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Brand takes helm of Delta Crossroads magazine

Guest Column: The stock market for ad ideas By John Foust


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Publisher Weekly


Vol. 14 | No. 32 | Thursday, August 8, 2019

Serving Press and State Since 1873

Benner takes passion for newspapers, ad sales to Fort Smith as new publisher RJ Benner has gone from selling things in black-andwhite to selling things in black and white and that’s made all the difference.

Benner, the new publisher at the Times Record in Fort Smith, switched from the figurative to the literal black and white when he made the move from tech product seller to newspaper ad salesman in 2013. The move ignited his passion for newspapers, one that he’s carried from his native Oregon to Arkansas, where he oversees the Times Record  as well as five GateHouse-owned weeklies and a monthly lifestyle magazine.

“There’s a rigid structure of sales outside the newspaper industry, everything you sell is black and white. You know, a couch is a couch, right?” Benner said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “With this, it’s like the ultimate sandbox. You can build packages with social media or digital. You are responsible for the ad copy or a slogan, and the joy of when that ad is printed and you get positive feedback from your client. There’s nothing more rewarding than that.”

Benner has been on the job in Fort Smith for about six Continued on Page 3

RJ Benner converses with Ashley Yeary, special projects coordinator at the Times Record

The De Queen Bee celebrates 48-year employee The De Queen Bee hosted a retirement reception last week for longtime employee Linda Russell, who is leaving after 48 years working at the newspaper. She was hired at The  De Queen  Bee  at age 17 by then-publisher Ray Kimball right after she left high school in 1972. According to the newspaper, Russell’s first job was as a teletype operator. She’s also worked as a darkroom and photography technician, classified advertising salesperson, paginator and inserter. Most recently The Bee’s office manager, she also compiled the newspaper’s “News of Yesteryear”.

According to her staff profile on dequeenbee.com, she considers her time spent at the paper as both rewarding and meaningful, having made numerous friendships throughout the years. The newspaper’s leadership noted that “Linda has been a great asset to the company and will be greatly missed. “…(Linda) supported generations of news men and women who will forever appreciate your thoughtfulness, your competence, your dependability and your friendship. Linda Russell

GateHouse Media, Gannett to combine New Media Investment Group, which owns GateHouse Media, has announced an agreement to acquire Gannett, the two companies announced this week. According to a report in USA Today, the cash and stock deal is worth nearly $1.4 billion. The combined company will have 263 daily newspapers in 47 states. According to reports, the new company will take the Gannett name. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year. “We believe this transaction will create value for our shareholders greater opportunities for our employees, and a stronger future for journalism. Gannett is an innovative, digitally-focused media and marketing solutions company with well-known brands worldwide. Uniting our talented employees and complementary portfolios will enable us to expand our comprehensive, hyperlocal coverage for consumers, deepen our product offering for local businesses, and accelerate our shift from print-centric to dynamic multimedia operations,” said Michael

Reed, New Media chairman and CEO in the company’s announcement. J. Jeffry Louis, chairman of Gannett, said, “We see numerous opportunities to leverage the combined company’s enhanced scale and financial strength to continue to drive growth in the digital future.”

scale of the new organization, sharing of best practices, leveraging existing infrastructure, facility rationalization and other judicious cost reductions.” In Arkansas, GateHouse owns the Times Record in Fort Smith, the Pine Bluff Commercial, Helena World, Stuttgart Daily Leader, White Hall Journal, Paris Express, Booneville Democrat, Charleston Express, Alma Journal and Press Argus-Courier in Van Buren. Gannett owns the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home. Arkansas Press Association Executive Director Ashley Wimberley said she does not expect any immediate changes in the state as a result of the merger.

According to the companies’ joint news release, the merger is expected to produce cost savings of $275 million to $300 million annually as a result of what the news release referred to as “increased

It’s too soon to speculate what impact, if any, this merger will have on Arkansas newspapers,” she said. “We all know this is a time of transition for our industry and this merger reflects that. I take the companies at their word that this merger will better position their newspapers for the future and will ensure quality newspapers for years to come.”

