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Getting Traction on Readership: Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN)

Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN)
Daily Circulation: 10,112
Sunday Circulation: 10,806

List the major steps you have taken in the last four years to increase readership. Please organize your response under four headings: content, brand, service, culture.

The idea of creating and embracing a "community agenda" started in February 2003. Our goal was to identify several topics that would hit home with our readers based on reader profiles and RBS information. The team met to identify 3 or 4 community topics for the newspaper to address in stories throughout the year, striving to make a difference in our community and hopefully effect change. The emerging favorites from all the ideas thrown out at the pizza lunch meeting on Feb. 6, were promoting the importance of volunteerism; housing in Logansport and Cass County is rife with overcrowding, tenants trashing apartments, overpricing, etc.; and family values.

A Project Grease Pencil Committee meeting was held in August 2002. We invited several readers to receive a week's worth of complementary editions of the Pharos-Tribune. In return we asked that they use the enclosed red grease pencil to mark up their newspaper. We wanted to know what they read and didn't read, where they stopped reading, etc.

As a result of Project Grease Pencil we are placing more hard news (local and wire) stories on A1; devoting more space to medical health matters with a minimum weekly story that we promote in the skybox, and we have revamped the entertainment page. We have also begun to take stories or topics perceived to be negative and are looking at the positive side.

We're very proud of our monthly "wrap around" promotional piece. The equivalent of a full page, this "wrap around" is a single sheet of newsprint (or dinky) that is centered vertically around the fold so that it wraps half way around the front page and half way around the back page of the A-section one time per month.

We have further embraced the RI findings by implementing several other initiatives, such as in-paper content promotion every day, forming a Rolodex full of sources that can be used as everyday people in stories; using many more "go & do" boxes with stories to help readers with little time to read, focusing more on content shown to appeal to readers, like health, home, food & fashion. In 2003, we also added Knight Ridder graphics and photos to appeal to light to moderate readers.

We have enhanced internal and external customer service in all departments with our "You're at the Heart of our Business" customer service initiative through ongoing trainings, company newsletter and recognition programs.

In August, September and October of 2002, we surveyed approximately 100 subscribers through a single sheet inserted into their newspaper inquiring about their service. It was disturbing to hear of service concerns from readers. We dubbed these people "silent sufferers."

We express to our contractors the level of service we expect our readers to receive, and we will settle for no less than 100% effort. If we do not feel that our readers are receiving the best service possible, we resolve the issue immediately. The Circulation department has been successful in lowering our complaint rate or ratio below the national average or acceptable standard. The national standard is 1 complaint per thousand subscribers. We have lowered ours to .092 complaints per thousand.

The publisher also sends a personal welcome letter to each new subscriber with all of her contact information, including her home phone number, so that readers can be assured of great service.

In February 2003, we began writing the time for the last truck out of the mailroom and whether it was on time or not. Since putting this practice into place, we have seen our on-time percentage increase by 17% enhancing our service to our customers.

To extend our brand, we have formed a media partnership with WLFI Channel 18 out of Lafayette, Indiana, and WISH Channel 8 out of Indianapolis. The newsrooms share lead stories of the day giving credit to each other. We also have an advertising partnership with WHZR Hoosier Country 103.7 FM.

We have a branding and marketing committee made up of members from each department that meets regularly.

In our ongoing efforts to focus on "building an adaptive, constructive culture that is attuned to readers and customers," we introduced a "source survey" in January 2003. We send out at least one survey, per reporter, per month to sources identified by the publisher. We believe that this adds an extra measure of accountability for the reporter helping to ensure that we always get their best effort on stories. The publisher and the managing editor share the returned survey with the reporter and then post it in the break room for all employees to view.

On March 12, 2003, a team of Pharos-Tribune employees met with readers during the first ever "Meet the Press." A series of house ads ran two weeks prior to the event inviting readers to join us for free coffee and a complimentary edition of the Pharos-Tribune from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at the Bullshipper's Café. Our goal was to enforce to employees and the public that we care about their opinion and want to know if we're meeting their needs. The day was extremely successful with more than 75 readers showing up to visit with us.

Since the introduction to the Readership Initiative, the Pharos-Tribune now has a single copy box in the newsroom that is filled with the current day's edition and reviewed by the news staff. It's important that we look at our product through the eyes of a customer.

What is the most innovative, successful or noteworthy thing you have done on readership that you think other papers might learn from or want to emulate?
In October 2002, XL marketing began a research circulation project with the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. Over the course of the next five months, XL marketing provided an initial needs assessment, gathered current promotions and reviewed the Logansport Pharos-Tribune's marketing plans for 2002 & 03.

XL marketing then put together a database marketing project utilizing the resources of PBS Business Data, RBS Survey data, purchased a list of all residents in market area, Postal Soft software tool, Traffic counts, SIMON survey data and internal survey data. The first step was to provide the Logansport Pharos-Tribune with a full market analysis of all the available data licensed through Claritas. This included general demographics, PRIZM profile of the market, PRIZM segmentation targets based on their propensity to read a daily newspaper, and target geography based on propensity to read a daily newspaper.

