The Tennessee Tribune: Growing An Online Presence

The Tennessee Tribune headquarters in Nashville, TN (Photo By: Jason Luntz/Full Sail University)

Locating relevant news has never been as easy as it is today. Consumers of information have standards such as TV, radio, and newspapers. In recent years the growth of the Internet has made finding important news stories an easy task. The Tennessee Tribune is a newspaper that is taking advantage of this phenomenon.  Published in Nashville, TN, this African-American owned newspaper has a readership of nearly 150,000 Tennesseans each week. Started over 20 years ago by Publisher Rosetta Miller – Perry, the Tribune has a strong reputation for honest news that is important to its local community. This good standing is carrying over into the content it is publishing online at its website

Online, there are websites that dedicate themselves to news, such as The Huffington Post, where people can search for topics they find interesting. The social network giants, Facebook and Twitter, allow people to follow organizations and others that continue to post the news stories that are important to them. Mobile devices have applications that can use key words to send relevant stories at a blink of an eye.

The task for news outlets is finding the best way to balance their traditional way of telling stories with online and mobile choices available to them.

A display of trophies, awards, and plaques giving to the The Tennessee Tribune and it’s publisher Rosetta Miller-Perry. (Photo By: Jason Luntz/Full Sail University)

Print media seems to fare better among other sources of news when concentrated on local news. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, the print editions of smaller papers have a better chance at thriving due to loyalty of its readership. This is because there is a need for news that is not covered by corporate media. These local newspapers also have the advantage of avoiding the politics of corporate sponsors and other issues that may not allow them to give straightforward facts in their reporting.

Smaller newspapers already thrive off a similar “citizen journalism” that has made blogging so popular with readers. This actually places independent papers in a better place to grow their presence online.  The Tennessee Tribune works with freelance writers whose approach to journalism matches well with the audience that is looking for news online.

It must also be noted that while large conglomerate owned media has resources to keep up with the trend of online journalism, independent newspapers have smaller staffs who can make decisions quicker, something that is important in the fast-paced world of the Internet.

Intern Vincent Zirkes at The Tennessee Tribune adds inserts into their recent weekly print edition. (Photo By: Jason Luntz/Full Sail University)

The entire industry has seen lost revenue due to the Internet. According to the Pew Research center  “print newspapers have seen continued decline in their daily readership – in September 2010, 26% of U.S. adults reported reading a print paper on any given day compared with 38% as recently as 2006.” The chart below shows that as print readership has decreased online visitors has increased.

Besides the loss of sales, newspapers continue to lose classified and display ads. At the heart of how newspapers make money is advertising. This is not a large loss to newspapers that  major media companies owns. These companies have long-term relationships with their advertisers and will still find them placing ads on their newspaper websites. For an independent paper to be able to sell online ad space they need to prove that their is a large amount of vistors to their website. This is where a strong presence online lies for The Tennessee Tribune.

Associate publisher William Miller dedicates himself to growing the Tribune’s website traffic and its numbers of followers on social networking sites. “You can have the best car in the world on the lot, but if no one knows it exists you won’t sell the car,” he said.

William Miller speaks about online growth at The Tennessee Tribune.

This straightforward way of thinking has lead his staff to push the Tribune’s website to gain as much traffic as possible.  At the time of this publication the Tennessee Tribune’s site has an score of 813,189 among all websites around the globe. Alexa scores decrease as website visits increase, meaning the lower the score the better. “We were at 5.9 million at the end of May,” Miller explained. “We have dropped our score over 5 million during the summer months and we plan on getting it even lower.”

The secret to this dramatic increase in traffic is that the paper has new content on a daily basis, some which is in the paper’s weekly edition and other that is exclusive to online. The site also embeds original video stories, and now has functioning 24-hour streaming radio station.

WTNTribune Radio program director Abena Imani sits at her control panel. (Photo By: Jason Luntz/Full Sail)

The radio site, known as WTNTribune Radio plays music and talk shows that are interesting to not only Nashville residences but to people around the world.

Abena Imani discusses how online radio helps The Tennessee Tribune.

The paper also focused its energy into growing its social networking accounts. This is important because sites like Twitter and Facebook are the fastest way for people to receive their news.

A staff member of The Tennessee Tribune opens his web browser to (Photo By: Jason Luntz/Full Sail)

The Tennessee Tribune is an example of what smaller newspapers are doing to survive. Putting a focus on building its website while growing its social media, the Tribune is positioning itself as a source of news regardless of the fate of print. While larger papers are in the process of doing the same, smaller papers can evolve at a quicker pace.