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New website enhances our printed success
By Cecily Hastings
For 23 years, we have been committed to delivering our monthly Inside Sacramento publications free to readers. It has been an innovative business model. Our readers tell us they enjoy the product. The community has been well served.
More than a decade ago, most other Sacramento print publications took desperate leaps into the digital world. Sadly, the publications that charged subscriptions saw their subscriber bases and revenues shrink when they rolled out digital formats.
I heard this candidly from former Sacramento Magazine publisher Michael O’Brien. He explained that his print subscriptions dropped by more than 50 percent after he invested six figures in a new website for the magazine.
At Inside, we were contemplating an investment in digital, but O’Brien’s experience stopped us cold. Instead, we created a digital “flip book” website (or e-edition) that allowed our readers to view the publications online exactly as they were designed in print. It cost less than $30 a month, but was limited in purpose and not ideal for integration with social media.
Of course, the digital publishing revolution continued. And last year, when our paper costs increased by more than $5,000 a month, we realized that without a strong digital presence, our print-only business model was vulnerable to forces beyond our control.
Thankfully, our wait paid off. The costs to design and manage a publishing website have dropped dramatically since O’Brien’s painful experience with his magazine.
And this month, I am pleased to announce the official arrival of InsideSacramento.com. Building the site has been a nine-month adventure by a talented team of designers inside and outside our company.
We wanted a simple and elegant website to optimize the reader’s experience, whether on desktop, laptop or mobile. The process was took longer and was far more complex than I imagined. But as you dig into InsideSacramento.com, I’m sure you will agree our team succeeded.
The first thing you will notice is the absence of display or banner ads. We are proud of the lack of ad clutter, especially compared with other digital publications. (I counted 15 types of ads on The Bee website, including ads designed to resemble the paper’s editorial product. Even worse, The Bee site features “fake news” photos that link to crazy celebrity come-ons.)
Significantly, we have designed our site to maintain consistency with the appearance and organization of our print product. We want readers to feel comfortable moving between print and digital.
The digital format allows us to deliver more editorial content and photos, plus many new features. The site has a comprehensive Sacramento restaurant guide with dozen of reviews, and more than 60 mini-reviews with photos from our “Inside Sacramento” book. We also have a whole section for Readers Near & Far with hundreds of reader photos organized by location on a map of the world!
Additionally we are posting stories throughout the month with updates for breaking news. In print, we have always taken pride in our cover artists. Now they have their own digital Cover Art Gallery.
Recent print stories about Sacramento’s homeless crisis generated a massive response. We had no space to publish everyone’s comment. InsideSacramento.com is not limited by space. We will post additional viewpoints on the homeless situation and other topics.
By giving readers the option of print and digital, we deepen our connection to the community. And we make it even easier for readers to become better informed about their neighbors and city.
Ultimately, the design of InsideSacramento.com reflects my own news consumption. I trusted my instincts and wanted to build a site I would use, not one that a web designer might suggest.
I am a print and digital subscriber to three daily newspapers and one weekly: The Sacramento Bee, The Wall Street Journal, Sunday New York Times and Sacramento Business Journal. My total annual investment in subscriptions for these exceeds $3,000.
My reading bounces between digital and print. I usually read the WSJ on my iPad each morning, along with The Bee’s diminishing number of local stories. During the day, I take a break from work and read print editions with breakfast or lunch. The printed Bee has one purpose for my husband: daily crossword puzzles!
The Business Journal sends headlines out every day. Sometimes, I read or share a local story. But on weekends, I typically go through the entire print edition, including long-form local stories.
Despite being a diligent reader, the daily and weekly email newsletter summaries from these publications inevitably direct me to stories I have missed. Other times I read story links posted on Twitter and Facebook. Since more and more folks are consuming news this way we, too, post our stories to these platforms.
I tend to recall complicated stories better when reading in print. (Studies confirm this for most folks.) But I enjoy sharing stories with staff, friends and family, so digital is essential.
We want InsideSacramento.com readers to have every opportunity to be better informed on the local level. Our goal is to make the site a comprehensive home for local news.
Over the years, many readers have asked how they can financially support us. Folks have said they feel a little guilty when they receive this beautiful package of local news each month for free! My answer never changes: Support our advertisers. They pay all the costs. In print and digital, our advertisers make Inside Sacramento possible.
To help support the rising costs of local journalism and community involvement, we are offering an Inside membership option. The goal is to ensure our print publications always arrive at your doorstep at no charge.
The Inside membership starts at less than $20 a year and provides many benefits, including a weekly e-newsletter, special offers, event invitations and more. The modest fee will help us avoid a website plastered with ugly and annoying ads.
For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of our Second Edition book, “Inside Sacramento: The Most Interesting Neighborhood Places in America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” with membership.
The beautiful, photo-driven book features 110 places to eat, shop and explore, organized by eight city neighborhoods. It’s the perfect city guide and coffee-table book. It makes a wonderful gift to celebrate Sacramento.
With our four neighborhood editions—Inside East Sacramento, Inside Arden, Inside Land Park/Grid and Inside Pocket—and the largest print circulation of any publication in the region, we have a huge and coveted geographical audience. It’s stunning to think that each month we print more than 5 million pages!
But with InsideSacramento.com, we offer news, commentary, photography and artwork in digital form, along with supplemental content and sharing through social media. Plus, we provide an exclusive Inside Sacramento weekly newsletter, a digital archive from 2013 and much more.
Please visit the new InsideSacramento.com and let us know your thoughts. And please consider becoming a member of InsideSacramento.com.
Cecily Hastings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.