An advertiser recently asked Gasconade County Republican Publisher Dennis Warden how he was doing. The inquirer’s tone indicated, “He thought newspapers aren’t too long for this world,” Warden recalled.
Representing the third generation of his family to run the East Central Missouri weekly, Warden disagrees.
“I really do not have competitors, an advantage our big city cousins do not share,” says Warden about his paper, which covers news within a 30-mile radius of Owensville, Missouri, home base for the Republican. Gasconade County, which includes Owensville, has less than 16,000 residents, but the paper focuses solely on them.
Warden, nonetheless, has pushed into new technology — including a website and Facebook and Twitter accounts — for two reasons.
“If we didn’t, somebody else will,” he said, echoing a nearly universal sentiment among newspaper leaders on the Potter Listening Tour.
But the Republican also is finding ways to make a profit on its digital efforts. Ads sold on its website bring in about $1,000 per month while it costs the paper about $350 per month to mount the cyberspace effort. The paper recently upgraded the website, which was launched in 2010.
The next generation of Wardens, Jacob, 25, is the Republican’s digital specialist, and he has found Facebook to be fertile ground for reaping new audiences (3,176 likes in early May). However, he doesn’t see many Gasconade County folks using Twitter. The paper has 93 followers, including about a dozen from a local high school cheerleading squad.
“Our goal is to move the Facebook people to our website” where ads might be more easily sold around the audience, says the younger Warden.
Dave Marner, the paper’s managing editor, also is looking to technology to improve his role at the Republican. “I’d like a good workshop in how to edit and produce good video” for the paper, he says.
Dennis Warden wants to cover all his bases. “The people who go to Facebook are not necessarily the same as those who go to our website,” he says, nor are the digital customers the same as the 3,200 subscribers to the print product.