Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rensselaer County Dairy Princess and Hoosic Valley student Leah Remington Says Farewell

Princess Leah Remington
I wrote in December, how since being named Rensselaer County Dairy Princess in July, Hoosic Valley High School junior Leah Remington religiously emailed The Record every week with her dairy princess update. Well, the Hoosic Valley High School student's reign is coming to a close. Below is her final missive. We wish her all the best!.

From Princess Leah:

Eighty-five thousand servings, that’s how much dairy the average person should consume during their lifetime. My goal, as Rensselaer County Dairy Princess, was to encourage a bunch of kids to become lifelong dairy consumers.

 During my reign, I’ve had more than 80 newspaper articles published in The Express, Eagle, Pennysaver, Agricultural News, Country Folks, Eastwick Press, Troy Record and Times Union. Each weekly article not only contained a dairy recipe, but a paragraph or two on what I was doing as the Dairy Princess, a dairy update or personal thoughts on my life or life on the farm. I wrote several detailed articles for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Agricultural News. The Times Union also did an extensive interview and article about me and the Dairy Princess program.

I attended more than 75 community events. I proudly contributed to a Wegman’s Cooking Demonstration disaster with Melissa Osgood (ADADC) and State Dairy Princess Katie Brosnan at the State Fair. I spent numerous sweltering, dusty hours in the judging arena, observing kids proudly showing their dairy cows. I’ve explained to students that being the Dairy Princess does not, unfortunately, entitle me to special privileges at Cinderella’s Castle. I hosted, with other Princesses, the banquet at State Fair where Battenkill Dairy won the prestigious award for the highest quality milk in the State. I scooped hundreds of ice cream cones. I can’t recall one event that I attended where I didn’t have a great time.

One of my favorite experiences during this year was visiting ARC’s Brunswick Center Services, a school for the disabled. I explained to the students how to make milk punch and we worked together on the recipe…laughing, visiting and making a mess along the way. They were so excited and happy to have me there and I was just as thrilled to be there. I realized during that visit, that those students stole a little bit of my heart. They gave me something valuable in return. They made me realize that not only do I want to be a teacher, but I would like to major in special education.

We put lots of mileage on, and spent countless hours in, the car. It was worth every minute and every mile. I know many farm businesses are closing and it hits close to home. I can relate to the farmers and the families who have had to sell their cows or even their farms. So many people are so far removed from farming that they don’t realize the farm’s importance to their lives and those of their family.

I have reached out to the young, the old, and everyone in between; to teach them the importance of supporting dairy farming and understanding the effort farmers make to provide them with nature’s most perfect beverage. I’ve tried to instill in them the huge benefits of consuming three servings of dairy every day. I could go on forever about it, but then I’m preaching to the choir…

My reign as Rensselaer County Dairy Princess has come to an end. It has been a busy year and it has gone by fast. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people and made some friends that I can’t imagine my life without.

I want to thank those that supported me since the day I decided to pursue this journey. I have been encouraged by those that have read my articles and taken the time to drop me an email or letter to tell me I was doing a great job, stopped me at an event to tell me that you appreciated my efforts, or invited me to an event where I could spread the dairy message.

As I say goodbye, I’d like to thank the Rensselaer County Dairy Farmers. Without the support of our farmers, there wouldn’t be a Dairy Princess Program. I feel honored and privileged to have served you. You have, what I consider, one of the toughest, most underappreciated jobs in the world. I hope I’ve left a positive mark on your industry.

I am so fortunate to have had this experience; it has helped me become a better person. Not many people can say they are a Princess, but now I can (I’ve got the tiara and pictures to prove it)!

I encourage anyone interested in serving your community and your dairy farmers to consider getting involved in your local Dairy Princess committee. The Dairy Princess program is made possible through the support of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council – the local planning and management organization funded by dairy farmer check-off dollars.
I had many opportunities to teach children, as well as adults, about the importance of milk and dairy products, farming and our dairy farmers.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Empire State College holds grand opening for downtown offices in Troy, N.Y.

There has been some great news this week about investments in Troy: a $2 million project at the Troy Boys and Girls Club; the start of work from another $2 million project - this one repairing the streets, sidewalks and curbs of South Troy; and the grand opening of a downtown branch of Empire State College.

I attended the grand opening of college's new offices at the historic Rice Building at 216 River Street last night. The offices will bring some much-needed foot traffic to the riverfront area.

As an aside ... Visitors to the site will have a birds-eye vista from the third floor to view the demolition this summer of the former city hall across the street and then, at least for awhile until redevelopment occurs, a nice view of the river.

Welcome to downtown Troy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Record's own Lisa Robert-Lewis is honoree at 10th annual tribute to the late Jack Dwyer

The Record's own Lisa Robert-Lewis, editor, is this year's honoree at the 10th annual tribute to the late Jack Dwyer, a former Rensselaer County undersheriff who passed away on Jan. 5, 2001.

