Spokesman-Review leverages local expertise by going outdoors

Try to find the best swimming holes in your general area using Google. Just try.

Foiled? I sure was last summer, searching for the best beaches to bask on within a day’s drive of Spokane, Washington.

I tried again, this time before a trip to western Montana, and found the same result. No one place to look for a complete listing of recreational pleasures, even though this part of the United States boasts an abundance of them.

Fast-forward to our annual corporate retreat, where one topic of discussion was titled, “The Great Outdoors.” That referred, of course, not only to the vast recreational opportunities that abound in our readership area.

It also referred to the fantastic launching pad we already had in place: years and years of columns, stories, photos, and hiking maps from Outdoors Editor Rich Landers, perhaps one of the country’s most award-winning outdoor writers and editors.

Already on Sundays each week, we published an Outdoors page, and Landers launched a crazy popular Outdoors blog about a year ago. We took those two elements and added another day of the week – Thursday – to the content mix, with four additional pages of stories and photos. And we completely revamped the Outdoors blog into a full-blown Outdoors site, built with responsive design and open to reader photo contributions and interaction.

Of course, we also have social media presence for Outdoors, and a great deal of interest from businesses that serve outdoors enthusiasts.

No longer is Outdoors a place where the content is mostly dominated by hunting and fishing, although those two topics remain popular with readers and, of course, have a place in the mix.

We’re now also appealing to recreationalists of all types: spelunkers, hikers, day-trippers, lake swimmers, motorheads, geo-cachers, runners, bicyclists, climbers, skydivers, you name it.

To launch the initiative, we bought city bus advertising, launched search engine optimisation (SEO) campaigns, produced print and direct mail campaigns, and secured a comprehensive radio buy, in which Rich Landers is interviewed weekly to preview the Thursday edition.

Next steps include archiving and making searchable via a mobile app the years of hiking trails Landers has reviewed and catalogued, as well as creating portable fun guide maps to the area’s recreational strongholds.

The first map, a guide to area lakes (and swimming holes!), is set to distribute full-run in late June, just in time for the heat of summer.

About Kathleen Coleman

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