Last week I received a voice-mail message from an indignant reader. She was perturbed that not all comic panels and lifestyles features are grouped together in The Herald Bulletin.
While she did not leave her name or contact information for a response, her question, I’m sure, is on the minds of some other readers, as well.
It may seem counterintuitive that The Lockhorns isn’t on the same page with Family Circus and that Dear Abby and Astrograph sometimes end up on a page in a different section than our other lifestyles content.
It might also seem odd to readers that some issues of The Herald Bulletin contain a C or D Nation section and others have a Nation/World page in the A section.
Several forces drive page and subject matter placement in our newspaper. Here are three of those considerations:
1. Content flow
For the front page of the newspaper every day, we choose what we believe to be the most important and interesting local, state, national and world news. Given that we are a community newspaper and local news is our franchise, our news judgment skews that direction.
In the pages that follow the front page, we give preference to local and state news, until the Nation/World page (or section) is introduced. We try to follow that page with more national and international news. The Commentary page almost always appears near the back of the front section.
The sports section generally follows the A section, and the other two sections are devoted mostly to Classified ads and lifestyles coverage.
2. Room for advertisements
Advertising revenue makes up more than half of The Herald Bulletin’s income, so we have to assure that the daily paper has room for ads.
The number of ads, how much space they consume and the advertisers’ preferences for page placement can influence decisions about how many pages we have, where “news hole” is positioned and how much content can be used.
3. Encouraging reader engagement
Herein lies the answer to our anonymous reader’s question. We want readers to read every story, look at every photo and peruse every ad in the newspaper. We encourage this by scattering some features of interest throughout the paper.
For example, the Sudoku and crossword puzzles, The Lockhorns and the comics and games page are placed in the Classified section to encourage fans of those features to use the section. Also, studies have shown that readers of Classified ads also tend to be enthusiastic about comics and newspaper word games.
While we try to make the best decisions every day to accommodate readers, make space for advertisers and encourage full-newspaper readership, we’re always open to suggestions for adding content or moving existing content to a new location within the newspaper.
So keep those calls coming!
Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-4845.