Guides and Tutorials
Starting a Neighborhood Newspaper
The articles below go into some detail on how to start a neighborhood newspaper. Use it as you see fit, but don’t get lost in the details. Starting a newspaper in your neighborhood is actually quite easy. Here’s a quick overview of how to start your own rewarding neighborhood newspaper:
- Determine how many homes and what homes you want to reach in your neighborhood. You then know how many newspapers you need to print (unless you choose to print some for the local businesses (or advertisers) who might want to carry some in their stores).
- You then know your cost (cost of printing newspapers and cost of mailing (.18 each).
- Start collecting local news (from your neighbors, local websites, schools, churches, government websites, etc).
- Put a mock-up together using our Cloud Newspaper Designer, create a list of the homes or the exact neighborhood you are direct mailing to, an advertising price list, and ask local businesses to advertise (if you are dong only an online paper, you need to go out and get email addresses from your neighborhood and show the advertisers the list of opt-in residents who want your newspaper - the cost of publishing an online newspaper is less than $150.00 per year publishing as much as once a week or month)
- Print, publish, and distribute your newspapers. You’ll be amazed on the reaction you’ll get after just the first issue from your neighborhood.
- IMPORTANT: Don’t get caught up in just selling ads. If your newspaper doesn’t have nice and good and plentiful information and is nothing but advertising, people won’t give the newspaper a second look. CARE about the content in your neighborhood . . . You should, it’s your neighborhood, too.
We offer the following only as a guide for you to start your own Neighborhood Community newspaper. While the general structure is informative, every person or organization has their own way of adding their own special touch to any endeavor.
- Purpose and Initial Investment
- Potential Income with a Neighborhood Community Newspaper
- The Neighborhood Community Newspaper Mindset
- Choosing Your Target Neighborhood
- How Often, How Many, and How Big?
- Approaching Advertisers
- Gathering Content and Material from Your Neighborhood
- Things to Consider for Your Very First Print Run
- Things to Consider for Successive Print Runs
- Distributing Your Neighborhood Newspaper
- Growing Your Business and Brand
The purpose of the Neighborhood Community Newspaper is to reach a very small group of people living within proximity to each other with specific local news relevant to them. This target group should range to no more than 2,000 homes.
The initial investment of starting this type of business will include, but is not limited to the following:
- A mockup newspaper to show advertisers. 50 copies of a 4-page, color newspapers ($129).
- A registered trade name of your newspaper or business with the Secretary of State (optional, $10-$40).
- Time. Time to do the proper research, sell the ads, and design your newspaper.
Income range will vary, depending on what you charge for ads and how many ads you sell. Let’s look at some scenarios:
- Averaging 4 ads per page, you can sell 32 ads for an 8-page newspaper. Averaging $100 a sold ad, you can generate $3,200 of income each month. Your print costs for 1500 newspapers would be approximately $600 and your mailing costs should be somewhere around 18 cents apiece ($270). This means you would net $2,330 each month. You would need to sell 9 ads just to break even. Anything over that would be profit.
- Averaging 3 ads per page, you can sell 36 ads for a 12-page newspaper. Averaging $75 a sold ad, you can generate $2,700 in income each month. Your printing costs for 2000 newspapers would be approximately $1,050 and your mailing costs should be somewhere around 18 cents apiece ($360). This would net you $1,290 in profit. You’d need to sell 19 ads to break even.
- Averaging 2 ads per page, you can sell 32 ads for a 16-page newspaper. Averaging $150 per sold ad, you can generate $4,800 in income each month. Your print cost for 1000 newspapers would be approximately $1,050 and your mailing costs should be somewhere around 18 cents apiece ($180). You would net $3,570 a month. You’d need to sell 9 ads to break even.
Obviously, just by selling more ads, changing what you charge for ads, and based on the number of copies you actually need, these numbers can change dramatically. It may or may not be difficult to sell 32 to 36 ads each month. But even if you sell only half that number, you can still make a decent part time income.
