Southeast Missourian

Despite challenges, Southeast Missourian improves print product, grows online presence

Potter Listening Tour

Last year the Local Media Association named the Southeast Missourian the second-best daily newspaper with a circulation under 30,000 in North America.

Bob Miller, editor of the Cape Girardeau paper, wants to build on that success, but he acknowledges the challenges posed by the convergence of print and digital technologies.

First, there’s figuring out what people want — or don’t want.

Learning the needs of his online audience is easily tracked online. But Miller is impatient with the inability to learn more about his print audience “We can’t really get our arms around that situation,” he notes. “We don’t know print the way we do the Web.”

Going to a metered subscription online in 2008 reduced the website’s page views by half. Further, readers were angry they had to pay for what previously was free. “But at least that showed they valued what they were getting,” Miller observed.

Still, the 14,000-circulation Southeast Missourian (31,000 on Sunday) is forging ahead with its print product.

The paper recently upgraded to the latest version of Adobe InDesign, which prompted Miller to hire a designer to make over the newspaper’s look. The new hire took some of the design burden off his editing staff. “They’re more word people than design people,” says Miller. The designer created a series of templates, ensuring consistent quality on a daily basis.

His online efforts are paying off as well.

Unique page visits have grown by 50 percent, an improvement Miller attributes to growth in the paper’s social media efforts. Facebook is the second biggest driver to their webpage (following Google searches). The paper’s Facebook page had 17,835 likes at the end of May.

The paper also drives traffic to the website with text alerts and breaking-news tweets. The Southeast Missourian Twitter account had 6,194 followers in late May.

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