So you like to raise your advertising rates, but the dirty little secret is your press runs have fallen and there's no easy way to explain higher rates to your advertisers.

How about a stealth rate increase by going to a 46-inch web? Hmm…that's probably not practical.

How'd you like to be able to show your advertisers that your product now has up to a 15 percent increase in reach in your trade area? Might that be justification for higher rates?

Belden Research has and is conducting studies of newspaper's online editions. The results: Three to 15 percent of the readers of online newspapers are local residents who don't read the print edition of the newspaper.

"We're being very conservative with our numbers," said Greg Harmon, director of interactive research for Belden.

What this means is that a combination of print and online would be worth higher rates.

The key here is to post your classified display and run of paper display ads on the Internet WITH NAVIGATION THAT ENSURES ADVERTISERS THAT THEIR ADS WILL BE SEEN. That means you must mix the classified display ads in with the classified liners, and provide top-notch navigation to ROP display ads through such navigation technology as Top Ads.

Greg Swanson, director of Interactive Sales for Lee Enterprises, which has used Belden's research, said there is more good news.

According to Swanson, the research shows that the online newspaper attracts only about one-fifth of the reach that the newspaper does - but is still the No. 2 media product in the trade area.

This is good news for both the printed newspaper and the online newspaper.

Swanson said this data allows newspaper sales reps to point out that the newspaper remains - by far - the big dog on the block. It also shows that the online newspaper has more reach than the local radio and TV stations.

"It really puts our competition in place. It's a great message for our sales reps to carry," Swanson said.

Even though your print circulation may have eroded, your newspaper is still the best advertising medium in your trade area. The second best advertising medium is your online newspaper.

Used in tandem, no other media buy comes close.

Here's an unpaid commercial: Belden Research offers Belden Visitor Estimates for $5,000. With this research, publishers, ad managers, etc. will further understand the value of "owning the Internet."

Once you understand, you'll likely become a believer in your own product. Once you believe, you'll be able to sell your great product to your advertisers.

You'll probably be able to justify higher rates!

(Marc Wilson is general manager/ceo of TownNews.com. He's reachable at marcus@townnews.com)