The proper vision is key to your success in starting a profitable Neighborhood Community Newspaper. You must think beyond making money. The profit and income from your endeavor is secondary to the difference you can make in your neighborhood. As we’ve become more crowded, our societies have become more distant. It is not unusual for people living right next door to each other not to know each other at all. Your newspaper can change all of that.
What is your goal for this newspaper? What will keep you going when things get a little rough? Without that vision, your endeavor may not succeed. Are you trying to bring the community together? Are you trying to offer a service no one else is? What is your vision?
Once you have a vision, you can begin, but the whole endeavor may very well depend upon it. With a Neighborhood Community Newspaper, you are targeting a very small select group of people. This group of people is bonded by proximity to each other and that is a powerful bond. Living next to someone implies interaction and influence. Your thinking needs to turn toward this special bond, not to exploit it, but to deepen it. Your newspaper can become the glue that unites neighbor with neighbor and brings a degree of integration that was missing.
The absolute best neighborhood to target is your own. Not only do you live there, but you have a vested interest in everything that happens. The stories you write about pertain to you. The information you gather pertains to you. Since you are part of the neighborhood, your word has more power and validity with your neighbors, and more than that, you build a type of credibility that propels you into a leadership role.
Sometimes, however, your own neighborhood is not ready to support such a community newspaper. In some cases, advertisers will not be interested in reaching the demographics within your neighborhood, so you may need to look for another neighborhood not too far away. Your own neighborhood is best to start in, but sometimes your neighborhood is not the best option for a community newspaper.
Study the demographics of your chosen neighborhood. What is the medium income? What is the medium age? What makes your neighborhood unique? When you approach advertisers, you want to be armed with this information. Indeed, knowing this information will help you approach the right advertisers. In addition, know where all the churches, services, and businesses are that are directly within the neighborhood itself. Many people run a business out of their home, and the more of these you can find within your own neighborhood, the better off you’ll be.
For a Neighborhood Community Newspaper, you will want to print once a month. You can probably get away with every other month if you needed more time to gather content, but do not attempt to do it more than once a month. News in a very small area such as a neighborhood will be more difficult to gather than in a larger city.
You’re going to want time to allow people to give you the news and to find the news you will be adding. Once a month is the best by a long shot.
As to how many copies you print, it should be no more than 2000 copies. You most certainly want to print enough to give one copy into the hands of every resident in the neighborhood. Having extras to put around the community is okay if you have them, but may not be necessary. Go to the USPS Every Door Direct Mailing website and use their free tool to see what carrier routes cover the targeted homes. Your best pricing for EDDM will come if you saturate the carrier route entirely. In other words, if there are 205 stops on a particular route, then that is how many newspapers you’ll need to provide USPS for that route. More information on this can be had from their website.
The size of your newspaper will hopefully grow over time. You will start, however, with either a 4 or an 8-page newspaper. But it can grow to be as large as you need it to be.
You approach advertisers for a Neighborhood Community Newspaper differently than you would for some other type of newspaper. Here are some thoughts:
- Be armed with as many statistics about the demographics of the neighborhood as you can. You need to be able to tell an advertiser who you are targeting and who their ads will be shown to.
- Always approach the person who can pull the trigger on the ad. Don’t talk to an employee or a manager that can’t make this decision.
- Don’t be bothered when someone says no. That’s part of the deal. Shake that off and go on to the next one.
- Have a copy or mockup of your newspaper to show a potential advertiser. In fact, it may be wise to let the mockup newspaper contain all the information you would use in a sales pitch and then leave the copy with the business owner.
- Use contracts with discounts to lock down advertising money for consecutive issues.
- Ask advertisers to contribute articles to your newspaper. Many of them would love to do that, knowing it will give them even more exposure for their business.
- Be excited about what you are doing. Impart your vision to the business owner and let them buy into both you and your vision.
- Read our Selling Ad Tips Guide for more help.
It is also important to know who to approach. Here are some additional thoughts:
- First approach every business, church, and service immediately within your neighborhood. These will probably be the most interested in advertising with you.
