Solutions Partner

Lessons learned from a successful back-to-school section relaunch

Ballantine Communications, Durango, Colorado


After discontinuing an underperforming “Back to School” special section in 2012, a Colorado newspaper recently revived the publication using community feedback to produce a product that gets high marks from both readers and advertisers. Here’s how they did it: 

While working on a recent real estate supplement for their publication, Ballantine Communications noticed a number of families citing safe neighborhoods to raise children as their primary reason for moving to the community. This information prompted them to take another look at producing a back-to-school section targeted toward families with children. The team combined ready-to-run features from the Metro Editorial Library with content of their own to create a special section tailored to their community, adding academic calendars, supply lists and contributions from select school district staff. Editor of Special Sections Hunter Harrell explains, “Previous back-to-school sections focused too heavily on covering the administration, introducing staff members and describing changes to things like the dress code for the upcoming school year, rather than providing helpful information to prepare both parents and students.

SELL: The team began selling the section the weekend following Memorial Day, approaching organizations for the section during the same selling window as their annual “Nonprofit and Volunteer Guide.” Harrell says, “We did not expect to put together a section with more than 16 pages at first. Once the county schools received notice that we would publish supply lists if they provided them, it became a quick sell for charter schools and public schools as well as nonprofit organizations and after-school programs.” Ballantine intentionally released the section early to allow parents to budget for multiple children as the cost-of-living rises. They racked additional copies at retailers beginning in late July.

PROFIT: The “Back to School” section is the publication’s first step in focusing on families with children and testing the possibility of a quarterly parenting tabloid or magazine. The section produced about $5,200 for the company after printing and shipping costs. Harrell notes, “We made great connections with many new advertisers and hope to build on the momentum next year.” He adds that school administrators are grateful to have the calendar and supply lists published, and advertisers are pleased with the product overall.

Hunter Harrell
Editor of Special Sections
Ballantine Communications
1275 Main Ave., Suite 300
Durango, CO 81301


To learn more about Metro’s copyright-free editorial features, and fully templated print and digital special sections, call 800-223-1600 or email

Metro’s ready-to-present-and-sell Themed Special Section (TSS) program features 37 popular titles. Learn more about the lineup of print and digital special sections from Metro (including magazine sizes and mini sections) by watching our most recent webinar, which you can access from the link, as well as the 2023 Themed Special Sections schedule.

An added bonus for all of our news media partners are the educational webinars that Metro hosts — free of charge for all attendees. Here is a link to our webinars page where you can see what we have coming up, as well as the archive of past webinars, including "STRATEGIC SPECIAL SECTION PROGRAM PLANNING FOR 2023 & BEYOND".