Ideas worth sharing: Working together to deliver the news

In the first week of state-mandated closures of restaurants and other businesses in Iowa, The News in Kalona launched an advertising campaign to help local businesses let customers know what is open and what is closed.

Soon after sending an email announcing the campaign, Publisher Jim Johnson received a call from Ryan Schlabaugh, the Kalona city administrator. “What would it cost to deliver The News to all households in the city?” Schalabaugh inquired. His objective was getting information into all residents hands about what the city was doing to help residents, steps residents needed to take to keep themselves safe and keep customers informed about how to continue doing business through the shutdown.”

Johnson came up with a price, and Schlabaugh agreed to do it for two weeks. Each week, the newspaper had at least three full-color pages with the banner “We Are All In This Together.” Each page was packed with stories about the pandemic and its affect on the communities we cover.

When the three cities in north Washington County — Kalona, Wellman and Riverside — cooperated to create a mobile food pantry, Schabaugh convinced the other two cities to send newspapers to all of the households in their respective cities, again paid for by each city. The result tripled the newspaper’s weekly distribution.

Johnson noted that postal regulations allow newspapers to do sampling to 20 percent of the regular circulation over a year, so the mass mailings could be done under the newspaper’s regular postal permit and pricing. The newspaper ran full- and half-page ads each week urging people to subscribe to the newspaper. The offer gave 15% off to new subscribers and those customers who wanted to extend their current subscriptions by a year.

“Both the city and the newspaper received many positive comments from residents grateful to be getting the newspaper,” Johnson said. One downside — advertisers are now asking to be in those mass-mailed newspapers and weeks where the circulation is just to subscribers see fewer ROP ads.