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Published November 20 2010

Mammoth Thanksgiving Day newspaper to put weight on carriers' shoulders

Think your turkey will be well-stuffed this Thanksgiving? Just wait until you see Thursday’s copy of The Forum.

With 45 special advertising inserts touting “Black Friday” specials and 800-plus pages of pre-printed material crammed in – along with the news, of course – it’s the biggest edition of the newspaper that a number of longtime employees can recall. And at more than 4 pounds, it’s also believed to be the heftiest Forum ever to roll off the press.

In an era in which grim tidings about the state of print media are commonplace, Forum executives say the mammoth holiday season issue is a good sign.

“The abundance of advertising in our Thanksgiving paper is testament to the continued power of our attractive reading clientele,” said James Boberg, The Forum’s general manager. “Print advertising absolutely has legs to it.”

He said the convergence of holiday advertisements in one issue makes the paper “a virtual shopping center,” and gives readers an experience they’d have a hard time duplicating elsewhere.

It’s also a big windfall for The Forum. Boberg said the issue is “easily in the top three” moneymakers for the year, along with subsequent December issues packed with holiday ads (he declined to say how much the paper earns from the Thanksgiving issue).

This year’s Thanksgiving issue drew more advertisers than last year’s edition, which featured 38 inserts (a typical Sunday paper might have 30).

Curt Christensen, The Forum’s circulation director, said about 69,000 copies will be printed – 21,000 more than a typical press run on any given Thursday.

Christensen said The Forum sees a big jump in single-copy sales on Thanksgiving as holiday shoppers pick up the paper, work their way through the ads, and plan their outings accordingly.

But getting the plus-sized newspaper out of the building and into readers’ hands requires an extraordinary degree of coordination – not to mention an early start. Palettes full of advertising inserts started showing up in the basement of the Forum building the second week of November, and press room employees were at work assembling jacket-fulls of ads two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Because companies that use inserts want to keep their holiday deals under wraps until Thanksgiving Day, security surrounding the issue is tight. Only a few people are allowed in the area where the inserts are stored, and finished copies are wrapped up and shielded from prying eyes. Some advertisers actually have The Forum sign off on documents agreeing not to leak the contents of their inserts early.

Mike Crabtree, production director for The Forum, said the issue is bulky enough that it has to come out in several parts – the press room equipment couldn’t handle the whole thing in one shot. Delivery personnel carry the parts, and take the final step in putting the paper together.

They have their work cut out for them: A carrier with a 75-paper route usually picks up a few dozen pounds of newspaper. On Thanksgiving, the carrier is tasked with hauling 300 pounds of printed product, and might need extra time (or maybe an extra car) to get the job done.

To get the issue out on time, The Forum will have an earlier newsroom deadline the day before Thanksgiving, and copies of the first edition of the paper will start to leave the building that night.

Aaron Becher, advertising director for The Forum, said the process starts even earlier in his department, which starts working with national retailers on holiday inserts over the summer.

Becher said it’s difficult to take a snapshot of the state of the newspaper – or the local economy that drives advertising – from a single issue. But he said it’s rewarding to put out an issue that helps local businesses draw customers.

“That’s what the cornerstone of newspaper advertising is. Helping others in the community be successful,” he said. “And if they’re successful, we’ll be successful.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502