In February, Journal Register Company (our parent company) named a new CEO, John Paton. He met with JRC publishers on his first day on the job and told them to embrace a new “news ecology”, which includes the empowerment of citizen journalists to help us report what is going on in our communities. He demanded we be mobile-first in news delivery; and employ technologies to give consumers what they want, how they want it, when they want it.
To that end, the Record has changed the way it reported news in so many ways:
- All of our journalists were equipped with video cameras in the the spring; we now broadcast an average of about 70 new videos a month.
- Staffers began blogging, and we invited the community to blog on our site as well. Today we have over 30 bloggers.
- We began engaging our audiences more using social media. We launched a Facebook page, which today has 767 "fans". Now more than a dozen staffers use Twitter.
- We live-streamed all of our editorial board meetings with candidates during the election season, and our sports team has been particularly active with the above tools - regularly blogging, tweeting and posting video from games, and setting up special events such as Will Montgomery's high school football chat sessions, and Andrew Santillo's and Tretonian sports reporter Ben Doody's weekly chat about MAAC college basketball.
We promoted one of our staff writers, Tom Caprood, to lead our digital first efforts in the newsroom this spring, and he was named to JRC's Idea Lab in July. The concept is to have 15 employees companywide devote 10 hours a week for a year to helping the company "think differently about what we do and how we do it". Experimenting with technology is a big part of the charge.
We also opened the first phase of our Community Media Lab - a space designed to bring the community in to collaborate with us on all types of projects - from citizen journalism (ie. blogging) to forums on topics of interest to business owners to dialogues with local business, arts, education, government, and non-profit leaders.
And lastly, we added journalists in our newsroom in early 2010 - aiding both our digital and print efforts - and launched a few new features throughout the year. (Among the highlights were two in sports: a roundup of local athletic accomplishments each Sunday, and the presence of an in-depth sports feature that day as well.)
Our audience is growing
Our audience is larger than it has been in some time. Our digital audience is now up to over 163,000 unique visitors a month, and our print audience over the same period exceeds 93,000 adults.
The Record has been defying newspaper industry trends this year - as of last week our paid home delivery circulation was up 9.8 percent vs. the same week last December (while our overall circulation is relatively flat due to declining single copy sales).
Not only have readers have responding positively to changes in our operations; the Capital Region's alternative news weekly Metroland cited The Record in its Best of the Region announcement in late July for "Best Newspaper Turnaround". They said, in part, that we "re-imagined" our product, and "now regularly produce the most satisfying read of any paper around".
None of the digital first focus represents an abandonment of our print products. In fact, this effort will enhance our newspapers as we refocus our resources to use newsprint to present more compelling journalism.
In many instances our company, as CEO John Paton has blogged about, we have outsourced to reduce our legacy costs so we could invest more in technology and journalism. Buildings, presses and delivery trucks have all been shedded. But in some cases where it made sense, some locations were identified as printing centers in JRC. So Troy is a print hub now for our Troy, Saratoga and Kingston products. To that end, we invested in our building and printing technology here:
- In February we went live with new computer-to-plate equipment, which cut down on our prepress costs.
- And in November we went live with new inserting equipment, which improved efficiency in that end of our operations in the week leading up to our becoming printer for a sister newspaper, Kingston's The Daily Freeman, on Dec. 7.
More community engagement
We were active with a number of new community organizations during the year, and we expanded our Clothe the Child effort to a second annual campaign called "Camps4Kids". Proceeds sponsored camp scholarships for Troy Boys and Girls Club kids to its Camp Barker, which was struggling with funding.
Another exciting project came late in the year as The Record rallied to bring the 2010 World Series Trophy to Troy. After a five-week campaign, the San Francisco Giants - whose Major League roots are in Troy - agreed to bring the trophy here in May.
Sneak peak at '11
We have a bunch of new products, technologies and ways of reporting news and engaging with our readers that we will employ in 2011. I am happy to announce two projects today to provide a sneak peak:
- The Record's Rensselaer Forum will be a regular gathering of community leaders in the arts, education, health, public service and local business to discuss issues of importance to local residents. The goal is to provide an ongoing process for residents to envision the future of their community. Topics and invited guests will vary, but the format will be the same: The public will be invited to participate in the discussion. A transcript will be published at troyrecord.com, as will stories. And video will be shot and excerpts made available on our web site.
- We'll call it a working name for now - troyrecord.com's CML Concert Series (the CML standing for our Community Media Lab) - is also coming soon. We're inviting in music acts from the region to perform live in our media lab, and we'll post videos from each session and a brief artist biography on our Web site.
- Electronic and mobile editions of our newspaper will roll out early in the coming year.
- As announced this week by the Business Review, we are looking to expand our Community Media Lab into our newsroom. More on this as the project progresses.
- And we are investing in a new front-end system for our editorial department this spring to make us more efficient, to push news more readily to mobile devices and the Web, and to make it easier to share content with other publications in our company, among other reasons.
I recommend those interested in the transformation at JRC see the video released this week on our progress in 2010.
And I want to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers, advertisers and employees the merriest of holidays; we look forward to engaging our community even more in 2011.