Meet the force behind Macaroni Kid: Publisher Mom.
In Lebanon County, it’s Myerstown’s Alison Wenger, who has been producing her Macaroni Kid website since December 2011.
Each Publisher Mom is essentially a franchisee of Macaroni Central in Long Island, N.Y., where friends (and moms) Joyce Shulman and Nicki Hemby hatched the idea of a weekly newsletter featuring local family-friendly events and activities. There’s an emphasis on free or low-cost options.
From the first newsletter in 2008, Macaroni Kid has grown to 525 communities throughout the United States. In central Pennsylvania, there are Publisher Moms for Harrisburg, Lancaster, Reading/Pottstown, and York, in addition to Lebanon County.
I came upon Macaroni Kid by accident.
Part of my responsibilities for Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is promoting the Royer’s Kids Club, which we introduced in 2006. Aimed at children ages 5 to 12, the kids club is free and features online activity pages, a quarterly email newsletter, and five free in-store events each year.
Through a Google search to track kids club news coverage, I discovered that Wenger had written about one of the events. I reached out to her and have continued to send her (and the other Publisher Moms in central Pennsylvania) information about upcoming kids club events. I have no doubt that Macaroni Kid coverage has boosted attendance at Royer’s events.
Wenger is a native of Wilkes-Barre whose husband, Corey, was born in Myerstown and graduated from ELCO High School. She has a background in public relations and currently works full-time in electronic media and marketing for Reading Area Community College.
Wenger learned that the Lebanon territory was available while following the Publisher Mom in York’s Facebook page. Wenger applied to Macaroni Central, which charges her a monthly fee in exchange for hosting her unique website and providing other support, including national advertising.
“It’s very affordable,” Wenger said, “and it’s a great way to become involved in the community.”
25,000 monthly page views
To offset what she pays Macaroni Central, she retains any revenue generated by selling local ads that appear on her site. Her advertisers include Making More Time (a lifetime management business), Lebanon Catholic School and Paramount Sports Complex. Ads for Penn State Hershey PRO Wellness Center appear on each of the area Macaroni Kids sites.
Wenger said her public relations background made her a natural to become a Publisher Mom. She already knew how to write and was familiar with social media. Of course, she’s also a mom: She and Corey are the parents of Brett, 5, who is entering kindergarten this fall, and Julia, 3.
Wenger spends five to 10 hours per week on Macaroni Kid, she said, depending on the time of year. Compiling lists of Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July fireworks and parades, and trick-or-treat schedules make for some of the busier times.
She publishes new content every Wednesday morning; readers can access the content by visiting her website (www.lebanon.macaronikid.com). An abbreviated version is available via email newsletter.
Besides a robust calendar of events, Macaroni Kid offers short feature stories. For one, Wenger took her children on a road trip to see a dinosaur exhibit at Whitaker Center For Science and the Arts in Harrisburg.
Her children, she said, “get spoiled by the perks of the job.”
The Reading Fightin’ Phils baseball team provided her with game tickets. She used some of them to write a first-hand account of attending a game; others she has given away as contest prizes.
She also is giving away four tickets to the Wiggles concert Aug. 18 at Hershey Theatre.
“I know whoever wins, they are going to be flipping out,” Wenger said.
Her goal is to become more involved in the community. A first step was Macaroni Kids Night at BounceU in Annville. Wenger invited her readers for two hours of bouncing on inflatables, a craft project (macaroni bracelets, thank you), snack and drink – all for a discounted price of $5 per child. Forty children and their families turned out.
Wenger wants her website to provide “other staples” that parents need. For instance, in July she posted an article about early-intervention services for children who experience developmental delays.
Wenger clearly relishes her role as Publisher Mom, bringing order to events and activities and other information for the benefit of moms and dads.
“In a way,” she said, “I like being that go-to source.”