The Success of SmallTownPapers’ Awards Program Platform

BetterBNCLogoIn 2007, SmallTownPapers launched a platform for journalism contests – one of the only platforms that has been designed specifically for news media contests. BetterBNC is an entirely integrated, online contest platform which is being used by nearly 200 media organizations today for their print and broadcast journalism contests as well as public relations and other news media-related awards programs.  Those using the platform today include AP and SPJ chapters, broadcast associations, press clubs, collegiate media organizations, public relations chapters, the Mirror Awards, Inland Press Association and more.

There are a number of features that set this SmallTownPapers’ product apart from its competitors including an Admin Advisor Group (comprised of individuals who are using the platform) which reviews and recommends platform enhancements.  The platform allows contests to open entries to freelance journalists, allows payments via PayPal, and is intuitive and easy for all to use.

Visit BetterBNC’s blog to learn more about BetterBNC and its suite of powerful features or contact Carter Cheston at to set up a free demo or learn more.

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Lessons from the Firestorm

Photo:  Carlton Complex Fire Information

Photo: Carlton Complex Fire Information

As I write, thousands of firefighters are in Central Washington fighting multiple wildfires that are burning hundreds of thousands of acres of land.  One fire alone, the Carlton Complex Fire, is the largest in the state’s history burning more than a quarter of a million acres. Spanning 391 square miles, this fire has destroyed more than 300 homes, apartments and commercial buildings. Small towns dotting the gorgeous landscape are now hosting evacuation centers, news satellite trucks and Red Cross vans. Many have lost power and telephone access while the hardest hit communities have lost town structures including a school, a post office, a church and a hardware store.

I have found myself a wildfire victim as the blaze burned across family land located in the hills above the town of Pateros. I am relieved no one was on the property when the flames engulfed the house and surrounding land but I do wish I could go back and retrieve a few sentimental items which are forever lost – photos pinned to the shop walls, the ”Paid in Full” bill from the well driller, notes written to me by neighbors. All small, insignificant items that I alone will miss.

Now, after all the marketing my company has done, the trade shows attended, ads published — all preaching about how the time to act to preserve historic documents is before a loss – I am facing that reality. It’s funny how those little slips of paper represent a strong emotional anchor – easy to take for granted – until they are gone.

With the heartache of loss comes a sobering reminder that we can never guarantee or imagine what may happen tomorrow.  It may be a natural disaster or it may be something different that claims items with great meaning.  Either way, protect what you can, while you can.  Low-cost scanners give us an opportunity to protect many of those items which we hold dear such as photos, letters and other material that can be digitally preserved right on our desktop. Professional services are available to help with larger more complex projects.  The lesson from this week’s Washington fires and my own experience is simply to take action today.

Paul Jeffko is the president and founder of SmallTownPapers, Inc.  He can be reached at
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Our Personal Connection to Washington’s Historic Wildfires

CarltonComplexFireThe historic wildfires raging in central Washington have strong ties to the SmallTownPapers family. Not only does the company founder, Paul Jeffko, have a home and property which have been affected by the Carlton Complex wildfire but it was in this beautiful area of Washington state – an area people love for its rolling hills, canyons and orchards – that the idea for SmallTownPapers was born.

In the 1990s, Paul did some work for the Quad City Herald (Brewster, WA) which serves the Washington communities of Brewster, Bridgeport, Mansfield and Pateros. It was working in the newspaper’s Brewster office that he first caught a glimpse of the newspaper’s bound volume archives dating back to the early 1900s and realized that they needed to be made accessible to the community and also protected from the inevitable deterioration that comes with bound volumes being stored in a business attic.

Publishers Ike and Doris Vallance loved the idea of making the history-rich archives accessible for everyone and became the first to sign on to the idea in 1999. In 2000, SmallTownPapers was up and running – digitizing its first newspaper archive and making it online accessible and searchable.

This past week, the very towns served by the Quad City Herald have been under siege from the raging fires. Pateros has been in the national news for losing so many homes and structures; the Carlton Complex fire is now the largest in state history. Thankfully, the archives of the Quad City Herald are preserved and current issues of so many of the local newspapers in the area are created digitally these days so their content is protected for the future.

But we can’t help but wonder about some of the other towns affected. Are their bound volume archives sitting on a shelf in an evacuated building with the fire line nearby? Will they be safe or will the documented history of their community be lost? It’s simply a reminder to act today to preserve photos, documents and other materials that you can digitally protect for the future. We can never predict what tomorrow might hold.

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How do you find historic newspapers that were never microfilmed?

CrowleyIt’s exciting to see growing resources of historic newspapers which have been digitized and made online accessible.  But what you’ll find is that most have been digitized from the newspaper’s microfilm archive.  What about newspapers that never created microfilm versions?

Many newspapers, most from small markets across the country, weren’t able to afford microfilm copies of their newspaper archive.  Instead, their archive consists only of single copies of old issues bound into volumes for each year the paper existed.  Many newspapers have lost some of the volumes, they’ve been damaged or, in one case we heard about recently, people going through the bound volumes literally tore out pages they wanted to keep.

SmallTownPapers helps these newspapers digitally preserve their history.  The company specializes in scanning the delicate bound volume or loose printed archives and the newly created fully-searchable digital images show the page as it was originally printed.  The newspapers are shipped in military grade shipping containers, the papers are scanned intact and then returned to the newspaper.  The searchable digital archive is then made online accessible through SmallTownPapers.

We hear repeatedly from archivists, historians and those working on genealogy and ancestry research that they are relieved to finally have a resource for newspapers that didn’t have the easier-to-digitize microfilm archives.

SmallTownPapers is constantly scanning for our customers and we’re finding that groups with original copies of yearbooks, newsletters and other documents are now turning to SmallTownPapers to help them scan the only remaining copies of their material and they find great value in having the searchable content hosted online for them.

