Don’t stop the presses!

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Survey respondents overwhelmingly prefer print editions of The Kohler Villager

Eighty percent of Village of Kohler residents who completed a recent survey asking whether they prefer to read The Kohler Villager in print or online made their preferences clear: they prefer print only!

The survey was conducted from mid-December 2017 through mid-January 2018 with the options of completing an online form, or calling a special phone number to leave preferences via voicemail.

Of the 100 total responses received, 80 said they prefer to read The Kohler Villager only in the printed version. Just 4% said they prefer to read The Kohler Villager online only, while 16% said they would read either format. Surprisingly, nearly half said it’s unlikely they would read The Kohler Villager at all if online was their only option.

The most cited reasons for preferring print were:
  • Print is easier and more convenient to read.
  • Articles can be shared with family members, or clipped for keepsakes
  • The paper can be kept bedside or on a coffee table for perusing at one’s leisure, or to refer back to.
  • Print offers a break from staring at the computer all day at work
  • Too much digital clutter to deal with as it is (email, etc.)
  • Several stated they like the feel of paper and being able to page through the newspaper
Are Kohler residents just behind-the-times when it comes to internet usage?

Not at all. Of the 100 who completed the survey, 93 did so using the internet form. Most survey respondents said they use mobile devices to go online, which is in line with recent national survey results.

The results of a PEW Research Center study released last summer revealed that 85% of U.S. adults now get news on a mobile device. Trying to read digital newspapers on a smartphone comes at a cost, though. Visual designers have said that when readers look at a complex document like a newspaper, they generally first get an overall impression by scanning the page in a Z-shaped pattern before reading individual articles. Online newspapers can be laid out to resemble a print layout on bigger computer screens, but smartphones collapse the layout into one long row that the reader must scroll through. It’s easy to get bored with scrolling, distracted by links, or frustrated with pop-up ads. With so many now using mobile devices rather than desktops or laptops, this may be one reason why the print version is preferred.

The Kohler Villager implemented a unique way to address this issue at the newly launched kohler.news. Each page of each issue of the print versions of The Kohler Villager appears as thumbnail images. The articles on the images can be clicked to open the blog post version of the article, in an easy-to-read mobile-friendly format. No more having to download a pdf, then pan around and zoom to read articles. When done reading an article, simply click your back button to go back to the thumbnails to read the next article, or there’s the option to skip the thumbnails and read the latest news directly on the blog. Readers can also register for an email digest of the latest Kohler news  by scrolling to the bottom of kohler.news where there is a registration field.

The domain name kohler.news was chosen to provide a short, easily remembered URL that is easy to type into browsers. I will continue to fine-tune and improve kohler.news to make it reader friendly on both desktop and mobile. Feel free to email suggestions or improvements to me at kohlervillager@charter.net

Good news for advertisers, The Kohler Villager print edition is still the best option for targeting Kohler

For businesses looking to target Kohler with advertising, The Kohler Villager is still the most effective option. Studies have shown that hyperlocal, small-town newspapers are faring the best during the “print apocalypse” of the past few years, and a recent Facebook survey of Village residents seems to support that. Of the 57 Kohler women recently surveyed on a Facebook group, 37 said other free shoppers that arrive in their mail go unopened into the recycling bin, but they do look through The Kohler Villager. Some indicated in the reader preference survey that they keep each print issue on hand for weeks on coffee tables or bed stands.

Recent changes by Facebook also make The Kohler Villager an attractive option for local businesses. If you use Facebook, you may have noticed that all those business and brand pages that you “liked” seemed to have all but vanished from your feed. That’s because Facebook has changed its algorithm (again) so that updates by friends and family are prioritized over business and brand pages. Business owners who spent a lot of money hiring social media experts to accumulate “likes” on their pages to increase its reach, are seeing most of it go by the wayside unless they buy Facebook ads. But there have been problems with Facebook’s ad-targeting engine, too. The social media giant recently came under fire for inflating the reach of their ads, and many business owners have found their Facebook ads subject to likes from fake “click farm” profiles overseas, rather than legitimate potential consumers.

The Kohler Villager going forward

At this time, the future of the print newspaper industry as a whole is pretty bleak. For the larger dailies, print advertising revenue has plunged 80% since 2005, according to a December 28, 2017 article by Bloomberg, and online advertising hasn’t come close to compensating for those losses. Many of the dailies — some more than 100 years old — have ceased their print editions, while many more are on life support. Though small community newspapers like The Kohler Villager are faring better, they have seen printing costs double, and now postage has increased. To make matters worse, the price of newsprint paper has shot up to a three-year high, and could go higher if a projected U.S. tax on Canadian paper is adopted. Companies with presses capable of printing newspapers are becoming fewer and farther between as more and more newspaper publishers shut down their printing operations. The Plymouth Review, which had been printing The Kohler Villager since 2005, shut down its own aging presses for good last year, and all their publications, along with The Kohler Villager, are being printed at a Janesville company that owns a new state-of-the-art digital printer.

For the foreseeable future, The Kohler Villager will continue to print, while improving kohler.news for those who don’t receive the print edition in the mail.

Voluntary subscription drive allows readers to support The Kohler Villager

Since 2005, The Kohler Villager has been mailed free of charge to all residents and businesses in Kohler. About a year ago The Plymouth Review, which had been printing The Kohler Villager, shut down its aging printing presses and farmed all its papers, including this one, to a new printer. As a result, printing costs have doubled. Because of the internet and other marketing options like direct mail, newspapers everywhere are seeing their advertising revenue stagnate or decrease. Many local newspapers have gone out of business, or ceased printing and switched to an online-only format.

The recent reader survey conducted by The Kohler Villager indicated that the vast majority of Kohler residents prefer the print edition over an online-only version, which would be much more economical to produce. Raising advertising rates probably would not make up the difference, and may dissuade some businesses from advertising at all.

Implementing a reader subscription fee is not practical or a cost-saver for a number of reasons. Instead, The Kohler Villager is inviting readers to voluntarily contribute toward offsetting the cost of postage. The Kohler Villager receives a special bulk rate for mailing papers within the 53044 zip code, so the cost per person would only be about $5 per year.

If you would like to make a voluntary payment of $5 or more, visit kohlervillager.com/subscribe, or mail your contributions to:

The Kohler Villager
219 Church St.
Kohler, WI 53044

Thank you for supporting The Kohler Villager!

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