Kerry Duke, the managing editor of the local news site KYPost.com, admits he's got ink in his blood. But after the demise of Scripps' venerable Kentucky Post, Duke's had a media transfusion of sorts. He's now running a Post Web site that debuted Jan. 1.
The former special projects editor at the Post spent 31 years toiling at newspapers, including 24 at both The Kentucky Post and its parent paper, The Cincinnati Post, which also closed. He sometimes stumbles on new-media jargon like “stickiness,” but nonetheless seems pleased to be heading up the streamlined, paperless version of the newspaper.
“It's a different and exciting move for me,” he says. “It's how I imagine working at a wire service would be—moving stories all day long.”
For 117 years, both The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post landed on newsstands and doorsteps in Cincinnati and its outlying areas. The latter reached the northern Kentucky region just across the Ohio River; its content was mostly the same as the Cincinnati paper's, with dedicated Kentucky coverage mixed in. But circulation for both afternoon papers plummeted; Scripps says the editions reached just 4% of local households as of 2007. When a joint operating agreement with Gannett, which operates the market leader Cincinnati Enquirer, expired on Dec. 31, 2007, parent E.W. Scripps played Taps for the paper.
But amidst their demise, Scripps, which is based in Cincinnati, saw opportunity. The Kentucky Post brand had value both to readers and advertisers, the company felt, and reached a segment of the market that Scripps' Cincinnati TV station, ABC affiliate WCPO, did not. So Scripps decided to relaunch the paper as KYPost.com, its tiny staff embedded in the WCPO newsroom.
“We saw an opportunity to use the goodwill already built into the brand and bring it to the TV station,” says E.W. Scripps COO Rich Boehne. “We were looking to serve a specific geographic area, and it's easier for the Web to do that.”
While WCPO.com (the call letters are short for “Cincinnati Post”) and KYPost.com are both geared toward breaking local news, the sites are distinctly different. WCPO.com is designed to look like a television Website, with a large video player on the right side of the home page, while KYPost.com stays true to its newspaper background, with a larger number of straightforward news stories illustrated with small photos.
Duke, for one, was pleased to find that obituaries—a fish out of water on a station site—seem to resonate with KYPost.com users, as do high school sports scores.
The sites are, of course, geared toward distinct markets; KYPost.com makes this clear with its “life in the (859)” tagline, a nod to the northern Kentucky area code. (The sites do share content, such as WCPO's weather information and reportage from WCPO's northern Kentucky beat reporter.)
WCPO VP/General Manager Bill Fee says it will be some time before KYPost.com turns a profit. Toward that end, he's interviewing for a full-time KYPost.com salesperson, who will target local advertisers that perhaps can't afford television or WCPO.com. “Until we get up to 100%, the site's not going to generate much revenue,” he says. (A look at KYPost.com late last week showed mostly house ads, along with banners for national brands such as CVS and Pizza Hut.)
But it is building a readership. Fee reports KYPost.com logged 287,000 page views the week of Feb. 3, including 31,000 unique visitors who spent an average of 9.3 minutes on the site. It's a far cry from the 1.9 million page views and 135,000 uniques WCPO.com posted that week (WCPO ranks second in terms of revenue in the No. 33 Nielsen DMA, according to BIA Financial), but KYPost.com is showing growth. Starting with a completely new URL (The Kentucky Post paper had been found online at CincyPost.com), the site tallied 257,000 page views its first week, and grew that 12% in five weeks.
“The traffic is surprisingly good, especially since we're still building the site,” says Boehne.
With the newspaper industry across America under siege, some believe partnerships such as KYPost.com/WCPO could become a common model as media companies contemplate pulling the plug on their papers. Even failing papers still have readers, says Gordon Borrell, CEO of media research firm Borrell Associates, so “why not cut out costs, such as ink and delivery, and transfer [content] online? Maybe it can work in other markets, and 2 + 2 can add up to more than 4.”