Legal Sales Up 14% for The Sun Newspaper After Using Column

By Emmie Atwood  •  Content Manager  •  February 24, 2023
Case Study


Kristina Cummings, the Production Manager & Graphic Designer at the Sun Newspaper, lives and breathes the paper’s motto, “Locally Owned, Locally Made.” She’s lived in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania her whole life, attended the Dauphin County high school, and now resides just down the street from the Sun Newspaper, which has been around for over 150 years.

Cummings’s responsibilities are extensive. Not only does she lay out the paper and design all the ads, but she’s also in charge of legal advertising, which is a considerable operation, especially since The Sun Newspaper has become one of the only local newspapers actually produced in Dauphin County.

“Newspapers have been dropping, so we’re one of the main ones,” Cummings explained, “which means people have no choice but to go to us with their legals. I was getting 20 emails a day about them. Sometimes I had to be at the office on weekends or stay after work really late.”

One of the most taxing parts was coming in during the holidays. “That Friday after Thanksgiving when everyone’s off,” Cummings said, “I was coming in, printing out emails, copy and pasting the exact verbiage into inDesign, counting out how many lines each ad had, getting out my calculator, pricing it myself.”

Needless to say, it was a lot of work and required substantial focus. Cummings is a meticulous and highly visual person, but even so, there was room for human error. “When I’m looking at my own work for so long, in my mind I might be thinking it’s correct, especially since it’s what I do every day,” she said. “But I look at the paper all day long, Monday to Friday. It’s easy to accidentally miss an email, or not copy an ad over right.”

Cummings was also responsible for affidavits, which meant handling all the arts and crafts that went into that process. “I had to get out an X-Acto knife, get a cutting board, cut out manually by hand the notice, then tape it to the correct affidavit, then put it in a pile for our notary,” she explained. “Those were also our only copies of the affidavits. So if someone didn’t get it in the mail, I’d have to go through the whole process again.”

The work was never-ending, and Cummings was getting desperate for a solution. “I was having a mental breakdown with the legals,” she said. “I knew the process had to improve. I knew I needed to start doing something different.”


“My boss Dave found out about Column through an email that the Pennsylvania News Association sent out,” Cummings said. “He asked me to check it out. Next thing you know we were setting up a meeting with Will, our assigned Account Executive. Ever since that first video conference, I said ‘we’re on board.’”

It was a little harder to sell her boss on the new software. “Dave’s not afraid to admit it,” Cummings said. “It’s harder for him to change things that we’ve been doing the same way for so long. But now he raves about Column. He loves it.”

At first, Dave Buffington, the owner and publisher of the Sun, suggested that Cummings try out the new software with just a few of their legals customers. “But I started using Column with everyone right away,” Cummings said, laughing. “I knew it’d be more confusing if there were two legals system over just one. But Dave trusted me, and said that if people seemed to like it, we’d go for it.”

“It didn’t take long to learn at all,” said Cummings. “It was simpler than MySpace back in my day, and way easier than WordPress. The whole system is straightforward. There’s nothing complicated.”

Notice Tracking

Luckily, it was just as easy for the paper’s advertisers to learn as well, though Cummings admits it can be a struggle to encourage people to learn a new system. “But the vast majority of our advertisers say they love Column now, especially since it’s easier for them to track single notices,” she explained. “Column shows you where every notice is every step of the way.”

Simple Billing for Advertisers

Column’s billing system has also been a big improvement. “We used to bill legals at the end of the month, so when advertisers would get their invoices, they would get the entire month,” Cummings said. “It was hard for our customers to know which was which. Column helps them individualize their legals, so people can see which ones have been paid and which affidavits are ready for them.”

Bulk-Download & Auto-Pagination

By far, the thing that Cummings loves most about Column are the pagination tools and the bulk download feature. “It’s a godsend. Bulk download is when you download all the notices at once,” she described. “They go straight from Column into a folder on your desktop, that’s labeled with the date. The InDesign file is in there too, so I just open that file, copy and paste it with my cursor, and put it in the newspaper, and I know that everything is there.”

Use Anytime, Anywhere

Before Column, Cummings had to put all the notices in a file maker, an old-fashioned system available only on certain computers in the newspaper office. Now, there’s much less stress. She’s able to leave work early and doesn’t have to be in the office by herself. “And if I do need to work after hours, I don’t have to go into the office. I can log into the Column website at home and access everything I need. And it’s really only in emergencies that I even need to use Column at home.”

“This past year was the first Thanksgiving that I could have Black Friday off and not come in,” added Cummings. “Thank you, Column.”


“Our legal ad sales are up approximately 14% in 2022 over the comparable period in 2021,” said Buffington. “Most importantly, the time that our staff spend on legal advertising placement and billing has been greatly reduced, saving us all a lot of time and money.”

“Legals are definitely important,” said Cummings, “but it’s also really important for the paper that I can focus on layout and ensure that all our advertisers who pay me to design their ads get their ads in the paper properly. Before Column, my brain was all over the place. Now I can trust that Column keeps everything with legals all in one place, and I can spend my time improving my design work and focusing on supporting our advertisers who are local.”