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Managers of fast-growing daily offer advice.

TEAMWORK, STRONG marketing and editorial substance.

Those ingredients have given a mid-sized California daily one of the fastest growth rates in the nation, its circulation manager and editor said.

"We set goals and a new focus for the newspaper," Danny Diego, subscriber services director of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, said in a recent presentation at the Cal West Circulation Managers Association conference in Shell Beach.

Diego recalled that in early 1991, Mike Ferguson, publisher of the Donrey Media group paper, assembled a team of department directors and gave them a mission: attract more readers, identify more with readers and advertisers, and improve local coverage "to provide our readers with the type of news, features and delivery service they desired and claimed newspapers lacked based on comments from a Belden study."

In the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 1992, daily circulation increased 11.6% and Sunday circulation went up 12.3%, compared to the same period in 1991, Diego said.

The increase continued in the six months ending March 31; circulation jumped 13.8% daily and 12.8% Sunday, he said. In the 12-month period ending March 31, sales increased 14.2% daily and 14% Sunday, compared to the previous year, Diego reported.

"For the six months ending Sept. 30 of this year, we are pleased to report continued circulation growth of 3,7% daily and 3.6% Sunday, compared to last year," he said.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations this summer reported that the Daily Bulletin had the third-fastest growth rate in the country among midsized and large daily newspapers.

In the period ending March 31, the paper was No. 5 on the Audit Bureau's list of the nation's fastest growing publications in Sunday sales among those with an average daily circulation of at least 50,000.

Diego noted that the Daily Bulletin, situated 50 mites east of Los Angeles, competes in a 12-city market with the Los Angeles Times, San Bernardino Sun, Orange County Register, San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune and, in some areas, the Riverside Press-enterprise.

Among the business steps taken by the Daily Bulletin, Diego said, were the conversion of single-copy sales from dealer to office control and addition of more than 500 newsracks and in-store outlets.

The paper also:

* Updates rack cards regularly and uses point-of-purchase materials as marketing tools.

* Mounted an "aggressive program" to capture drive-up sales at every fast-food outlet within its delivery area.

* Added manufacturers' coupons in 1992 and marketed them heavily.

* Improved delivery service by rezoning routes for efficiency, increasing carrier compensation and taking a "simple basic approach to recruiting: no warm bodies on routes and only the best qualified individual gets the contract."

* Made Newspaper in Education a major focus area, with more than 6,000 paid circulation a week at more than 110 schools.

In the past year, Diego said, the paper's deliveries-per-complaint average has been 1,105, compared to 950 in 1992 and 462 in 1991.

He added that the Daily Bulletin has initiated a 100% start verification program by phone with a mail-back survey card for those who cannot be contacted.

The paper also more than doubled its sales promotion spending last year and increased it 25% in 1993, he said. At the same time, telemarketing and door-to-door sales production were doubled.

Moreover, Diego continued, "We make it a point to become involved in every major celebration in our market," such as the grand opening of the Metrolink Rail System.

The Daily Bulletin also sponsors an economic roundtable of business leaders and is "highly visible" at every major trade show and expo in its area.

For his part, editor Mike Hengel said the editorial contribution to the circulation numbers "can be summed up in eight words: news, opinion, familiarity with the subject, substance, language."

Hengel observed that the Daily Bulletin's market is odd because it has no dominant city.

The paper, which was formed by a merger of the Progress Bulletin, Pomona, and Daily Report, Ontario, is published in Ontario.

"We have 12 cities and we must serve them all to succeed," he explained. "What seems to work for us is local news -- lots of it. We try to cover each city as if it were the only one in our market."

To be a successful newspaper today, "you can't be afraid to be different," Hengel said. "I think it would be easy to make the case that failing newspapers fail in similar ways. Successful newspapers, however, succeed because they are as distinctive as the communities they serve. There is no silver bullet, no magic formula, no successful newspaper blueprint that you can pick up at the library."

The editor stressed that the Daily Bulletin "hustles the news hard" by being aggressive, persistent and doing particularly well on breaking stories.

Hengel said the paper's other strong points include hard-hitting editorials on local issues and long, complex stories if needed.

"We don't believe readers are genial dolts who only want to be titilated, not disturbed or challenged", he said.

The paper also prides itself on being familiar with its subject matter, with the help of a reader advisory board "whose members are quick to point out our many failings and help us make successes of those failings," Hengel added.

He said the paper has put little emphasis on design.

In the past two years, changes have been substantive rather than cosmetic, he pointed out.

"Readers expect substance from a newspaper, not flash and glitz," he said. "The only way flashy redesign works is if you improve the content at the same time .... Too many newspapers think they can dress up a tired, poorly written, poorly reported, poorly edited paper and make it work.

"Readers are smarter than many editors give them credit for. And, unfortunately, they usually won't howl too much when you try to hoodwink them with form over substance. They just quit reading your product."
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Title Annotation:Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Author:Stein, M.L.
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Dec 11, 1993
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