Making Public Notices noticeable, readable, attractive

Sunday through Tuesday, I was within a silver dollar’s throw of the Potomac River, attending the Newspaper Association Manager’s Legislative Conference.

That’s the time the press associations from across the U.S., and sometimes the Canadian provinces, gather to talk about issues they’ve faced, are facing and expect to face in their legislatures.

Much of Sunday’s agenda was on public notices and that bled over to a session Monday morning. The discussion turned to what newspapers need to do to make those “small ads in the back of the newspaper” more attractive, more noticeable.

Asked by the moderator, Richard Karpel, executive director of the Public Notice Resource Center, if any of us knew of a newspaper doing a really good job at this, I was the only one to raise my hand.

My two cents worth was a comment about the Georgetown News Graphic’s style of publishing the notices. And it’s far from what any other newspaper around is doing.

Here’s a pdf of a recent News-Graphic Public Notice page — gtown-news-graphic

When Ed Henninger had Mike Scogin switch to a really attractive Public Notice format, I challenged Ed’s sanity. I explained to him that his system wasn’t ideal because he wanted newspapers to set the text larger than is allowed for in state laws; include headlines (30 to 36 point being okay); and include artwork.

Ed understood the concern that his suggestions could cause with state public notices but he assured me he was telling his customers, one of them being the News-Graphic, that it will cost them some space but the benefit could more than make up for it.

And Mike Scogin assures me he is charging public agencies exactly what it would take for their notice to appear in typical format — bland layout, 7 point type, no extra space, no big headline, no artwork.

None of the other states indicated they had a newspaper making notices noticeable and I wasn’t able to connect right then to show the press associations what could be done.

Upon returning to the office Wednesday, I found a page from a recent News-Graphic issue, made a pdf and sent it to all press associations. Notice it’s not just part of a page, it’s a full page.

I’ve attached that pdf at the beginning of this article and I think you will agree, the Public Notice page in the News-Graphic is superior to what other newspapers might be doing. Heck, this could be a page one layout some weeks and really attract attention.

Bottom line is this — we need to get the public to notice them, read them and make them interesting.

I’m sure Mike will give you any guidance on what he had to do to get this design in place and that he bit the bullet in the extra space these require. And hopefully, that in the long run not only has the public taken notice, but the public agencies as well.

If you want more information, contact Mike at mscogin@news-graphic.com or by phone at 502-863-1111.

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