For a long time newspapers across this country have been transitioning from traditional print products to cutting-edge digital outlets.
And most are doing it well.
The term “circulation” is still a barometer and print remains our core product, to be sure, but as we move through this transition as an industry, it’s exciting to see so many innovative minds at work.
The Waco Tribune-Herald’s digital audience saw year-over-year growth of 22, 13 and 25 percent, respectively, over the past three months, affirming what we already knew: Our audience is growing quickly as we rush headlong into a digital world.
While our print circulation has remained steady, our digital footprint is expanding at an accelerated rate.
The Newspaper Association of America reported 17 percent growth in online audience nationwide in October. According to the NAA, the online audience served by newspapers has grown by 24 million people this year alone.
How you, our readers, consume the news is also changing. In September we presented “Ghosts of Segregation,” an in-depth feature about how the fence line separating the areas of Greenwood Cemetery where blacks and whites are buried was to be removed. The story, written by J.B. Smith, took on a new dimension at our website, wacotrib.com. It was accompanied by outstanding photographs, video and background information the reader could consume at any point while reading the main story.
That type of storytelling is a relatively new frontier for community newspapers. Our staff has embraced it.
We recently launched a new one-stop site for Baylor sports fans called BearsExtra.com. It’s not a fan site. It’s a central marketplace for credible news about every sport Baylor plays. It features schedules, scores and a complete guide to catch Baylor sports on television.
We plan to use this template in 2015 to create individual sites that focus on smaller communities surrounding Waco, making it easier to find news about where you live.
As smartphones and tablets become more diversified and less expensive, they’re being used more and more to consume news. NAA figures show an increase of 85 percent in those who consume digital content from newspapers on smartphones or tablets over the past 12 months. The Trib’s new smartphone app helps readers find news quickly and includes updated traffic and weather screens, as well as easy access to an extensive photography database.
I use Twitter a great deal. I don’t have that many followers and that’s OK. It’s an inbound news source for me, and a valuable one at that. I follow, at any given time, between 30 and 50 different feeds consisting mainly of reliable news sources, friends and colleagues in the news business. The Waco Trib’s Twitter feed is a primary source of news when I’m away from the office.
The Trib’s Twitter audience (11,170 as of this writing) has grown 37 percent this year. The newspaper’s sports department has its own Twitter feed with 4,315 followers.
Appetite for local
I recently took my granddaughter to McDonald’s to let her burn off some pent-up energy after a long cold spell. As she cut loose in the playground area, I watched as a young couple inside divvied up that Sunday’s copy of the Tribune-Herald at a table. They looked peaceful as they sipped coffee and read the local newspaper. In the booth next to them, a young man thumbed through a story about Baylor football from the Trib’s website on his smartphone while waiting on a to-go order. He was in a hurry.
What struck me about the dichotomy in this audience was the desire to read credible local stories. Baylor may be a national brand, but to folks in the Waco area the Bears are still the hometown team. And those two print readers at McDonald’s consumed every last page of the Sunday paper, from the front page to the store inserts.
Information comes at us in unprecedented volumes these days. Most of it blends together into what I refer to as white noise — a shapeless, unfiltered mass, devoid of context or meaning.
And too often devoid of the truth.
Our business is changing fast. We’re reaching a new audience through our digital platforms and telling stories in vivid and innovative ways that weren’t possible before.
It’s exciting to watch our industry reinvent itself — both locally and nationwide — and fill this hunger for credible news without the noise.
Steve Boggs is editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.