On Wednesday, the Post-Gazette asked out-of-town readers of its Web site to call and write with their Pittsburgh Super Bowl travel stories. The newspaper had to take down the request shortly thereafter, due to the flood of replies.
To have such a problem! And the Post-Gazette has been buying out contracts of its editorial staff because it's struggling to make a go of it in the post-print economy.
First, of course, it's a sign of just how little attention the paper pays to its online version that it wasn't prepared for the response to its promotion. It's an open secret that the Post-Gazette's website gets thousands and thousands of visits per day from expat Pittsburghers -- the Pittsburgh Diaspora, to coin a phrase. Maybe the online infrastructure (both tech and human capital) could use some upgrades?
Second, if one were thinking about the future of Pittsburgh news, one might think: How can we monetize that traffic and leverage the Diaspora to save the Post-Gazette?
Here's an idea: Make the paper all about Pittsburgh -- the city and its neighborhoods, and the region. Get rid of national and international news, or park it in a separate small section. Fewer and fewer people read the Post-Gazette for that, since it's all wire service material anyway. I take my national and international news online, and from the Times (for the liberal slant) and from The Economist (for the conservative slant). Pittsburgh stuff is what the P-G audience wants both online and offline, and a lot of them want it, and it's all that they want.
Where's the money in this? Adjust the rate cards for advertising to account for the online circulation. Historically, newspaper ad rates are set according to print circulation figures, because the assumption is that the message is meant to reach local readers. The Post-Gazette's publicly-available advertising information reflects that bias:
If your goal is to connect with western Pennsylvania's consumers, then you need the strength of the region's news and advertising leaders - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and post-gazette.com.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is western Pennsylvania's largest newspaper and has been the region's indispensable source of news, advertising and information for 220 years. Click here for an overview of advertising opportunities.
As the most-visited web site in western Pennsylvania, post-gazette.com reaches more local adults than any other web site.
Note the local emphasis -- even for the online base? Moreover, online advertising is separate, and while not exactly hidden, it's not front and center, either.
You might think that local businesses would care only about print ads and reaching customers who patronize them in person. I'd be willing to bet that e-commerce being what it is (and what it can be), even in today's economy a lot of local businesses would be happy to market online, to the Diaspora. Make the editorial content as local as it gets -- but globalize the advertising structure. (I'm not a big Tom Friedman fan, but this sounds vaguely like something he wrote once.)