Kevin’s To-Do List for 2023

Kevin Slimp

Jan 1, 2023

One way to increase effective sales calls is to keep a daily log of all calls, tracking how they were made (in-person, phone, text, email, or other).

There’s no better time than the first of the year to take steps to improve your newspaper. I visit several newspapers each month, both online and in-person, offering advice on ways to increase readership and ad revenue. It’s becoming more common for me to work with everyone from the publisher to the front desk person when I visit a newspaper.

As we get set to begin 2023, here are some steps I often recommend when visiting with community papers.


Create a master chart to track your calls to customers. Be sure to include columns for “in-person,” “phone,” “text,” “email," and “calls.” Look over your calls with your ad manager or publisher at the end of each week. I’ve found this is a straightforward method for increasing the number of calls, guaranteeing an increase in ad revenue. It is also an excellent reminder to make more in-person calls rather than relying too much on email or other contact methods.


Keep abreast of Pantone’s list of popular colors. The list changes each year, and using the right color is a good way to increase the effectiveness of an ad. Also, keep an eye on popular font styles. Especially in ad design, these change about as often as clothing styles.


Make it a habit to meet with reporters and designers to discuss ways to improve the content and design of your newspaper. Do you want to increase readership? The quickest way I know of is to improve the content and look of your newspaper.


I don’t know why it surprises me that most newspapers I visit still have friendly faces welcoming folks into the building. I guess my surprise comes from the disappearance of helpers in department stores and other businesses. More often than not, the front desk staff is in charge of calls for classifieds and contacting customers with expired subscriptions. I used to wonder how I would fill an hour with the front desk staff at a newspaper, but it never fails that we spend more time than scheduled to discuss the layout of the classifieds, methods for increasing classified ad sales, retaining subscribers and more. As we enter a new year, I suggest not overlooking the folks who take calls for classifieds and ensuring that your methods are as efficient as possible to increase classified sales and retain subscribers.


Most newspapers don’t have presses anymore, but I visit many papers that have presses. When I was younger, I noticed the folks who run presses were often wary when I showed up. I soon learned the words, “What can I do to make your job better?” led to conversations that improved the printing quality of their papers. Don’t overlook the press staff if you have a press at your paper. Take time to ask what you can do to make their work go more smoothly and improve the paper’s quality.


The most successful papers I’ve worked with in 2022 — and there have been a lot of them — have publishers that are “hands-on” in the daily operation of the newspaper. Years ago, a young editor called me panicked when she had been offered the publisher’s position at a nearby daily paper. “What does a publisher do?” she asked. “It’s simple,” I replied. “Either nothing ... or everything.” Successful papers have publishers who are involved in the paper and the community.


Seasoned reporters know that the “hook” makes or breaks a story. Those first few words invite the reader into the story or tell them to look elsewhere. Be sure to hook your readers with the first paragraph of every story. It might seem like nothing happened in the school board meeting that excites the reader. If there’s not, skip the story and write something that will draw your readers.

Newspaper staffs come in all sizes. Some newspapers I visit have staff persons who oversee technology, accounting and other areas. Other papers might have just three or four persons on staff. No matter the size of your team, my best advice is to involve everyone in finding ways to improve everything you do. You don’t always have to bring in an “expert” to make significant improvements at your paper.

Kevin Slimp is former director of The University of Tennessee Newspaper Institute and founder of Contact Kevin at: