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. 

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