The event is 6-9 p.m. Thursday, June 2 at the American Legion, Main Avenue, Wynantskill. Cost is $35 per person; proceeds to Capital District Cancer Resource Foundation. For info/tickets call Nora @ 518-527-1705.

Troy Boys and Girls Club plans $2 million make-over; local businessman Scott Earl offers matching funds

Scott Earl hugs Troy Boys and Girls Club Executive
Director Sharon Smith after meeting with club officials
about a matching gift to completely refurbish the
organization's building in downtown Troy.

In the midst of reports from a local double murder trial and the usual other bad news of the day, it was gratifying to be present yesterday when Scott Earl sat down, reviewed architect plans and cost estimates to completely renovate the Troy Boys and Girls Club in downtown Troy, and opened up his checkbook to offer the club a matching gift to fund the project.

It was an extraordinary gesture by a man who was simply moved to tears on a previous visit by the condition of the club, and the desire to ensure youth have a better facility for generations to come.

The club's board and executive director Sharon Smith now have to set to work to reach out to the community at large to solicit donations to fully fund the estimated $2 million renovation (full disclosure: I am a member of the Troy Boys and Girls Club board). Construction won't be delayed however; Earl, who recently sold a company he founded, County Waste, is providing immediate funds to renovate the first floor this summer while the club's youth are transported daily to its Camp Barker. Phase 1 is expected to be complete by early/mid-September.

This gift was made possible by the board's vice president Dan Crawley, who invited Earl for a club tour earlier this spring.

The timing coincides with an effort by The Record, Camps4Kids, to fund scholarships for youth wishing to attend Camp Baker. The newspaper started Camps4Kids last summer as a spin-off of its long-standing winter Clothe A Child effort. Fundraising for the scholarships begins later this month.

For more on the story, see link 1 and link 2.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

San Francisco Giants bring trophy 'home' to Troy, NY for a visit

Dignitaries at trophy presentation including
The Record sports editor Kevin Moran
(second from left).
The Record launched an online petition late last fall asking readers and fans to sign in hopes of getting the San Francisco Giants - whose origins are in Troy - to bring the trophy "home" for a visit. The Tri-City ValleyCats called upon their major league baseball connections to help bring make it happen; the collaborative effort resulted in a two hour visit by the trophy on Thursday.

For background on Troy's baseball history and the petition, click here.

For Editor Lisa Lewis' blog on the event, click here.

To see a video from the live-streamed coverage, click here.

For video of the trophy event, click here.

For coverage and photos, click here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Making The Record newsroom the center of the Troy, N.Y. community

A colleague of mine, Matt DeRienzo, publisher of The Register Citizen and Foothills Media Group in Northwest Connecticut, was kind enough to highlight some of the great work the newsroom at the Troy Record has accomplished in the past six months. Please read Matt's story about our Community Media Lab effort.

Matt is a leader in the Journal Register Company on community outreach and citizen journalism and inspired us in our efforts. Read about his innovative work.

For a timeline about our Community Media Lab and some related blog posts of mine, follow this link.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jay Rosen shares what he knows about journalism

One day after posting a link to thought-provoking blog on the economics of journalism from one Journal Register Company (JRC) advisor, Jeff Jarvis, I find myself posting a link to a second blog by another JRC advisor, Jay Rosen.

In "What I Know About Journalism", Rosen reflects on his 25 years on the faculty of New York University and lists four truths he has come to know during his tenure. The first of them - that "the more people who participate in the press the stronger it will be" - is an important building block of JRC's "Digital First" focus. Hence our Community Media Labs and efforts at citizen journalism.

The third is one that has struck more than a few people in our field as essential; witness the Newspaper Next effort by the American Press Insititute that subscribes to the philosophy that we should devote resources to - to paraphrase - "news readers can use". It is a task we fall short of at most newspapers, mine included; while chasing what editors and reporters consider are the big stories of the day, we too seldom reflect on what is our readers seek from our products. As Rosen states, we need to starting asking the right questions if we want to know.

Thank goodness Rosen, Jarvis and others keep us on our toes. It is too easy in the course of the day-to-day to stop pondering the important questions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Newpaper industry's 'hard economic lessons'

Jeff Jarvis succinctly explores the "hard economic lessons for news" in his blog today. Must-read for anyone employed in the business or fascinated by it.

Disclaimer: Jarvis is an advisor for the Journal Register Company, parent company of New York's The Record, Oneida Daily Dispatch, Saratogian and Daily Freeman.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Middle schools newspapers eligible for Newspaper Association of America grant

Grants are available to middle schools for their efforts to support or start a printed or digital school newspaper. For more information follow this link.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The challenges and opportunities of 'disruption' to daily newspapers such as the Oneida Daily Dispatch

The following are my notes for a speech delivered April 21, 2011 to the Oneida’s Club on the future of the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

During President Barack Obama’s talk at Facebook headquarters yesterday he spoke about how “we've got all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place, most of which hold the promise of making our lives a lot better, but also mean that there are a lot of adjustments that people are having to make throughout the economy.

