Newspapers collaborate to revitalize Route 15 Arts byway

  • Feb 23, 2017

Cara Neil, Communications Director

“The Earth without ‘art’ is just eh.” This anonymous quote has made its rounds on the internet, catching the attention of artists and art admirers alike. In an effort to keep the world from being “eh,” newspapers along the Route 15 corridor in Central Pennsylvania have teamed up to revitalize the former arts byway.

Four newspapers, The Sentinel (Carlisle), The Gettysburg Times, The Daily Item (Sunbury), and the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, are collaborating to revitalize one of the arts byways in the Commonwealth.

About 10 years ago, the state launched an initiative to create byways featuring work from local artists. However, by 2009, Pennsylvania cut funding for the six artistic byways. As a result of the defunding, Cumberland County took over the Route 15 project in a caretaker role.

During a Cumberland County shareholders meeting, the byway was mentioned almost as an afterthought, Sentinel Publisher Gary Adkisson said. He immediately noticed that there were four daily newspapers along the route – The Sentinel, The Daily Item, The Gettysburg Times, and The Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

“I went back to the office, looked [the byway] up, studied on it, and thought, ‘What if I could get the other publishers to go in with me on this? Could we make this a viable project?'” Adkisson said.

Adkisson reached out to the publishers to gauge interest on the Route 15 project. All of them immediately jumped on board. The prospect of collaborating with other newspapers, engaging with the arts community, and potential new revenue streams, were were some of the driving factors.

“We have a large and growing arts community in Williamsport due to our proximity to the New York border,” Sun-Gazette Publisher Bernie Oravec said. “There are always actors and musicians coming through. It was a natural tie-in .”

Before the group could get started, though, they needed a platform.

In conversations with Gettysburg and Sunbury, Adkisson realized they all host their websites through the same company. To streamline the process, the previous Route 15 arts website was transferred into a template using Gettysburg, Sunbury, and Carlisle’s website provider. Williamsport plans to start adding its content by the end of the first quarter.

Once the site was up and running with a usable back-end, everyone started looking for members and advertisers.

“The plan was to create four premium ad slots, and each organization was responsible for selling one ad,” Adkisson said. “For artists and galleries, we’re selling memberships.”

Each newspaper is working to monetize the website by joining with art associations, promoting it through their organization’s social media channels, and working with their sales teams to fill the ad spaces.

“We all have different sales techniques,” Gettysburg Times Publisher Harry Hartman said. “It gives us an opportunity to learn from each other,”which is something each publisher is looking forward to in the collaboration on the project. Adkisson said it does open up the opportunity to work on future projects as well.

“The newspaper industry is one of the few that has always been open to sharing trends and best practices,” Oravec said. “This collaboration proves that.”

“It’s a great project for four newspapers to collaborate on,” Hartman said. “We can now reach businesses from outside of our markets, and share our ideas.”

Daily Item Publisher Frank Leto echoed Hartman, “Having this collaboration opens the doors for us to repurpose some of the content for our own regions.”

As the project grows, and ad spaces begin filling, the four organizations hope to increase rapport with their communities, while encouraging local business.

“We couldn’t do this without these partners,” Adkisson said. “This allows us to do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do.”

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