To promote its online local news platform NewsWorks, Philadelphia’s WHYY developed an unconventional campaign mimicking over-the-top advertising techniques and the limitations of news published in print.
A team of designers and editors created a “print edition” of the online news site and used various tactics to distribute more than 36,000 copies to Philadelphia residents. Beginning Oct. 22 commuters could pick up copies as a handout offered at public transit stations and temporary newsstands. In addition, residents of some neighborhoods received copies that were delivered to their doorsteps.
The eight-page newspaper featured snippets from NewsWorks articles and cost about $14,700 to produce and distribute. It was created as part of a larger advertising campaign that includes traditional transit advertising.
“We wanted to have some fun,” said Elyse Poinsett, marketing manager at WHYY. “We wanted to say, ‘There’s no reason why a news website can’t meet all of your media needs.’” The campaign was created to address one of NewsWorks’s major struggles: convincing Philadelphians that the online news site can function as a robust source for up-to-date local coverage, she said.
Poinsett, who joined WHYY this year after a career in museums, developed creative for the campaign with assistance from three designers, one of whom she retained as a freelancer, and an editor from the digital news team.
In addition to abbreviated NewsWorks items, the paper features cheeky ads for the site, including one that reads: “Click here to listen to this story. Oh wait. You can’t. (After all, this is just a newspaper.)” Another ad mocks the format of print ads for used-car dealerships.
The creative team was careful about poking too much fun at the traditions of newsprint, Poinsett said. They didn’t want to “totally dismiss the medium, because it’s not ready to be dismissed yet.” Yet one goal of the campaign is to convince readers “how antiquated print is.”
WHYY will evaluate the campaign’s success in coming weeks by tracking changes in site traffic, Poinsett said. The number to build on is 160,000 unique visitors in one day, a peak that NewsWorks hit in June.
NewsWorks doesn’t plan to produce more print editions, Poinsett said. “We could do it so much better, all of the time, online.”