And I thought I couldn’t open this talk today in any better way today than to say that, well … “there are all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place” for those of us in the journalism and in the media industry. And that “the rapid technological changes we face hold a lot of opportunities, but create some real challenges" for media companies. President Obama’s words can be adapted as a pretty succinct analysis of our industry today; it captures much of our current reality.

And yet …. I recently saw another quote attributed to an America writer Irene Peter on change that in some way demystifies some of the transformation happening in local journalism today. Peter said, “Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.” And that is so true. We are using all kinds of technology to report news to different audiences in different ways. But our journalists’ contribution to our community essentially remains unchanged: we’re telling the narrative of a large slice of our collective experiences every day. It is really exciting the ways in which we can tell that story now: not only in words and still pictures but with video and slideshows and Twitter’s 140 characters. And the promise of technology is that we can do a better job telling more stories, more completely, in more timely and in more diverse ways.

There is a lot of ground I could cover today on the trials befalling my industry or the resources we’re amassing to address them. But I thought it more important to talk in more simple, more direct terms about the Dispatch and what you can expect from us in the next 12 months, and then to open this up to a discussion and question-and-answer period.

So … you might have noticed a few changes at the Dispatch recently.

For one, you may have seen articles and ads demonstrating that we’re reaching out more than ever to engage you in what we call our Community Media Lab. Recently our sports writer David Johnson held a class on Twitter at the Oneida Public Library and at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 7 our online editor Leah McDonald is going to hold a discussion there on Twitter. On June 6 at 11 a.m., our editor Kurt Wanfried will return to the library to discuss the art of blogging and how to build audiences for your blog.

If you notice … there is a pattern there - several workshops on social media. But our Community Media Lab is much more than that … we looking to lead a discussion this summer on local involvement in the Civil War and we’ve got the beginning of an idea of capturing local resident stories on video about their life in the area and their remembrance of important events like what it was like to grow up in Oneida in the 50s, and life on a local farm a half century ago, and what our readers remembered about shipping off to serve in foreign wars.

As a further extension of the Media Lab and related to my earlier mention of the “slice of our collective experiences” that the Dispatch reports on each day … we can only make the “slice” of the community we cover significantly larger by opening up the pages of our newspaper and our Web site to you, our readers. Currently we have 12 blogs – five staff-written and seven written by community members. Our goal is to expand the number of community participants by more than seven-fold to over 50 by the end of the year. We can’t be everywhere, we can’t have all the expertise and access, and we can’t represent every point of view locally … but collectively we can capture life here more accurately, more fully than could any newsroom. If you are interested please see general manager Karen Alvord or me after lunch today. It only takes a couple simple steps for us to get you ready to blog with us.

You may have also noticed we post videos on our site most days now. This has added a whole new element to our storytelling. Soon we’ll offer a feature where you, too, can upload videos to us for posting on our site. So that junior varsity or Little League sporting event, or dance recital or science fair, or public meeting or news event you find yourself at – to be frank, we don’t have the resources to cover them all – can still be shared with the community on our site.

You may have also noticed we have expanded the content on our site – for instance, we now deliver a lot of business news online with our media partner, The Street. This content will make its way into our print products as well. And look for an announcement soon on expanded regional, national and international sports coverage as well.

Another new feature you’ll see information about in the Dispatch over the next few days is SMS text alerts. If you’re not familiar with the phrase … these are the text messages that about three-quarters of cell phone users can receive. If you have a phone that has text messaging, you can sign up for alerts that our reporters will send from the field to cue you in on local breaking news as it happens – before the story can be written or the video posted. We won’t send them too early or late in the day so that the message alert doesn’t wake you if you use a sound prompt … and we won’t send more than a few each day. But if you who like to be among the first to know the outcome of a municipal board vote or important trial, or the development of a major crime or fire or accident as it is happening, or other events of importance, this feature is for you …. And it is free. It is part of our fast to slow philosophy to news coverage. We’ll send you important updates via text, post more information to sources such as Twitter and Facebook, and then roll out stories, videos and photos to our Web and mobile products – more on the latter in a minute – and finally, publish a print version of much of the news we cover.

I mentioned mobile briefly – the text message alerts are the first step in a mobile strategy we are rolling out this year. This is an important development for us – roughly half of mobile phone users access news online. We will also optimize our Web product for your smart phones, roll out mobile video capabilities, and develop smart phone and tablet applications that deliver news, as well as offer electronic versions of our newspapers.