Check out the newspapers in our database today or contact SmallTownPapers for information on how it can help  your organization preserve its documented history.

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Community Grants Can Help Fund Newspaper Archive Digitization

BothellSentinel1909We’re finding an increasing number of historical societies and other organizations applying for community grants to help them pay to have their local newspaper archives digitized and made online accessible.  A great success story comes from Bothell, Washington, north of Seattle, where a King County 4Culture grant made it possible to digitize local historic newspapers which previously had limited accessibility.  Read more about the project on or the article published in the Woodinville Weekly.

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A Community Rallies to Preserve its Newspaper Archive

We are often asked by historical societies and other organizations how they can pay to scan and provide access to their historical newspaper archives using SmallTownPaper’s ArchiveInABox product.  Increasingly we’re able to share examples of organizations which have applied for community grants to help pay for the digitization and several which have designed and executed campaigns to solicit community funds to help make an online archive a reality.

HalSacks_TheJewishNews400Most recently and in record time, a Virginia veteran mobilized a community to raise funds to digitally preserve and provide online searchable access to his community newspaper, the Jewish News in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Hal Sacks dedicated proceeds from his memoir, Hal’s Navy, to the cause and issued an appeal to the community which responded immediately.  Click here to read how he did it and how the newspaper is now on its way to having its complete bound volume archive online in 2015.

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SmallTownPapers – Invaluable Resource for Archivists & Historians

AlmaNewspaperWe recently received a great message from Wabaunsee County, Kansas Historical Society archivist Greg Hoots.  Great had just discovered past issues of his local newspapers on SmallTownPapers and commented, “While we have an archives of actual hard copies of many, many bound newspapers, having these scanned papers is so good for me as a researcher. I cannot thank you enough.”

The Alma papers are in the SmallTownPapers free program with issues being scanned and placed online as they’re completed –   We were able to find out which, if any, particular years Greg needed then ensure they’re available as soon as possible for him.  If you’re looking through the archives on our site and you don’t see the year you’re looking for, please let us know and we can follow up for you.  We always like to hear from those using the site to research and look through newspaper archives.  Use the comment box or email  Thanks, Greg, for your feedback!

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SmallTownPapers Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is SmallTownPapers?
A: SmallTownPapers, Inc. scans historic newspaper archives and uses Internet technology to make the digital copies accessible to anyone with a computer.  SmallTownPapers works with publishers to create high quality images of newspaper archives that are completely searchable online through the SmallTownPapers website. Today, SmallTownPapers has more than 230 newspapers in its program representing 46 states.  The archives date as far back as 1846 (The Vineyard Gazette from Edgartown, MA).

Q: How is SmallTownPapers different from other digital newspaper archiving tools?
A: A traditional searchable archive is a text file and provides the reader with the ability to search published articles. SmallTownPapers creates digital images of superior quality by scanning directly from the printed newspaper pages. The newspapers are scanned intact and returned to the newspaper.  Viewers see the newspaper just as it was printed and can search for any term appearing on the page in articles, photographs and advertisements.

Q: Who will be interested in accessing the SmallTownPapers archives?
A: The archives of newspapers from America’s small towns possess inherent value holding substantial unique information that does not appear in regional or national newspapers. This information is valuable to numerous segments of society including researchers, genealogists, historians, governments and legal professionals. Previously, accessing these archives meant an individual had to travel to the location where each archive is stored and then sift manually through each page looking for the information desired. SmallTownPapers creates high-quality images of the newspapers and places them in an internet accessible digital archive that is completely searchable. Millions of pages of information can be accessed from a single source using a common Internet browser.

Q: Aren’t these newspapers creating their own digital archives?
A: Many independent publishers who produce these newspapers generally operate with a strict budget and can rarely afford to create digital archives of their papers. Very few were even recorded on microfilm. Creating digital images of an entire newspaper archive is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor for newspapers with tight budgets and limited staffs. If some type of archive is not created, these newspapers will eventually deteriorate and then disappear altogether due to the frailty of newsprint paper. Additionally, as the bound volume archives become more fragile, it is risky to have people handling them to conduct their research. SmallTownPapers has a program designed specifically for small market newspapers which makes the technology and production services available at no cost to the publisher.

Q: Which newspapers can place their archives on the SmallTownPapers website?
A: The newspapers must be small community-based publications serving a certain geographic area and the newspaper must produce its own content.  Newspapers which do not qualify for the small town newspaper program are able to our ArchiveInABox products to digitize bound volume newspapers and make them online accessible.  Visit for details.

Q:  Does SmallTownPapers have other programs and products available?
A:  SmallTownPapers has created additional products like ArchiveInABox mentioned above.  The company created Small Town News to help make current small market news articles available to a wider audience.  Our work with publishers and others in the newspaper and media industry over the past decade also led to the company creating a contest platform specifically for journalism.  The BetterBNC platform is now being used by 160 contests across North America for print, broadcast, public relations and creative contests.

For more information contact SmallTownPapers at 360.427.6300 or call Paul Jeffko at

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SmallTownPapers, Inc. Lauches Online BNC Contest Platform

Press associations move to streamline annual contests
SmallTownPapers, Inc. is pleased to announce the release of its new online contest platform which allows press associations to move their Better Newspaper Contest (BNC) online. The integrated contest platform, dubbed the “Better BNC”, streamlines the entire BNC process: newspapers quickly and easily upload entries as PDFs, judges review and evaluate entries online, and the contest administrator manages the entire process from their desktop.

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SmallTownPapers articles available from Lexis Nexis

Subscribers to some of the country’s largest information providers such as LexisNexis are now able to access unique content from small town and rural America within the “Discover America’s Story” title.

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