How LINK nky Leveraged Column to Modernize Public Notices and Achieve 100% Self-Serve

By Emmie Atwood  •  Lifecycle Marketing Manager  •  April 23, 2024
Case Study


“We did not intend to become the paper of record as quickly as we did,” said Lacy Starling, the founding CEO of LINK nky, a digital-first publication in Northern Kentucky founded in October 2021. But in May 2022, three papers-of-record shut down in the area and a void was left in Northern Kentucky’s news landscape. Starling and her team took advantage of the opportunity, despite being digital-first. “We did not have plans to do a print publication,” explained Starling. “We did not want these public notices to be restricted to print. We wanted to move them into the 21st century.”

However, the problem for LINK nky was twofold: first, local legislation still prohibited the online publication of notices. Second, LINK nky lacked the resources required to support online notices, even if the legislation were to change.

Still, Starling and her team at LINK nky were dedicated to becoming the paper of record for the community, and not just because of the revenue associated with taking on this new advertising category. “The revenue was not a seismic game changer for us by any means,” said Starling honestly. “We wanted to do this because it’s a service to our community. Digitizing would allow this money to continue to support the local journalism that’s actually reporting on our community.”


“I had heard of Column. I knew that their technology would give us the capabilities we needed to take on public notice,” said Starling. “ I am a huge believer in newspapers having a great tech stack and outsourcing the development of software.”

After talking with Column and ensuring that the software could support their goals, Starling and her team set up their publication with Column by April 2023. At the same time, Starling and her board lobbied the state of Kentucky to amend the law, allowing public notices to be published on newspaper websites.

“Governments just want the legal notice process to be more accessible and online. It allows them to move government more quickly and get information out,” explained Starling. “The mistake that newspapers make is being resistant to the idea of moving online; they end up getting cut out of the process altogether. It was important for us to be able to say to our counties: We’ll give you an easy, online experience. That way you can move at the speed you want and we can still maintain transparency for our citizenry.”

Once Starling and her team at LINK nky showed Column’s self-serve technology to counties, the counties got on board quickly. “We simply told them what Column was all about. We said: you won’t have to wait for a response from anybody. You’ll know the price immediately. Affidavits are automated so you won’t have to wait for those; you’ll be able to go back and edit typos without having to cancel and repost. You won’t have to do five emails back and forth. You won’t have to call me. All of these benefits were huge for everybody.”

Starting July 1st 2023, the new statue went into effect, and LINK nky officially became the paper of record for the three counties in Northern Kentucky.

“It’s important for newspaper publishers to meet cities and jurisdictions and state governments where they are,” emphasized Starling once more. Sometimes the fear for smaller publications, even larger publications, is how are we going to possibly provide our government clients with the service they want and need? How are we going to develop this? That’s why Column is fantastic. It lets newspapers provide this service to clients without having to design or develop the technology. And the pricing model is fantastic.”

Impact: 100% Self-Serve

LINK nky has achieved a consistent 100% self-serve rate for all their public notices and legal ads. They managed to do it by emphasizing 4 key points to their clients:

  1. Self-serve is the only option. “We don’t give people the option to not place the notice themselves. Column is the only way we do it at LINK nky. And it’s so easy that when people do it once, they never want to email us again.”
  2. Self-serve gives client the best possible price. “It’s a way for the client to ensure they’re getting the best possible price because they can now control the formatting. We let them know that Column lets you play with the spacing when you put in your ad self-serve, which means you might be able to save money by taking out unnecessary space, or adjusting width — whereas, if you email it into me, I’m just going to put it in, however it shows up.”
  3. Self-serve keeps public notice affordable for client. “It’s important for us to make public notice affordable for the counties, not only the cost of the ad, but also in the labor involved for their employees. Having an employee spend 45 minutes putting in a public notice and then making additional phone calls costs the county money. Column reduces that time enormously.”
  4. Self-serve reduces errors. “Every time you have another human being touching the ad, you’re introducing the opportunity for error. These are legal notices and they require precision in their language. And the client — the clerk or county administrator — knows exactly what this legal ad is supposed to say — if they’re the one putting it in, there’s a much higher chance that it’s going to be perfect than if I have someone in my office entering it. It gives the client greater control.”

Column made legal notices feasible for LINK nky, opening up a new revenue stream for the paper that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Without Column, we would not have tried to take on public notices,” said Starling. “That revenue stream wouldn’t even exist for our organization.” 

Column also helped strengthen the relationship between LINK nky and their clients. “The feedback that we’ve gotten from the community has been universally positive. It is an easy platform to work with. Our rates are 15% lower than the previous paper of record, so the cities and counties are saving money and benefiting from the efficiencies of self-serve.”

By leveraging Column’s technology and advocating for legislative change, LINK nky successfully modernized public notices for their community, achieving 100% self-serve capability. This transition demonstrates the power of newspapers meeting the current moment and embracing the convenience of online.

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