I am talking a lot about our new digital platforms but we also have something you may be familiar with called  the Oneida Daily Dispatch, our print product that you may have home delivered or pick up on a newsstands. A lot of the buzz about the Dispatch lately has been about changes we have made to our print edition:
  • The fact that we are now printing color on every page.
  • The fact that we are now outsourcing printing the the Dispatch and our Oneida-Madison Pennysaver, Rome Observer, and Southern Madison County Living to the Syracuse Newspapers.
  • The fact that we no longer contract with carriers to deliver the Dispatch; we now contract with Syracuse Newspapers as well to deliver it.
These developments have been the source of endless speculation locally as to what they signal; despite the fact we have tried to be transparent about these changes. Our CEO John Paton has repeatedly blogged about the changes going on in the Journal Register Company, and I have written about them as well in my blog at We’ve also written about the changes in our news products, and have addressed them in public forums such as these.

So let me address some of the rumors head on – and then I will it open this up to take your questions.

Have we been sold? No, we contract with the Syracuse Newspapers to print our newspapers because it is no longer an efficient use of resources for any newspaper to use their press just a few hours a day. These partnerships are happening all over the place – sometimes they are internal developments. At The Record in Troy for instance, we print two sister dailies, the Saratogian and Daily Freeman from Kingston, as well as six weekly newspapers and a Hispanic newspaper. Sometimes these relationships are between two newspapers who do not share a common owner; a well-known example is USA Today, which for more than 25 years has contracted with newspapers outside of its parent company, Gannett, to print and deliver its daily product in areas around the country.

We also have the Syracuse Newspapers deliver our daily print edition for the same reasons and again, this is a common development in our industry. The Times Union in Albany, for instance, delivers 19 titles for 12 different companies, including the aforementioned Troy and Saratoga daily newspapers. These are just some of the ways newspapers are addressing the disruptions in our industry … which include technological developments as well as economic concerns such as rising fuel and health costs, among many others. It no longer makes economic sense to leave a printing press idle 16 or more hours a day and it no longer makes sense – with gas $4 a gallon - to pay a carrier to deliver just a single product to your neighborhood.

Another rumor: That by printing elsewhere and having a partnership with another company to deliver our newspaper that we are somehow de-investing in the community. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, the conversation returns to those disruptive technologies I mentioned. Media is rapidly fragmenting – the economics of TV station or network ownership, of radio station ownership, and all other forms of traditional media has evolved rapidly in the last decade. We still have profitable businesses. We still have loyal audiences. And some of us are forging ahead in this new environment in exciting ways. But there are developments that have in layman’s terms, really rocked our world in the past couple years:
  • Our financial “challenge”? Newspaper advertising has shrunk by half since 2005, for one. Another is the investment required in product development while we strive to improve our traditional ones.
  • The “opportunities”? Digital ad revenue now exceeds print ad revenue nationally and more people are accessing our news than ever.
So the discussion can’t be framed any longer about what we are not doing – i.e. printing and coordinating distribution of our print products at 130 Broad Street. The conversation is about how we are investing in the people and the work we produce at that facility. We have given our reporters netbooks to write and distribute news electronically from the field. We have given every reporter a Flip camera to shoot videos. Some have been equipped with smart phones. There are new front-end systems coming to make it more efficient to produce content. We will invest in redesigning the paper, and expand the content we deliver.

Not everyone is impressed with the changes. We have some readers who only value the print product – the same newspaper we have delivered to them in many cases for decades, and in some cases, for several generations to their families. We understand that and will continue to deliver you a newspaper. But we are in an age where news is becoming highly customized. Some of us want it delivered only via the Web and smart phones, some of us only use the print product. Some of us want it all. The fact is that this “disruptive technology” we have talked about has grown our audience to perhaps its largest ever. We now have over 98,000 people reading the Oneida Daily Dispatch and/or each month, and more reading the Oneida-Madison Pennysaver and our Southern Madison County Living monthly. In Rome, where we have the weekly Rome Observer and a companion Web site, our monthly reach exceeds 30,600 adults each month. These are huge audiences we can’t reach in print alone … and here is that word again … it presents a huge “opportunity” for local businesses as well. These products deliver terrific results for advertisers because of the expanded reach, the increased frequency and the level of reader engagement we offer.

This is an exciting time at the Dispatch. We’ve entered a new age in community journalism and we are working to make our coverage more compelling and more complete than it has ever been before. The changes you have seen in the first quarter of this year are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Our goal is to cover the news – not necessarily be making it. But there will continue to be developments we share with you throughout 2011 and beyond.

We hope you see each of these changes in a positive light – we’re working to bring you more news, in a more timely way, using all the technologies you might employ to access our coverage. We believe, to paraphrase President Obama from yesterday, that these “disruptions that are taking place ... hold the promise of making our lives” a little better. These “disruptions” are making us journalists be more nimble, more targeted, more thoughtful, more creative, and less complacent about how we deliver news.

And yet, as I also stated at the top of this talk, “Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.” We have chronicled the lives of the members and institutions of our local communities for over a century, and that isn’t going to go away … the coverage in fact, we know, will continue to get much better.

Now I would like to open the discussion. Who has questions?

