Weeklies find success publishing under one flag and running COVID education ads

Kate Decker

Apr 7, 2020

Across the country right now, the coronavirus threat — as well as orders from governors — has kept residents at home and many businesses closed up or significantly paired down.

“As business owners, we are trying to figure how to keep our employees employed when revenue streams have damned up by the Governor’s order to ‘stay at home’ and stay safe from this killer virus,” Brian and LeAnne Kavanagh, publishers of four weeklies in Montana, wrote to their readers on April 1.

They found success despite the many challenges for publishers right now by temporarily combining all their flags to one.

The Cut Bank Pioneer Press, The Glacier Reporter, Shelby Promoter and The Valerian all published as one hyperlocal publication on April 1.

“It’s not perfect, but the 20 pages we ended up with aren’t bad,” LeAnne wrote via email. “By hitting up our community health center, health department and tribal officials, we generated $1,600 dollars in COVID education ads, which covered our printing and postal costs with enough left over to buy the crew lunch.

“Our print bill was about half doing it this way, our postage was up under $20 over what expenses would have been had we done four individual publications. The front includes news and/or photos from all communities.

“Oh, as an added perk, we were done by 7:27 p.m. last night and papers were back this morning. We can get them labeled, rolled and boxed up for the afternoon trip to the P.O. instead of coming in at 5:30 a.m. in order to make the 7 a.m. carriers.”

For guidance navigating such an effort, email NNA's Tonda Rush at tonda@nna.org.