As page counts continue to shrink, more newspaper publishers are finding new and innovative ways to provide content —  and value — to readers and advertisers via digital platforms.

Digital editions allow publishers to deliver valuable content to readers that they'd otherwise never see in the daily printed edition of their local newspaper — and sports events are a perfect fit.

GateHouse Media in April capitalized on the 2018 Masters GolfTournament, which took place April 5-8 in Augusta, Georgia, to reach readers with coverage in its digital edition, powered by Olive Software.

“When we acquired the Morris Publishing properties, we hit the jackpot with The Augusta Chronicle,” Nikhil Hunshikatti, vice president of marketing forThe Columbus Dispatch, told News &Tech.

Dispatch parent GateHouse Media's August 2017 acquisition of Morris Publishing Group netted 11 dailies and 30 weeklies, including the Augusta Chronicle, the Savannah Morning News, and the FloridaTimes-Union.

Capitalizing on access to content from the Augusta market, The Columbus Dispatch and 20 other GateHouse papers that work with Olive inserted pages of The Masters coverage from The Augusta Chronicle using Olive production processes. The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News and the Florida Times-Union are among the other titles that provided the bonus coverage.

“The Masters is the kickoff to summer and it's golf's big event, so the timing was really good,“ Hunshikatti said. “We decided to insert Augusta's coverage of The Masters right after the sports section in our e-editions with a message to our readers to enjoy the coverage.”

The process was fairly simple, he said, and entailed adding files from The Chronicle into GateHouse Media's production workflow following the regular sports section.

Future opportunities

Reader reaction was extremely positive and The Dispatch and other participating GateHouse titles saw digital edition page views of close to 1 million over the four days of Masters coverage. Hunshikatti said the publisher is considering future opportunities. Between the legacy GateHouse titles and the additional Morris titles, the publisher now covers several college football markets, including Columbus, Austin, Gainesville, and Alabama.

“We see this as a good model for college football and other events, too,” he said. “For example, this will be a big election year, so we are exploring politics and other opportunities.”

Overall the process was seamless for The Dispatch and the other papers and Hunshikatti said the project required very little convincing of each market as it wouldn't require any effort or cost on their end.The total cost of the project was $250.

Monetizing content

GateHouse Media received positive reaction in the various markets, and Hunshikatti said the publisher will consider ways to monetize additional digital content going forward.

“Next year when we add Masters coverage we might consider reaching out for advertising opportunities to national golf equipment manufacturers, for example,” he said.

McClatchy is also considering how to best capitalize on expanded digital coverage, and like The Dispatch offered bonus Masters coverage in digital editions across all 30 of its newspaper markets.

“We are working to evolve capabilities and be on the cutting edge of what we can do for subscribers,” Phil Schroder, head of brand and buzz and group vice president of audience development for McClatchy, told N&T.

Schroder said the publisher began considering how to best expand its existing digital editions this past September. McClatchy rolled out “Extra Extra“ to give digital subscribers 30 pages of additional content from its markets around the nation. The expanded coverage was a combined effort of the publisher's audience development, news and advertising teams, Schroder said.

“The expanded section includes some Web-only content that has never appeared in print or digital editions, and includes national, world, tech, opinion and style,” he said. “People enjoy it.”

Like The Dispatch and GateHouse, Schroder said McClatchy saw a significant lift in page views with the added content. In early January, the publisher began considering a “SportsXtra” section.

“We wanted to get it launched in time for the Super Bowl, so we got it done in three weeks, and added about 30 pages of content there as well,” Schroder said.

In addition to typical sports coverage, he said the section includes coverage of less mainstream sports including tennis, gymnastics, and England's Premier soccer league. McClatchy also integrated its existing sports agate section — which was previously a button on the digital edition — across four time zones, and named it “Sports Stats.” All three sections — Extra Extra, SportsXtra and Sports Stats flow into the e-edition.

Finally, McClatchy added a “Money & Markets” section to provide stock market information to readers whose print and e-editions have all but eliminated that news coverage.

“We include four pages per day in the e-edition with stock prices and a little bit of narrative,” Schroder said.

All told, the additional content comprises about 70 pages in the e-edition.

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