From Staff Reports

National advertisers will now have an easy way to place business with thousands of suburban and community newspapers, including the Mineral Wells Index, through a new national advertising network announced last week.

Community newspapers represent the growth segment of the industry and, unlike metro daily newspapers, many are showing gains in circulation and advertising revenue. Community newspapers continue to have strong connections with the communities they serve, offering valued local print and online content often not found in other sources.

Regional and national advertisers want to reach the highly desirable markets served by community newspapers, especially in the affluent suburbs. Now they will be able to take advantage of a hyper-local approach to national advertising, with convenient “one order, one bill” service and desirable rates.

The network is owned by 10 newspaper companies and the trade association Suburban Newspapers of America. Full owners include: ASP Westward, LP; American Community Newspapers LLC; Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., parent company of the Mineral Wells Index; GateHouse Media Inc.; Schurz Communications Inc.; Sun-Times

Media Group; and Suburban Newspapers Inc. (for profit subsidiary of SNA).

Smaller market newspapers were able to take advantage of a fractional ownership. This group includes: Rust Communications, Packet Publications, Recorder Community Newspapers and Holden Landmark Corporation.

More newspaper companies are expected to join the ownership group.

Timing is perfect for the launch of such a network as media buyers struggle to reach deep enough into communities with existing metro daily newspapers.

Big box retailers have shifted millions of dollars into community newspapers over the last five years and national advertisers are starting to do so, as well. The network will focus on traditional national categories such as travel, telecommunications, automotive, financial, insurance, pharmaceutical, pure-play Internet, political and more.

The network will include print and online options and will represent the entire community newspaper industry – not just the owner companies.

“Media buyers have been telling us for years that our industry is difficult to buy; now we are removing that barrier,” said Nancy Lane, SNA president. “This alliance marks the first time that the community newspaper industry has collaborated on a project of this significance. We are thrilled to be able to offer national advertisers a simple way to reach their target customers in communities across North America and to aid community newspapers in gaining national advertising in their products.”

Joanna O’Connell, Senior Media Planner with Avenue A/Razorfish (representing industry giants such as Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Ford and Disney) told attendees at last month’s SNA interactive conference that national advertisers are looking for standardization with pricing, sizes and video opportunities.

O’Connell strongly recommended that online publishers partner with an advertising network to open up targeting opportunities that smaller sites cannot provide on their own.

“The board of directors identified this as a top priority at our annual strategic planning meeting in January,” said Jim Mannarino, chairman of the board for SNA.

MANSI, a division of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, will serve as the “backshop” for the new network and will handle all database functions, billing, ad verification, etc. MANSI currently places over 100,000 individual insertion orders per year. They work directly with their own clients and also handle the “one order, one bill” services for two other major national networks.

“We are excited to work with SNA on this important industry development,” said Tim Williams, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. “We have long believed that the community newspaper industry could benefit from a national network and SNA is the logical manager for this project given their knowledge and focus on the suburban and community newspaper industry.”

The network will launch in mid-August. In the next two months, staff will be hired including a senior level executive charged with running day-to-day operations and being the lead representative. During this time, rates will be collected and newspaper service agreements signed.

For more information, contact Nancy Lane at (843) 390-1531 or nancylanesna@aol.com. Opportunity for ownership expires June 30. SNA’s Web site is www.suburban-news.org.

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