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Dave Olson, Published November 23 2013

VIDEO: Massive holiday paper requires much preparation

FARGO – It may not have the heft of, say, a Butterball turkey.

But this year’s Thanksgiving Day edition of The Forum will give readers plenty of news and ads to digest – more than 5 pounds worth.

Because of its bulk, more effort than usual will go into getting Thanksgiving papers to homes and dealer locations such as grocery and convenience stores, said Aaron Becher, The Forum’s general manager.

“It is the biggest paper of the year for us, and it takes a tremendous amount of teamwork on behalf of all departments here at The Forum,” Becher said.

He said advertisers start making inquiries in June about getting their ads in the Thanksgiving paper, and the planning and coordination ramp up as the holiday approaches.

“What we’ve been focused on the last couple months is making sure all the pieces come together at the same time,” Becher said.

And those pieces add up, said Mike Crabtree, director of production at The Forum.

“There are 980 pages of just inserts,” Crabtree said, referring to pre-printed advertisements that get inserted into the paper.

When this year’s holiday paper is put together, the weight of a single copy may be unprecedented.

“I’m guesstimating it’s going to be 5 pounds, 6 ounces,” said Crabtree, who predicts this year’s Thanksgiving paper could be one of the heaviest editions of The Forum ever published, if not the heaviest.

“The last one that was even close (in size) was two years ago, and that was 4 pounds, 15 ounces,” said Crabtree, who added that with all the preparatory work, “there’s probably close to 1,000 man hours putting this package together.”

The extra planning that goes into the Thanksgiving paper extends to the newsroom, said Matthew Von Pinnon, editor of The Forum.

“We try to consider how people read the paper that day, keeping in mind they may be with family or friends.

“We try to give them something to discuss or that they may want to share, including content that’s especially inspiring, entertaining or of a social nature,” Von Pinnon said.

Also, he said, because of the time needed to stuff papers with ad inserts and to get the finished product to Forum readers in a timely way, deadlines Wednesday night for the Thanksgiving Day paper are a little earlier, meaning some employees start their shifts a bit earlier the day before Thanksgiving.

“Finally, because the front page is our front door to what’s inside the paper, we use that real estate to not only wish our readers a Happy Thanksgiving, but also promote all the great stuff that’s inside the biggest paper of the year,” Von Pinnon said.

When newspapers are ready to leave The Forum building, making sure they get to readers is the responsibility of Fred Greer, director of circulation for Forum Communications, which owns The Forum.

“We have to contract with additional truck drivers and a lot of them have to rent an additional or larger vehicle,” Greer said.

He also said paper carriers, most of whom are adults with their own vehicles, usually need additional helpers and vehicles to get papers to subscribers in a timely fashion on Thanksgiving Day.

“The physical weight of it is a challenge,” Greer said. The holiday paper also requires intensive planning when it comes to single-copy sales, including determining which business locations that offer the paper will be closed on Thanksgiving and which will be open, he said.

He said stores that are open may sell twice as many newspapers on Thanksgiving Day as they do on a normal day.

If a dealer location sells out of papers, Greer said contingency plans are in place to quickly resupply them.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555