Samantha Bee turned her attention to small-town journalism on Full Frontal this week, heading to New Jersey to help out an ailing newspaper with a new, more hedonistic subscription plan.
On Wednesday’s show, Bee focused on the importance of local news outlets, noting in a stand-up introducing the segment that important recent news stories like the Flint water crisis or Bridgegate began as local news stories. So, to that end, Bee focused in on New Brunswick Today, the New Jersey town’s lone local newspaper.
Bee spoke with editor-in-chief Charlie Kratovil, who told the Full Frontal host that just 100 people subscribed to the newspaper. Subscriptions, Kratovil added, are just $5 per month.
That low subscriber number was surprising to Bee, given that Kratovil’s paper had previously exposing corruption at the New Brunswick Water Utility that covered up water contamination in the town. As Kratovil explained to Bee, the town was rocked last year by a scandal in which one man pled guilty to public corruption.
“Without old-timey reporting like Charlie’s, people in New Brunswick would have no idea that their water was poisoned,” Bee said in the segment.
So, to drum up subscriptions, the Full Frontal host spoke with Gabe Zichermann, a “gamification” expert who recommended the paper pursue “hedonism and pleasure” to drum up subscriptions because “people will always choose the most pleasurable option between a set of given choices.”
The answer for New Brunswick Today: Lottery tickets. Specifically, lottery tickets potentially worth $500 that also get buyers a yearlong subscription to the paper.
As Bee notes on the show, that approach increased the paper’s subscriptions by 400 percent — a number that Bee said this week is still growing.
“Maybe with a little luck, a sprinkle of civic engagement, and a healthy dose of hedonism,” Bee said, “local journalism will survive.”
New Brunswick Today thanked Bee on social media for her work Thursday, and asked that readers continue to support their coverage.