To read a related talk to the Oneida Rotary Club in February 2011, click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Oneida Daily Dispatch's own David Johnson connects the community to Twitter

David Johnson, standing, leads an
Oneida Daily Dispatch
Communty Media Lab
workshop at the Oneida Public Library.
The Oneida Dispatch's David Johnson led a workshop on Twitter Saturday at the Oneida Public Library as part of the newspaper's Community Media Lab. Johnson is a sportswriter at the paper. For more on the workshop see a related article.

Read the Dispatch for announcements on upcoming workshops at the library on other forms of social media.

Mayor Harry J. Tutunjian: Troy, N.Y. is moving in the right direction

I have been saying it for my 19 months at The Record and now it is official: Mayor Harry J. Tutunjian wrote a guest column today at that Troy, N.Y. "is moving in the right direction".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Journal Register Company newspapers, Web sites partner with The Street

All Journal Register Company newspapers, including four in New York - The Record, Oneida Daily Dispatch, Daily Freeman and Saratogian - have partnered with The Street, a leading financial news and information site.

This partnership allows each paper and its corresponding Web site to deliver more robust and extensive content to our audience.

From detailed analysis of stocks, bank and mortgage rates to extensive coverage of personal finance and the market forces impacting small businesses, we can now deliver more business focused news and information.

We will continue to expand this partnership to provide more detailed business content in our print edition of our newspapers in the coming weeks – including features like Jim Cramer articles and investment advice, automotive news and money-saving green energy news.

Log on to,, or  for more information.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oneida Daily Dispatch begins new chapter

The Oneida Daily Dispatch you read Monday was produced in much the same way it has been since the newspaper’s inception 160 years ago. It was written, edited, designed in our newsroom. It was printed on our presses at our 130 Broad Street facility. And it was picked up from our mailroom and delivered by carriers with whom we independently contracted.

But there were operational changes in how today’s edition was produced. It was written, edited and designed by those same journalists. But electronic files were transmitted from our newsroom to the pressroom at the Syracuse Newspapers some 30 miles west of here. It was printed there on a state-of-the-art press, driven back to the communities we serve on their truck, and picked up by Post-Standard carriers to deliver to our readers.

That is the simplest way to describe the changes we made today in the Oneida Daily Dispatch’s business model. But that doesn’t begin to describe why we made this change.

Let’s delve deeper into this decision and what it means for the future.

There was a time not too long ago when every newspaper housed every resource it needed within the same building: accounting, printing, photo processing, customer service, ad creation, Web design and so many more functions. Even newspapers owned by the same group in the same geographic area often had separate facilities and staffs. The business model at the time supported these large organizations and the available technology necessitated it.

But there have been a number of developments recently that have made it easier to accomplish virtually all of the non-news gathering and non-sales functions centrally, resulting in huge cost efficiencies. And there has been a significant shift in the economics of media ownership in the past decade that requires newspapers take advantage of each and every one of them. Finally, there has been a huge transformation in how readers consume news that propels these developments as well.

Outsourcing printing and distribution, a now-common model in the newspaper industry, accomplishes three things crucial to the future of the Oneida Daily Dispatch:

• It frees staff to focus on advertising and news gathering. No more trouble-shooting press and pre-press malfunctions. No more time spent recruiting carriers or subbing for vacancies in the mailroom. The list of things to manage is shorter, and more of the list is crucial to good journalism, superior customer service and effective marketing of our advertisers’ businesses.

• It will result in better service and a better product. The Syracuse Newspapers’ print facility is second-to-none in New York. The paper’s reproduction will be crisper; there will be more pages with color art and photography than before. And on the distribution side, they have a more sophisticated circulation infrastructure to manage and recruit carriers and to address delivery problems.

• Finally, the cost savings allows us to invest now in our future. More Americans today get their news online than from newspapers and nearly half (47 percent) get at least some local news from a mobile phone, according to the just-released State of the News Media report. It is important we find ways to fund the technology we need to address this rapidly growing demand for all things digital.

So does that mean with this project we are done altering our operations? Hardly. In fact, the transformation has just begun. Here is some of what is coming over the next 12 months:

• We will deliver the news our customers want - when, where and how they want it. Starting in April, we will expand our new delivery platforms with news and advertising mobile applications. Later in the year we will extend our mobile offerings to include coupons, video and QR codes, and we will launch electronic and tablet editions.

• We will engage more with our community … connecting with you more through social media; encouraging you to contribute more writing, video and photos; asking you more often what you want to see in our coverage; and organizing innumerable community conversations on topics of interest, as well as workshops such as our upcoming Community Media Lab event at the Oneida Public Library for newcomers to Twitter.

• We will redesign all of our print news products including the Oneida Daily Dispatch, the Rome Observer and Southern Madison County Living to make the design more current.

• We will continue to look for cost efficiencies as part of our effort to create a sustainable business model. We will use technology and shared resources to shed as many functions locally as possible that are not related to our core competencies of journalism and sales.

