MediaBytes – Talkeetna Times

The Talkeetna Times is
a semi-monthly newspaper that serves the Talkeetna, Alaska area. Scott Anderson from the paper answered Mediabids’ questions. 

(MB): Five years from now what role will publications like yours serve? For example, some people predict a complete migration to the web for many types of publications, do you? 
(TT): We are a community newspaper
based near Talkeetna, Alaska. In addition to serving the
communities of Talkeetna and nearby Trapper Creek, our distribution area
includes the communities of Willow, Houston and Big
Lake and Caswell, as well
as the rural areas between, primarily along the Parks Highway corridor. We also have a
sizable secondary distribution in Wasilla, which has been the fastest-growing
area of Alaska for several consecutive years
due to its proximity to Anchorage and the lower
cost of living (mainly housing) compared to Anchorage.

From the
Talkeetna area, we are approximately a two to two and a half hour drive from Anchorage, depending on
traffic and road conditions. Our area also is growing, though not quite as fast
as Wasilla. Many people from Anchorage
have cabins in this area — we’re just about at the limit of the distance many
people want to drive for short weekend getaways, etc. Our area’s first
full-service grocery just opened in December. Prior to that, we had to drive to
Wasilla — usually about an hour and a half each way — to get many of the
grocery items we needed. There are still many other goods and services that
are not available here that require a trip to Wasilla, and sometimes to Anchorage. This includes
medical appointments that require seeing a specialist, dentists, eye care, etc.
We can get prescriptions delivered here, but it often costs less to drive to
Wasilla to pick them up — we try to plan such trips so we’re doing other
necessary things as well.

People here depend on the
newspaper, and our one local public radio station, for their news. With the
grocery just opening, the outlook is bright. It will draw other needed
businesses to the area as the population continues to grow. Many retirees are
choosing to live here year-round due to the lower cost of living compared to
many other parts of the country.

We have made numerous improvements to the paper in the year and a half that we
have been here, and more are in store. We have changed from once a month
publication to every other week (26 issues per year), and are looking at the
possibility of going to some form of weekly publication. We also currently
publish two annual publications — an annual visitors guide each spring, and a
Talkeetna area phone book that includes all communities from Big Lake and
Houston to
Nenana, pretty much along the entire Parks Highway outside of the larger communities.

 We completely revamped our web site in spring 2008 and are continuing to make
improvements to it, as well as to add new features. The Anchorage Daily News
recently made several staff cutbacks and reductions in its print edition, and
the Frontiersman, based in Wasilla and published thrice weekly, recently pulled
all of its news stands from all communities north of Houston. These changes can only help to
strengthen our position as the leading print source for news of our

(MB): What sort
of measures has your publication put in place to either conserve costs or boost

(TT):  In addition to the things outlined in question one, we are looking at adding a
couple of other publications when the timing is right. These are niche market publications
that currently have no comparable publications in our immediate area.
As with all publications,
regardless of publication schedule, we have to keep an eye on costs to be sure
they don’t get out of hand. We staff only to the level that budget allows,
which often means doing more of the work ourselves when we would like to hire
someone else to do the work. We’re also constantly on the lookout for
outstanding sales people, a difficult position to fill in our market. But as
long as we keep looking, eventually we will find the right staff and, we hope,
be able to structure the compensation for sales staff in a way that benefits
both them and us.

(MB): Do you have any significant
changes in store this year?

   I believe most were
outlined in question #1. Of course, we will continue to look at other ways of
doing business; at some point, we plan to start publishing catalogs for others.
First, however, we need to acquire some additional software that allows us to
do so efficiently.

(MB): What was your most successful
advertising initiative in the past 12 months?
(TT) : By
far our most successful advertising "initiative" is our annual phone
book. It’s small, but it is far and away the most popular phone book in our
area (even staff MTA, our local phone cooperative say so). Our second most
successful advertising approach is to convince advertisers in Wasilla and Anchorage of the need to
advertise in our area because they have a product or service that is not
available here.

(MB): Do you have tips for other
publications about the best way to integrate print and web sales?
(TT) : We’re still trying to figure this
out ourselves. We do offer package deals to advertisers who advertise in all of
our print publications, or some combination of them, as well as on the web. The
packages vary, depending on how many publications and how often the ad runs,
but the best deals go to those who advertise in all of them.

(MB): How does your publication hire
and, even more important, retain top sales personnel?

(TT) : A tough job in our market, and
we’re still trying to figure out what works best. Our situation here in rural Alaska is different than
most other areas, where there is usually a larger city, not necessarily
metropolitan, nearby.


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