Small Paper Sees Big Lift with CMS Change

The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette has seen its traffic double and digital ad revenue quadruple since switching to a new CityPortals-built CMS in March, proving the system can work even for small rural newspapers.


Most small newspapers would be happy with an online publishing system that solves more headaches than it creates. Finding software that makes digital revenue and reader traffic skyrocket seems like the stuff of dreams.

But that’s precisely what Mike Donnelly, publisher of the Indiana (Pa.) Gazette, says has happened to his 14,000 circulation daily since partnering with CityPortals earlier this year. The numbers are astounding: Since switching platforms in March, monthly page views have risen from 600,000 to 1.2 million and digital ad revenue, while still modest, has quadrupled.


“We had a cookie-cutter kind of website,” Donnelly says about the TownNews system the family-owned Gazette used to use. “It wasn’t set up for high performance … As the market evolved, we needed something more robust.”The Gazette’s new site doesn’t look like anything fancy: breaking news, extensive high school sports coverage and the kinds of in-the-know features you’d expect from a newsroom that’s been covering its chunk of rural Pennsylvania since 1890. There are ads for local restaurants, some job listings, a local business directory and a community calendar.

So what makes the Gazette different from its counterparts in other local markets?

“The secret sauce is in 12 years of intellectual property put into the platform,” says CityPortals CEO Dan Myers. “It’s all tied together. It’s not on all these different sub domains; it’s not all these different things bolted together.”

CityPortals, based in State College, Pa., traces its roots to the early days of the Web, when Myers began sketching out a digital framework for Knight Ridder. That project never came to fruition, but Myers was convinced that he could build the kind of system that would allow local publishers to serve local businesses online.

Myers devoted years to building a single platform for digital services, local search, calendars, classified, e-commerce and car sales. He tested each development on, a domain he’s owned since 1996. About three years ago, CityPortals built a content management system and hired an editorial staff for the State College site. Traffic continues to grow, as does revenue, with the site pulling in $50 for every 1,000 page views.

Myers says serious SEO tools are also baked in to the CityPortals system.

“If you search State College and pretty much anything else, we dominate the search,” he says. “We have one homogenous platform that’s all tied together … What you see on the front end is great, but the back end is even more amazing.”

When it came time to recruit newspaper partners, Myers picked the Gazette for two reasons: He wanted to demonstrate that CityPortals can work in small, rural markets, and the Gazette staff was willing to learn.

“You really need a champion on the ad side and a champion on the editorial side,” he says.

Digital ad revenue at the Gazette is around 5%, four times what it was before switching to CityPortals. He’s confident that the paper will reach its goal of 12%-15% digital soon.

“This is one group that actually promised what they would do,” Donnelly says. “They continually deliver on that and more.”

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