W.Va. newspapers enhancing printed legal ads with online access at no cost

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“Newspapers are good business in West Virginia!”

West Virginia residents, business and community leaders, government officials and legislators know to look for legal ads for public notice in their community newspapers.

But they can also look online and in their email inbox as part of the West Virginia newspaper industry’s continuing effort to serve state residents.

WVLegals.com and “WV Legals” emails are available at no cost to all West Virginians as part of the newspaper industry’s latest enhancement to the paid legal ads being placed in community newspapers and on newspaper websites, said Don Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Press Association.

The online and email services come from WVLegals.com, which is a newspaper industry-funded website. Residents can register for one county, a region or the entire state. The service is keyword searchable and does offer a “bids” option. Access does not require a newspaper subscription.

“Anyone interested can visit WVLegals.com to see the legal ads. They can also register to get an email featuring the legal ads that are published daily or weekly in their local newspaper,” Smith said.

The emails from WVLegals.com are sent whenever legal ads are published in the community newspaper. Not all counties are available yet, but the newspaper industry is committed to having all newspapers online by Jan. 1, 2021.

The newspaper industry announced the industry-funded effort during the recent West Virginia Press Association Legislative Breakfast in Charleston.

This latest service comes after two years of discussions with leaders in the West Virginia Legislature about legal advertising, online access to legal ads and news, and the future of newspapers in the state.

The commitment to online access at no cost for residents is both a response to legislative concerns and a continuation of the industry’s online growth, Smith said.

“Newspaper industry representatives have met with Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, about legal advertising, the industry’s future and on broadband expansion. We attended interim meetings held by Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and talked this session with Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, and others to hear their concerns about public awareness, online access, free access and getting public notices to non-newspaper subscribers,” Smith said.

“There were also very informative discussions in legislative committee meetings this session about paid legal ads for public notice in newspapers,” Smith said. “There are concerns, but there is also an appreciation and understanding — among both Republicans and Democrats — of the public value of having legal advertising in the community newspapers across the state. Still the newspaper industry knows it must continue to be progressive and forward thinking, especially in terms of online audience growth and access to legal ads for public notice.

“These online and email efforts are just more examples of private industry taking advantage of technology and improving internet to provide a public service, grow business and provide jobs in West Virginia. Everyone wants to move the state forward and sees broadband, online commerce and technology jobs as keys in the future. The newspapers industry has ... perhaps too quietly ... been a leader in that area,” Smith said.

The newspaper industry has been developing newspaper websites and online readership for more than a decade. “With our many community newspaper websites and online editions, readership of West Virginia newspapers has never been greater,” Smith said.

See the WV Press InSight video on the program at youtu.be/AZEv-ueexXs.

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