so far. Are there 29 more Twitterheads out there who want to ante up? just asking.”

Photo: pinterest

The paper’s staff created a deal—for $15 you get a 12-week subscription. Chief exec of the Press Herald‘s publisher Maine Today Media, Lisa DeSisto “credited her employees for asking the community to pay for the journalism they want.”

They ended up with 200 new subscriptions in two days. The paper “pledged to continue the reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors.” In addition, Joshua Bodwell with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance raised enough money to pay for ads to cover the book reviews for a year.

This rescue happened as the newspaper reporter hemorrhage in this country continues unchecked. Mervosh wrote “the number of journalists across the country dropped by nearly half from 2008 to 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.” Recently 20 reporters were axed by the Dallas Morning News and almost all reporters are gone at The East Bay Express, she wrote.

A reporter with The Sun Journal in Lewiston, Steve Collins, wrote that it was “encouraging” that people saved local book reviews “But seriously folks, the chief reason to read your local newspaper is you need local news.” He added “Imagine a Maine where you know nothing about anything that goes on. That’s a real horror story.”

Given that most communities don’t count a popular author like Stephen King among their citizens to tout their cause, would such a tactic have legs elsewhere? Would crowdsourcing work for other newspaper sections? Should a community’s residents have to pay to ensure the survival of their favorite newspaper sections? Was the tactic blackmail or business today?

Photo: tulsahistory.org

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