• Make every newspaper the same size.
• Make all ads the same sizes.
• Use inches and not "column inches."
• Make it simple to buy an ad - have a human answer the phone.
• Make sure the ad prints well.
• Make sure the invoice is correct.
• MOST IMPORTANT: Cover the news in your community. You're not a national or world news source. Your a community news source. Be just that, and do it well.
We would still have community newspapers that thrive.
First, as you may know, all newspapers are different sizes. This means advertisers must alter each ad to fit each newspaper. This is a lot of work and makes buying and placing newspaper ads really troublesome and time consuming. Then newspapers have their own sizing system called "column inches" - NO ONE knows what a column inch equals because it's different with each newspaper. So that's why I suggest standard newspaper sizes and ad sizes. An advertiser (who is the newspaper's main source of income) can then place an ad easily in New York or New London, MO. The same ad would fit in all newspapers.
Second: hire people that know what they are selling. Hire people that understand print quality and will work to get good quality. The print quality and sales quality has dropped off dramatically. I frequently cannot get someone to answer the phone when I want to place a buy or have a quick question before turning in an order. Then when I do place a buy, I have orders lost and ads not run. To top it off, the billing in most of the regional papers is terrible. We need to double check everything to ensure it's accurate. Sometimes a newspaper will run an ad all month when we wanted it to run once. Too frequently we have to call and ask for our invoice.
Finally, the last suggestion is the most important. Content must be derived from the community the newspaper resides in. Skip the national and world news. Focus on what is going on in your community - and not just events that have occurred - but what is coming up too. Look for and report real news.
My suggestions are simple. Fairly simple to enact and would save small newspapers.