Newspaper Academy webinars scheduled this month Newspaper Academy has scheduled webinars for later this month with two featured presenters well known to Arkansas Press Association members. Diane Ciotta, who led sessions at this year’s APA Advertising Conference, is slated to present a webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m. Design expert Kevin Slimp will host a webinar the next day, Thursday, Aug. 29 at 1 p.m. Ciotta’s presentation is intended to help newspapers obtain larger and longer-term sales commitments and to give advice on how ad departments should set their yearend and 2020 sales budgets. According to Newspaper Academy, the 50-minute session will offer principles that “master effective, consultative-based interactions, establish a reasonable and comfortable investment amount and make appropriate recommendations to meet prospects’ business needs vs. advertising wants.” Ciotta’s webinar is $59. Register at https:// n e w s p a p e r a c a d e m y. c o m / w e b i n a r / annualbudgets/ Arkansas Publisher Weekly

Diane Ciotta

Kevin Slimp

Slimp’s 100-minute workshop will focus on what Newspaper Academy described as the most requested areas of newspaper production training, Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. Slimp will discuss photoediting basics and creating photo settings that work best with news print during the Photoshop segment of the webinar.

The InDesign skills taught during the webinar include how to use more tools to work with text, creating various styles and using master pages and preflights. The cost of Slimp’s webinar is $69. To register, visit https://newspaperacademy. com/webinar/kevin-slimp-100-minutes-ofphotoshop-and-indesign-basics/


August 8, 2019

Benner takes passion for newspapers, ad sales to Fort Smith as new publisher Continued from Page 1

weeks; long enough to recognize that his employees and the readers they serve share the same passion for quality news and advertising. He previously was publisher and general manager of The World in Coos Bay, Oregon. Benner said engagement with subscribers and businesses there is somewhat different than it’s been in the Arkansas River Valley. “People are passionate about the news here,” he said. “Whether it’s the newsroom pouring its heat and soul into a story, or the reader reacting to that, there’s a passion that’s unmatched. With the feedback we get from the community and the comments, the voicemails and the emails, people are passionate about their news here.” Benner said he quickly recognized the community’s passion as a strength for the properties he leads: In addition to the Times Record, he is publisher of the Press Argus-Courier in Van

Industry Quote of the Week “Newspapers cannot be defined by the second word—paper. They’ve got to be defined by the first word—news.”

- Arthur Sulzberg, Jr.

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Buren, the Booneville Democrat, the Paris Express, the Charleston Express, the Alma Journal and Greenwood Life magazine. Those newspapers’ parent company, GateHouse, just announced its merger with Gannett to create by far the nation’s largest newspaper chain. Benner, though, said he doesn’t focus much on the goings-on at the corporate level because subscribers don’t care about ownership structures. What subscribers want — and what he’ll focus on, Benner said — is a good product that reflects the region it serves. “Ninety-nine out of 100 of our readers don’t identify us as GateHouse,” he said. “They recognize us as the Times Record or Press Argus or Paris Express. That’s what really matters. What I can impact is how we improve the quality of the product that readers get every single day? How do we make it better for our advertisers and a good place to work for our employees? Everything else sorts itself out.” Benner intends to gradually work to implement some effective sales techniques and tools that he refined at The World and as advertising manager at the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany DemocratHerald in Oregon. One of his points of emphasis in advertising sales in western Arkansas will be focusing on the importance of frequency in the advertising packages his teams will develop for clients. “We need to have a toolkit full of reach options for the client,” Benner said. “We use print as a core strategy, putting ads in a newspaper more frequently and pairing that with digital options or social media options. That’s how we create a sustainable model for advertisers, get them a return on investment and get people in the door.” He said newspaper should reduce the number of “flavor of the month items” and instead focus on the long-term needs of clients in order to get better results. Benner said he thinks Arkansas is an ideal location to engage those strategies, since 3

RJ Benner

his staff and the people of the state are passionate just like him. “This isn’t just a job or a promotion for me,” he said. “There’s a passion to make sure we report on what’s going on and we take care of our people. We’ve given a lot of inches to increasing advertising revenue or the newspapers’ struggle we have, but I don’t think enough times it’s said that it’s sacred what we do.” Benner said he opted to relocate from the Pacific coast to middle America so that he and his family could be closer to extended family members who live in the Texarkana area. Perhaps surprisingly, he said the terrain was similar to what he’s accustomed to: “beautiful trees and rolling hills; it really resonated with us.” In Coos Bay, he was vice president of the town’s Lions Club and a board member of the Bay Area Chamber Political Action Team. He replaces Crystal Costa, an Arkansas Press Association board member who now works with GateHouse Live, the corporation’s event management arm. Benner and his wife, Cassandra, are the parents of 18- and 5-year-old sons. August 8, 2019

Brand takes helm of Delta Crossroads magazine Sandra Brand of Osceola is the new editor of Delta Crossroads, a magazine published in the Arkansas Delta by Rust Communications.