- 2. Secondarily, approach every business, church, and service within a mile outside of the neighborhood.
Gathering the content and news will most likely be your biggest challenge, even more challenging than selling the ads that you’ll put in your newspaper. You will need interesting content that matters to the families living in your neighborhood. You don’t need to put national or even citywide news in your paper. They already have access to that information, so instead, write about things they’d never hear about.
Here are some ideas of where to gather content:
- From your neighbors! In your first issue, make an appeal to anyone who wants to write or who has some information that others might find interesting—include kids in the offer too. Getting children involved will be a big hit. For example, if a kid has a fundraiser coming up, have the kid write up something about it and what the fundraiser will be for. If someone moves in, interview them and introduce the new neighbors in your newspaper. The list is endless. Print graduation announcements, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, items for sale, and any award at all someone might have earned for anything.
- From the HOA. The home owner’s association, if there is one, will have lots of news. They’ll know which houses are for sale, which ones are empty, any new policies, and upcoming events.
- Use your demographics to suggest stories to write. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to write things that appeal to a specific demographic. If you know, for example, that there are a lot of young couples with children, then anything that appeals to moms, dads, and kids will be great content.
- Interview people. Everyone has a story, and when you let that person tell their story, you’ve just given them a reason to love your newspaper—and you’ve got content.
- Ask businesses, local churches, and local services to write articles for you. They’ll like the exposure, and you’ll have more content.
- Make it easy for people to write or call you with information.
- Do positive write ups on local businesses, churches, and services.
- Check out Places to Get Free Content.
Your first issue will be your hardest. You’ll not only be doing everything for the first time, you will need to do some things in the beginning that you won’t do later on. For example, it would be wise to make a mockup of your newspaper before you print your first issue. You will take this mockup to various businesses to solicit advertising from them. Here are some things to consider at the very beginning:
- Be ready to work hard. You’ll get out of this as much as you put in. This could easily be a part time income, but the harder you work the more profitable it can be.
- Do the research into your neighborhood. Know the demographics. Know the dynamics involved. Learn about any relationships your neighborhood has with other businesses and entities. Know where all the businesses, churches, and services are within and immediately surrounding the neighborhood.
- Know the advertising market. You are targeting a very specific group of people. Know how much you should charge for each ad. What are businesses already paying to target the same group? Is there any way they could effectively target your neighborhood without you?
- You want, if at all possible, to get your advertisers to email you their ad in a jpg, 300 DPI format. Some may not have this and either they or you will have to build it.
- You will need to familiarize yourself with design software and newspaper design. Have a mockup newspaper created and printed so that you have something tangible to show potential advertisers.
Once you have it going, it will be easier to maintain. Now you just need a constant flow of content and new advertising to replace or grow the ones you already have. Be constantly on the lookout for new ways to spruce up your newspaper. Look into adding contests and other interactive content.
Most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Identify weak points where you can streamline, cut costs, reduce the amount of time you spend on simple things, and so on.
Look to get other people directly involved to reduce the workload on your shoulders. Get people to write articles, to send you photos, and to help distribute them if need be.
You must mail them. Not only will this save you a significant amount of time, but it is a powerful selling tool for advertisers. They know it will get to them this way and people are a lot more apt to take a newspaper in their mail more seriously than one tossed on their driveway.
USPS Every Door Direct Mailing Services can show you the exact number of stops in any particular carrier route. Saturate the routes that directly affect your neighborhood.
You can, if you wish, leave extras in churches and business directly within the neighborhood, but mailing them is by far the best way to go.
Once you are established and growing, you will want to continue to grow your business and brand. You may want to consider offering a website where those in the neighborhood could sign up for and get specialized content and even provide you with content.
Ultimately, if it is working well, you can branch out into other neighborhoods and continue doing what you are doing right now.
The following real newspapers created by our customers can give you an idea of what is possible. Check them out and feel free to use some of the design and content ideas in your own newspaper.