Our vision is to put you – the reader – at the center of all we do; to consistently deliver better and more diverse news and advertising products in every manner in which you wish to receive them; and to ensure we thrive in the coming years as the media landscape continues to transform swiftly and deeply.

Today’s development is an important step … but just one of many.

More on this development. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Journal Register Company making news again

The Journal Register Company - parent company to four NY dailies (Daily Freeman, Oneida Daily Dispatch, The Record, Saratogian) is making - not just writing - headlines again.

There were two big developments on Tuesday:
- First, at a time when furloughs are commonplace in the newspaper industry, JRC issued profit-sharing checks on Tuesday. The headline on CEO John Paton's blog says it all: "I promised. You delivered. Checks are cut". It is evident that the Digital First strategy launched last year is not only paying off for the company but employees, too.
- Second, one of the company's newspapers - The Register Citizen in Torrington, Conn. - was named among "10 Newspapers That Do it Right" by the trade publication Editor & Publisher. Torrington launched an innovative and highly popular Community Media Lab last December.

Ironically, both announcements came a day after it was reported that for the first time, more Americans get news online than from newspapers. It appears we at JRC can't work fast enough to fully implement our Digital First strategy.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Feast or famine: The art, science of event marketing at The Record's Community Media Lab in downtown Troy

I suspect accountants get queried regularly at this time of year for free tax advice. So when one publicly offers to give it for free, you would expect a mob.

Full house at a Troy Record
community discussion on
Irish geneaology.
Well, one of's community bloggers, Kevin O'Leary of Marvin and Company, P.C. in Latham, did just that this week. He held a discussion at The Record's Community Media Lab and no one showed up. We felt bad for Kevin but our attention turned quickly to a Irish genealogy talk a couple nights later. Were we poorly marketing these events? Did no one want to come to The Record and participate in our community discussions?

Well, in the space of a couple nights we had two very different turnouts. We had more people show up than space. More guests than chairs. All told - 50 people showed. A great problem to have  - especially on the heels of the outcome two nights earlier. Good thing we were already working on a solution to expand our Community Media Lab.

So, as The Record's Tom Caprood points out in his blog, we are learning in a trial-by-fire fashion how to organize, market and execute events. With three more scheduled in March (see link 1 and link 2) and a slew coming in subsequent months, I am sure we'll have more highs and lows. But we know three things for certain: We are onto something. We're going to get better at it. And we'll be much better for it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bringing the outside in; reflecting on the Times-Union's decision to close Troy, Saratoga news bureaus

Technology has certainly made it easier for journalists to interact with their readers. It is not only tools such as email, Facebook and Twitter that enables communication (and hopefully collaboration). But mobile technology - smart phones, netbooks and tablets - ensures reporters don't have to spend half or more of their workday in a newsroom; the gadgets free journalists to write and submit photos from anywhere. The smart ones plant themselves a good part of the day at coffee houses, libraries, parks, malls, beaches, courthouses, stadiums and elsewhere to increase their contact with the community.

To that end the Times Union announced this week it was closing bureaus in two communities where our parent company, the Journal Register Company, has newspapers: Saratoga and Troy. The TU admitted in the story on the bureau closings that saving money was a factor in the decision but spun the move to say it "could increase - rather than diminish - the presence of Times Union journalists in either city". The theory being, the story explained, if reporters didn't have an office to go to they might report from those aforementioned public places. But also note they used the word "could" not "would".

I am not going to quibble with any newspaper's attempts to save money. It has been a tough couple years financially for the industry and 2011 isn't shaping up to be any different. But I do think it is a mistake to pretend that a newspaper not having a physical place in the community is not important. For one, it adds to the tax base, and in these tough times when municipalities are strapped that support is important. But much more critical is having roots in the community. By at least one definition a community is, in part, a social group of whose members reside in a specific locality. By not being physically present, one automatically earns an "outsider" label. Yeah, there are digital communities, too. But in this context being able to identify your brand as truly being local requires one to be, well, local.

I would have been less inclined to publicly comment on this development if the TU story hadn't mentioned that our company is practicing "coffee-shop journalism" within some of its buildings, a reference to the much-publicized recent opening of the newsroom to the public at our sister paper in Torrington, Conn. But the point that was lost on the writer is that JRC's approach is to bring the public into its newsroom. We want to not only have our writers exposed to the community, we want the community to physically participate in our news process ... much of which happens inside our buildings as we make decisions about what stories to cover, how much visibility those stories are going to receive in our products, and so on. Moreover, we want to collaborate other ways - artistically (let's invite in a local band to perform and live stream it), educationally (sponsor workshops, book groups, demonstrations and lectures), socially and so on. And we want them to write, blog and shoot photos and video alongside us. 

