local media insider
Case study

The Day launches Celebrate Graduates

The launch is live on iPublish Media platform


Case Study:  Celebrate Graduation special sections

Newspaper: The Day, a daily and group of weeklies 

Location:  Connecticut

Key executive: Shawn Palmer, CRO

Technology: iPublish Media’s Celebrations platform 

Challenge The Day’s team was working from home brainstorming ways to help the community respond to the COVID pandemic when they started to talk about the problem with high school graduation. 

“We saw what was happening - or not happening - with the high school seniors in the community,” said Shawn Palmer, CRO. 

“There were no sports, activities or proms. The kids were just  getting sent home and did not even get a chance to say goodbye to their friends.” 

The team decided to create special sections for graduates. With 25 high schools and at least 100 kids per school, however, there was a lot to cover. The task was made even more daunting by the potential of needing to create hundreds of announcement ads from parents. They needed an editorial strategy and a self-serve solution to build the ads and take payments online. 

Strategy: The newsroom was involved in creating an editorial plan, and the group decided to work ads from parents into the mix.  

  • The Day’s main paper is a daily serving southeastern Connecticut, so with special sections in the north, east and western area, they could feature just the relevant high schools within those areas. The basic editorial mix was also broadened to engage more families at this hyper-local level.

“We always covered graduation, but instead of just shooting a few photos, we expanded the coverage to include a complete list of every graduating student, student speeches, and  photos from over the year,  into each mini-section for each high school.”

The weeklies also ran the names of students, as well as their speeches, but did not have a complete special section. 

  • The sections were timed to coincide with graduation, with a deadline of June 5 for parents to advertise. 

  • The Day turned to iPublish Media, the leader in self-serve advertising solutions for a turnkey solution to build announcements by family at scale.

“We were asking, how do we do something for the families, and give them  a chance to say something to their kids. We quickly realized that with the number of high schools, if it took off we would be overrun with building small ads for hundreds of high school kids. Without being in the office, we could not even ask people to mail us copy and a check. That’s when we contacted iPublish,” Palmer said.

At the time, The Day used Tributes, a self-serve special section publisher for obituaries, in conjunction with Legacy, but had not yet used the Celebrations app that includes self-serve announcements for graduation, weddings, engagements and birthdays. 

“We wanted [iPublish] to give us something quick and easy  where parents could just pick a template, write a message, get a proof and they were done,” Palmer said. 

“We told them they would have to build it out in record time to have it out by the end of June. They had it up within a week.”

  • The Day’s team selected just two ad sizes 1/8 or 1/4, priced at $50 and $100, that are easy to fit into the special section templates. The weeklies simply ran the ads ROP. 

  • Next came outreach to the 25 high schools. “We had group calls with  the superintendents and explained the idea. They thought it was great and appreciated that we were doing something extra special.” 

The Day supplied a personalized letter and asked each superintendent to email this to every high school senior family. 

 “We just said, can you please do an email blast to the families and they did. Of course, we also ran house ads in print and online.” 


  • The Celebration sites went live starting May 18th, and within a couple of days of the email sold 50 ads online. They expect hundreds more in the next two weeks before June 5. 

  • Only one family complained that ads for family announcements were harder on families in poverty. Palmer said his team had discussed the issue but decided to move forward given the generations-old precedent set by yearbooks and the fact that all the students’ names were published. Once the parent realized their child’s name would be published, they no longer had an issue. 

“The yearbook companies do this already, so it’s not foreign to the kids. Some people don’t buy ads. We didn't do this just to make money, but because the impact on this year’s class was so severe.” 

One school has even suggested they may buy ads for students whose families do not have the funds.

  • The self-serve sales approach is by nature low-key. One school leader told The Day that they planned to email families again to get more participation. “We just said that’s up to you.” 

  • The initiative re-energized the team at The Day. “It is something we are really proud of,” Palmer said “You know we are working from home, and day after day another business isn't open and calls aren’t getting returned. 

“Once we started working on this, we started having fun. We created this whole thing working from home. None of us have even been in the same room while putting this project together." 


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