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How to play up your public notices

The Georgetown, Ky., News-Graphic has important, well-read content nobody else has — its local public notices.

So, why not draw as much attention as possible to what otherwise may seem like dull, government-required boilerplate?

Take a look:

“Under our state law,” notes Kentucky Press Association director David Thompson, “the newspaper can’t charge for more than 7 point type and cannot charge for a headline or artwork. But the publisher, Mike Scogin, is biting the bullet and eating the space except for what these public notices would take up on straight 7-point type.

“Heck, some weeks they could make this the front page and sell a heck of a lot of newspapers just from what the public notices are about.”

Thompson sent along the 3,800-circulation News-Graphic’s pages after a recent conference session about public notices.

I’ve never seen a newspaper play up the notices to this extent, although we encourage our member newspapers to make them easy to find and read. But I don’t know of anybody willing to give them extra space and news-like headlines.

Our own research, confirmed by similar studies across the country, shows that people do read public notices in newspapers. They expect to find them there, and they want them to remain there. They are far more likely to be read in newspapers than on government web sites.

Public notices contain information so important to citizens that the law requires they be published. They’re not the same as public records — information that is available to everybody, if you know where to look. Notices need to be actively distributed to the public.

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