We're constantly pushing our reporters and photographers out the door and giving them tools to spend as much time in the community as possible. But we also believe we have to be in the thick of things locally, to get as much facetime as possible with our readership, to have them know where we are when they want us, and to support local infrastructure. The Record and Saratogian offices have been physically open for more than a century but they have never been as open as they are today. And they will remain that way.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thoughts on the future Oneida Daily Dispatch and the state of the newspaper industry

The following is my notes for a speech given Feb. 8, 2011 to the Oneida Rotary Club on the topic of the state of the newspaper industry and the future of the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

Thanks Brian (Simchik) for the introduction and the invitation to speak today. And thank you to each of you for braving the weather.

It seems whenever a journalist is invited to speak, or for that matter, any time we join a conversation at a public function … we are asked to address the vitality of the newspaper industry. It is a fair subject.

As we have frequently reported about ourselves over the last decade – and particularly the last three years – our industry has been on something of a roller coaster ride.

Readers want to know if they will still have “their” newspaper, and advertisers want to know if they need to be thinking about alternative marketing plans. To that end, Brian asked me to talk about the state of the newspaper industry, and how the Oneida Daily Dispatch is responding to changes.

Given the time limit, I am going to cover a lot of ground briefly and in a general tone and then open it up to questions. I think it is best to start by talking about the changes in our personal lives and in the life of this community, as an example of how our audiences and advertising base has changed, and how we have adapted and need to adapt in the future.

Let’s start with the business side of our business. Newspapers have historically relied on advertising from locally-owned retail businesses for the lion’s share of their ad revenue budget. We have always been – much more so than local radio or television – the medium that drove considerable foot traffic into stores.

What happened? We got more mobile as a society and beginning in the 60s and expanding through the 70s and 80s, we started driving further for our goods and services. Shopping centers grew up on the outskirts of  places such as Rome and Dewitt, and then came the malls in Fayetteville, New Hartford and Syracuse. Downtown Oneida was no longer as much of a shopping destination for smaller communities contiguous to us such as Sherrill and Canastota … and our local residents were visiting and spending more in Oneida and Onondaga counties. So less of our disposable income stayed local and our retail base shrunk considerably.

The demise of many small local retail stores – think Garofalo Shoes, Joy’s Department Store, Lynn’s, and LL&Js, for example - and their budgets wasn’t fatal to the Dispatch; the change coincided with the rise of the regional department stores and their need to draw large audiences from wide areas. So newspapers including the Dispatch started getting more preprints from the J.C. Penney’s and Lowe’s of the retail world. And our base of ad revenue grew. That pattern continued right through the middle of the last decade, and then in the last few years many papers – the Dispatch wasn’t impacted as much as others – but it was impacted … we saw further erosion of spending from local businesses, particularly in key categories such as automotive dealers and real estate, among others, as they went through upheavals in their industries. Another segment that has been important to newspapers, recruitment advertising, has shrunk as the job market has of late. In other words: As our customers’ businesses have suffered, so have we.

Add to that a fundamental change in retail over the past few decades: the rapid rise of franchise stores and restaurants – many which rely on national marketing efforts rather than local ones – which continue to supplant businesses grown locally. So our challenges persist.

I am going to stop there for a minute and change the subject from our advertisers to our readers … How our lifestyles have changed how we access news. And then I will come back to the business side of the business again.

So … let’s go back 60 or so years to the last mid-century, where many larger cities had not one but two dailies – a morning and an afternoon newspaper - and many people subscribed to both … And where residents of smaller outlying communities frequently subscribed to their local daily as well as one of the regional metro newspapers. Print readership was at an all-time high – the audience was of a size that would seem incomprehensible compared to many of today’s media audiences.

Over time, as more people commuted further and more women entered the workforce, and all the changes that resulted to our lifestyles … our readership habits changed, too. We had less time to read newspapers, and we preferred to have our newspapers delivered before our commute. Afternoon titles went away and most people subscribed to just one daily newspaper. Then lifestyles changed even further – more single parents, more two-income families, and more soccer moms and dads spending their free time with transporting kids from one extracurricular activity to another, and the end result: some folks resorted to reading the newspaper fewer days a week.

So we’ve established that in terms of sheer number of newspapers home delivered, consumption is down, and that we are adapting to a changing advertiser base. But those two factors don’t explain all the doom-and-gloom in the headlines about our industry and they betray some remarkable facts about the current quality and quantity of our audience.

The reality is most newspapers remain profitable. Some major metro papers have some real challenges as they relied more on national/major advertising which has dried up – witness the announcement this week that the Orange County Register is going to be auctioned. But most have respectable – if diminished - cash flow. The big villain - the same one that tripped up the banking industry and so many others – impacted newspapers large and small: Too much access to credit and too much optimism over the valuation of newspaper properties led to purchases and buyouts over the past 15 years. That led to tremendous debt levels that couldn’t be paid back in tough times.

So to answer the original question: How healthy is the newspaper industry? The glass is half full. And it half empty.