XL marketing then took the PBS data, RBS data and purchased resident files and merge/purged the three together. Additional database analysis was completed to look at which customers were Logansport's best customers, how did they perform verses -Logansport's business rules and goals for the future, such as auto pay customers, who were they and what length of payment was best for them.

With the RBS data, XL Marketing looked at the light and medium reader verses heavy reader to see if the light reader was a single-copy reader or non-subscriber. This analysis was non-conclusive due to the small sample size of the RBS data and ability to only match on phone number to the other two files.

The results were that Logansport Pharos-Tribune gained a better understanding of their market area, customers and ended up with a master-prospecting database. This database included profiles of subscribers and non-subscribers coded with business rule attributes to help the target different segments of prospect database. This tool gives us the opportunity to test market campaigns on groups of people that share common attributes and see which campaigns they respond to best. The tool also provides the opportunity to see who our best customers are for a set of attributes and then located others within the database that share those same attributes.

Our initiative the first quarter of 2003 was to grow and retain circulation through internal factors rather than relying so heavily on outside sources such as telemarketing. Having made the decision to collaborate with the XL Marketing team and have a thorough demographic evaluation done with the use of Claritas information, we choose the zip codes in our delivery area that we wanted to focus on and had an evaluation done on the people that live there.

The information breaks down the total households in our delivery areas into Prizm Clusters. Each cluster represents the most common traits that groups of people have in common and gives us a good general idea of what would motivate them to subscribe to a newspaper. It tells us how many households are within specific areas, the percentage of those based on the cluster type that subscribe to a newspaper and how many subscribe to our newspaper. With this information we can determine if our penetration is deep enough and where we show room for growth.

We utilize the information with our internal telesales initiative. The customer service representatives are now responsible for producing a portion of the start pressure that is needed to grow circulation. The hours for the customer service representatives have changed to allow more phone sales to be done through the office. Our Saturday hours have been extended to allow the CSR's to telesales later into the afternoon. Saturdays have always been excellent times to phone solicit because of the number of people home on the weekend. Each representative has a monthly start goal that they must achieve. We have begun to target different clusters with tailored made sales scripts. These reflect that type information that we have learned about each cluster in the script. The types of features and stories that they would enjoy and what information they would want to see in the paper. The customer service representatives have been very open to the idea and we kicked off the preliminary sales with a customer service contest. The competition between the reps has been enjoyable to watch and is making getting the starts not only more profitable but also more fun for them.

We also have committed time everyday to something that we call rack recovery. The editorial department sends the single copy manager and myself a list of the top stories to appear in the following days paper. With this information we adjust our draws as needed for the following day, especially if something in that paper my target the interest of one of our cluster groups. For example, the commodity prices are going to be listed in a certain day's copy of the paper. We know this information is especially important to the farmers in the area; therefore we up the draws in the racks and vendor locations that our Claritas demographics tell us they buy from. We also check each rack location between 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. weekly and between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. on the weekends to make sure that we have no racks that have sold out or are close to it. Thanks to the rack recovery we have been able to increase our single copy sales by about 100 copies a week since it started.

Currently, an authorized sample program is in place in all of the apartment complexes within our delivery area. The concept is to offer a free two-week sample of the paper to anyone who is interested (must not owe more than two graces in a past subscription). It is explained to the customer that their paper will be started like a normal subscription and that a two-week credit will automatically be applied to the account. They are also told that they will receive an invoice just like a new account. They will then be contacted by our offices within a few days of the end of the two-week period and asked if they want to continue with their delivery. If we cannot contact them by phone a letter is sent. They are also told that it is their responsibility at the end of the two weeks to stop the paper if they are no longer interested in receiving it and have not been contacted by our office. Out of every ten starts we are able to continue delivering to seven of them. No one seemed to be unhappy with the way in which it was set up because everything was well explained from the beginning.

We are also using our Claritas Prizm cluster information to target potential customers through direct mail campaigns. Because we know what their likes and dislikes are, where they live, and if they are likely to read a newspaper, we're confident our are new focused and scientific approach will continue to work well.

We have generated on average 125 new starts per month as a direct result of the Claritas information. It was well worth the investment.

What is the most persuasive indication you have that your readership efforts are producing results?
All departments at the Pharos-Tribune are working together toward one common goal and that is to increase or raise our Readership Behavior Score. It is a concept that is simple to understand, make sense for all departments and has given us a common goal to achieve.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as you have worked on readership in the last few years?
We've learned that readership is a journey, not a destination.

What would you like to do on readership that you have not been able to do and why haven't you been able to do it?
We would like to produce and distribute a quality Hispanic edition of the Pharos-Tribune.

Incredibly enough, the language barrier is the obstacle we have to producing a product that meets the needs of the many English as second language community residents. We're working diligently to address this concern.

Getting Traction on Readership


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