Print and Online Cross-Promotion

How the Two Products Can Help Each Other

Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 15:07

Often newspaper folk look at the online edition as competition with the print; a perspective purveyed by commercial newspapers citing  that their readers are going from print to online for news consumption.  This makes sense as many their readers go to work and get their news at their desk on demand (more and more people don't have the time to read the newspaper at breakfast table).

In the college market, however, this is not the problem.  Often it is quite the opposite: how do you engage student readers online?  Students have a lot of free time.  The newspaper is free and accessible.  These factors define college life in many ways and student print newspaper readership is staying fairly steady from studies we read.

That said, the online edition is a distribution platform that doesn't have to cannibalize the print…it can be a complement. 

It starts with an editorial decision of what types of content are produced and where they are published.

Is the print edition where news breaks? 
Probably not. The printing press often gets trumped by a breaking news email.

Is the online edition where readers get the full development of a story (complete with analysis and reaction)?
Not likely, our stats show average engagement per reader is 3 minutes at a time (not long enough to read a long article, let alone a couple).

Can the print edition give a 360 degree experience of an event with audio, video and photo galleries?
If yes, then let us know because we want to get in on that.

The point of asking those questions is to establish what each distribution channel is good for and how to cross promote these two products so they can help each other. 


The process to create this synergy is to first create awareness, then create engagement, and then offer a value proposition to knock it out of the park.

We have some basic practices that are baked into our partnership agreement that are no-brainers for creating awareness:

  • Include your web address in your print masthead
  • Run print ads promoting features of the online edition like (email updates, photo galleries, etc)
  • Keep branding similar between online and print to carry over the same trust factor of the print edition.  New readers may not think the same organization is behind both products if they look different. (this is not a contractual obligation, just a suggestion)

For creating engagement, the simple practice of teasing information from one product in the other is enough; here are a few things we've seen from our partners:

  • For online edition, create photo galleries, video and audio supplements to main features in the print and talk them up in the print edition. 
    For example, at the end of the article:
    "Check out to see photos/video of ____" (accompanied by icon)
  • Take comments from articles in the online edition and print them.  Readers are more likely to go online and share their thoughts if they see they can get published.  Consider it short form Letters to the Editor.
  • In your online edition, use widgets (like Issuu or the PDF feature on CP5) to feature the PDF of the print.  Issuu is good because you can't print from that program – meaning, you aren't giving away your primary distribution away.  Own your product.
  • Use the occasional screenshot of an online only feature in the print edition.
  • Enable citizen journalism by encouraging students to text news, photos and video to the site.  Featuring this content online will introduce your site to viral bookmarking and up-to-the second news coverage on campus.  Print samples of the texts in the print edition (both to tease the content online and encourage more readers to engage).

Engagement like this will attract your super-users initially if you execute effectively.  You and your staff may need to get the efforts going on a grass roots level and even participate yourself to get the ball rolling.

To take the engagement to the next level for deeper market penetration, there has to be a value proposition for your readers.  Face it, college kids will do virtually anything for a free t-shirt, free food, or anything with the word ‘free' in front. 

Some things we've seen tried are:

  • Contest to find false print classifieds.  Weekly prizes can be floated by a sponsor (like a local pizza shop) are awarded to the contestants who send in winning submissions via the online edition.
  • Offering prizing for submissions like ‘messiest dorm room' can get the ball rolling with readers seeing the opportunity for citizen journalism (contributing to the content online at least).  Keeping the topic open ended like ‘biggest problem on campus' can help editorial staff hear what the student body wants to read about.

So many headlines have been wasted discussing whether college students read anymore when the empty bins in the student center are proof that students will pick up the paper and read it.  The trick is to get that engagement to cross over to the online edition as well. 

Contact us directly and we will feature case studies of your successes on the site.
We welcome any other tips in the comments area. 

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