Let’s take the optimistic view first … and that has mostly to do with our loyal audience how they use newspapers to make buying decisions, and our growing digital reach:

- roughly 4.5 in 10 American adults watched Sunday’s Super Bowl game .... yet more – 71 percent of adults - read a newspaper each Sunday;

- newspaper readers are more loyal today than a decade ago ... subscriber cancellation rates have dropped 42 percent since 2000;

- 82 percent of all adults took some action as a result of newspaper advertising in the last month;

- 61 percent of all active internet users visited a newspaper website in the past month, accessing 4 billion pages;

- eight in 10 households with an income of over $100,000 read newspapers in print or online each week;

- and even among young adults, newspapers are better read than conventional wisdom might suggest – over a five-day period 45.9 percent of adults ages 18-34 pick one up. (What TV network or radio station wouldn’t envy those numbers?)

I also mentioned there is considerable cause for concern in our industry … If we don’t adapt to a host of changes - technological, societal and more - we face extinction. The three biggest trends that keeps newspapers executives up at night: 1.) newspaper advertising has shrunk in half since 2005; 2.) for the first time, digital ad revenue now exceeds print ad revenue nationally (and  newspapers have precious too little of the digital dollars); and 3.) print readership – while it hasn’t declined as steeply as other media – is likely to see further erosion.

So, I promised in light of all the national trends to end by talking about the Dispatch’s prospects. The short answer is they are pretty darn good.

For one, we are associated with the most-forward thinking company in the industry. The Journal Register Company, revitalized over the 18 months with first a new board, and later a new CEO, is the talk of the industry. From a company that emerged from bankruptcy in late 2009, here is our 2010 performance:

- our ad performance was three times better than the industry;

- our classified ad performance was six times better than the industry;

- our retail ad performance was two times better than the industry;

- our digital income was two times better than the industry;

- and while some newspaper companies imposed furloughs in 2010, we announced employee profit sharing.

Two, we’re the talk of the industry not for how we are performing today but where we are headed tomorrow. Our Digital First strategy – from fast to slow, from mobile to Web to print – ensures we are positioned for the long-term. We are going to leverage our print brands’ audience to build and deliver news on the platforms of our readers’ choice. That’s our new reality … the new news ecology. You may want sports scores delivered to your smart phone, and she may want to review season-to-date stats on the Web, and he may want to read a team’s prognosis for the rest of the season in print. We are going to deliver it all. The news you want, when and where you want it.

Three, readership of our products is at an all-time high. We have over 98,000 people reading our Oneida-based print and online daily news products each month, and more reading the Oneida-Madison Pennysaver and our Southern Madison County Living Monthly. In Rome, where we have the weekly Rome Observer and a companion Web site, our monthly reach exceeds 30,600 adults each month.

Fourth, we’re going to focus on producing better journalism going forward. We did a horrible thing as our industry to our newsrooms in the mid/late 80s and 90s as we had our editors take over the pagination of our newspapers. The focus became more on production functions than news ones – and the burden was particularly heavy on the smallest newsrooms such as Oneida’s. We’re going to slowly remove that work from our newsroom in the coming year.

Added to that, if you spent a day at the Dispatch today, you would find so much of our resources – time and money - being spent on repairing equipment and recruiting carriers and billing and so on … and not enough energy on growing our advertiser’s businesses and writing quality journalism. That is typical of newspapers – two-thirds of the costs are infrastructure-related.

Our new business model is to outsource all those functions that don’t add value …. Hence the announcement recently The Dispatch is outsourcing printing and distribution. It was a hard decision in the respect it impacted some terrific employees and independent contractors. But it was an easy decision in the sense it improved the long-term viability of the newspaper and will ultimately, when these and other changes are fully implemented over the next year, allow us to focus on our core competencies. As a result, we will improve the quality and quantity of - and the speed with which we deliver - content.

Fifth, we will invest in technology. Electronic editions and mobile and tablet platforms are coming in the next six months. All Dispatch employees will be working on new computers and new front-end system as we integrate them into the company over the next 18 months.

Sixth, we will make it easier for advertisers to buy our products. We will move to easier-to-understand modular ad sizes this spring, and create new pricing to maximize discounts for businesses that buy across our many products and platforms.

Last but not least, we will engage you, our readers more. We have some terrific ideas for community engagement through a new community media lab. With your help we will continue to publish more videos and we will cover more live events than a newsroom of any size ever could. You will help us lead community-wide discussions on the most important topics of the day, and we will fine-tune our focus on information important to you.

I am proud to say of the newspaper that developed my interest in journalism at a young age and gave me my first job out of college in the field … that we are indeed entering this publication’s golden age. The Oneida Daily Dispatch of tomorrow will be the most relevant, best read, and most engaging newspaper in this community’s history.

Thank you for inviting me to share our story today. I would be glad to answer any questions.

All of the national statistics come from various studies cited by the Newspaper Association of America on its main Web site and its ancillary site, Some of the talking points are from the latter site as well. The readership data for the Oneida Daily Dispatch and Rome Observer and related Web sites is from Scarborough research of the market. The stats about the Journal Register Company's 2010 performance are taken from CEO John Paton's blog.