The consequences of my first two editions taught me a valuable lesson in life. There is no place for ‘yellow journalism,’” Brand is quoted as saying.

Brand replaces Nancy Kemp, who started the magazine in 2010 along with her husband, former Arkansas Press Association board president Ron Kemp. The magazine remains under the design leadership of Gary Rust of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  Delta Crossroads covers the 25-county Delta region of the state.

“In the ninth grade, I transferred to the Walnut Ridge School District so I could join Bonnie Whitlow’s journalism class. This was also the beginning of my relationship with Jim Bland, the publisher of the The Times Dispatch in Walnut Ridge. I was 15 when he began printing my freelance stories. They were all humaninterest pieces with a bit of a historical twist. Sitting on the front porch interviewing my elders, I realized I had found my niche.”

Brand is a native of Lawrence County. She’s a sixth-generation Arkansan and a lifetime resident of the Delta. She’s currently the editor and general manager of The Osceola Times and she will remain in that role, according to the magazine’s announcement. “My first step began in Margaret McCampbell’s first grade at Clover Bend Elementary School when I was elected class reporter. When I was eight, I published my own ‘weekly newspaper’ headlining all the deep secrets of my nine older siblings.

Brand is a graduate of Walnut Ridge High School and she has a journalism degree from Arkansas State University. She’s been a newspaper editor in Mississippi County for 34 years. She is a member of the Osceola City Council, and she volunteers with the Main Street Osceola, the Osceola Heritage Musicfest, the Osceola Shalom Community, the Mississippi County

Sandra Brand

Historical and Genealogical Society, and Relay for Life. She is married to Steve Knox, who is advertising manager and sports editor of The Osceola Times, and has two stepsons, Nathan and Harrison. “After all these years, my heart is still touched by sitting on the front porch, interviewing the people of the Delta. And, that’s why I am excited about this new adventure with Crossroads magazine,” Brand said.

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August 8, 2019

Guest Column:

Guest Column: The stock market for ad ideas By John Foust

Daniel told me about an ad he created for a commercial real estate firm. “They prided themselves on the hard work they did for their customers. Their marketing manager said ‘shoe leather’ was their secret of success. When I heard that, I knew it would work in their ads. “I found a stock photo of a shoe with a hole in the sole, then asked our creative department to enlarge the hole to make it more dramatic. The copy described the advertiser’s willingness to wear out their shoes to serve their customers. That photo was a real winner. It became the theme for everything they advertised.” Stock photography can be an important addition to your creative toolbox. Here are some points to keep in mind: 1. Look for an image to illustrate an idea you already have. That is what Daniel did. “I knew I needed a picture of a shoe,” he said. “It was just a matter of finding the right one. A photo worked better than a drawing, because it was a picture of an actual shoe. Sure, we modified it, but the end product was still a real shoe.” 2. Browse through images to find a new idea.  Sometimes you’ll have a general

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concept in mind. You just need a visual image to crystallize the idea. Let’s say you’re developing a campaign for an investment company that has a long history of helping people navigate the ups and downs of the economy. Their philosophy is, “There’s no need to worry. Your investments are safe with us.” You look through some stock images and find several distinct categories to consider – people, objects, activities and places. They all offer opportunities to use comparisons and hyperbole. To consider a few generic examples... could a mountain climber represent the company’s expertise in moving onward, regardless of the unpredictable twists and turns of the economy? Could a lighthouse symbolize the firm’s guiding principles in protecting their clients’ retirement accounts? Could a padlock represent their commitment to financial safety? What about the advertising for a home builder? Could a paint brush symbolize their meticulous attention to detail in the homes they build? Could a clock represent the fact that their houses sell quickly, because they are so popular?


3. Don’t hesitate to modify an image. Like Daniel modified the stock photo of the shoe, you can customize an image to fit your specific situation. “The change made the selling point more noticeable,” he said. “I knew the shoe would appear in small ads, as well as large ads – and I didn’t want anyone to miss the point.” 4. Be sure to check the usage agreement. Even if your publishing company has purchased a collection of stock images, do some research before you present an idea to your client. You’ll want to make sure you have the proper permission to use the image how you want – and as many times as you want. Without a doubt, the “stock market” for photographs is a great place to find ideas. (c) Copyright 2019 by John Foust. All rights reserved. John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com

August 8, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 8, 2019  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 8, 2019  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...