Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where are the late scores?

Deep into the second week of our production move to Troy, the biggest complaint is the one we knew from the first days of planning that we'd be getting: How come no late sports scores?

We now go to press at 9:30 p.m., right around the time many of the evening's contests are drawing to a close. Some results are immediately posted to our website. Some go up before dawn the next morning. But none are in the print edition, which understandly doesn't sit well with those relatively hearty few who enjoy scanning the box scores with their breakfast.

As a former sports editor, it pains me to admit that for years independent research has revealed that a sports section traditionally ranks among the least-read in a newspaper. But those who do read it are loyal.

Naturally, the last thing a publisher wants to do is alienate loyal readers. But, as noted in my recent blog, the newspaper world is changing and our company is on the front lines of the digital conversion. In adjusting to and taking a lead role in this brave new world, we've had to make a series of financial efficiencies and print content compromises, not the least of which has been closing our pressroom and having our sister company in Troy print our paper, which in turn has meant going to press a lot earlier. Thus, no late scores in print.

Our sports department continues to publish an interesting statistics page (or pages) each day. Meanwhile, scores and stories (including local events) that aren't in today's paper will be in tomorrow's (hopefully, with more depth).

It's not perfect, I know, especially for those who want their box scores with their Wheaties.

It does, however, fit into our Digital First philosophy, one which we believe will serve our readers and advertisers well today and well into the future.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 2

Report card on the second day of our new production-distribution arrangement (as detailed in Sunday's column and blog):

Production: Again, excellent. Stories and pages moving smoothly. No hiccups on the print side in Troy. A few minor problems with inserts.

Distribution: 100 percent improvement. Papers are in home delivery tubes and newsstands throughout the area as scheduled.

Now back to the important business of journalism, digital and print, as well as sales and marketing for the area's most complete daily source for information.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 1

Report card on the first day of our new production-distribution arrangement (as detailed in Sunday's column and blog):

Production: Excellent. Reporters and editors made deadline. Pages were electronically shipped ahead of schedule to Troy, where the press ran on time and the mailroom packaged the newspapers in good shape.

Distribution: Not as good. A variety of difficulties, some predictable for this kind of project, created a fair amount of late and/or missed deliveries. All involved are in communication today with expectations of a much better performance Wednesday. We (and you) demand nothing less.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The future is now

The newspaper industry today is in a place that is at the same time challenging and troubling, invigorating and distressing.
Newspapers are experiencing a sea change unlike anything we’ve seen in decades, the late 1960s to be precise, when primitive “hot type” production technology was replaced by “cold type” computers.
In those days, however, there was hardly a question about readers and advertisers remaining loyal to their local newspapers.
Today, what’s going on in our industry is more about how and when people get their news and related information.
The media landscape has become crowded with voices, faces and technology that demand our attention around the clock. It’s now all about news on your schedule. It’s no longer just news delivered at the crack of dawn on printed pages, the content of which was packaged for you by someone else and remained the same until the next morning’s replacement, but news that constantly breaks and evolves.
Most traditional print newspapers like ours continue to be the dominant sources of information in our communities, but not the way we once were.

Most traditional print newspapers like ours continue to be profitable enterprises, but also not the way we once were.
Print’s decline has been vivid in its speed, but the industry’s reaction has not.
Belatedly, however, newspapers have come to better recognize where we’re going and what must happen to insure a long, healthy future.
No longer is it just the printed word on paper — a format that still works wonderfully for those to whom it appeals — it’s words on the Internet and mobile devices. It’s blogs and tweets and information spread on “social networks.” It’s also sound and video — formats that print newspapers historically had to cede to broadcasters. It’s immediacy, a constantly updated news environment, with live reports and interaction with our audience, delivered to you in real time on a variety of media platforms.
It is, in short, an exciting period in the history of newspapers as our venerable enterprise reinvents itself before our (and your) very eyes. The phrase that best describes it for me — and I take no ownership in its use — is that newspapers are “changing the tires while the car is moving.”
Challenging and invigorating, to say the least.
Yet, just as there were casualties in the aforementioned “cold type” newspaper revolution in the form longtime tradesmen and women whose jobs became obsolete in the name of progress, so, too, does the “digital age” mean individual casualties as our industry comes to grips with current fiscal realities and attempts to situate itself on a more secure footing.
Troubling and distressing, to be sure.

Beginning with Tuesday’s edition, the Freeman will be printed on the presses of our sister newspaper in Troy. Pre-printed advertisements and special sections will be inserted in Troy’s mailroom, from which the newspapers will be trucked by a third-party vendor to this area for home and store delivery.
Closing the pressroom and mailroom in Kingston, as well as changing the manner in which the newspapers are delivered, will result in the elimination of 58 full- and part-time, union and non-union jobs.
By consolidating our production in Troy — which already has absorbed production of another sister newspaper based in Saratoga Springs — the Freeman will save a conservatively estimated $500,000 a year at a time when advertising and circulation revenue is declining. It also will make more efficient use of the existing production infrastructure in Troy.
Other efficiencies and consolidation are likely to follow here in the new year.
The realities of the new production and distribution schedule are that we will be printed about three hours earlier each evening, thus some of the stories and scores you’ve come to expect in the Freeman each morning won’t be there.
We want to provide you with more in the way of context and perspective in the print edition. The stories and scores that are too late for print will be available on our website,, as will a wide array of other features, videos and interactive content and advertisements, 24 hours a day.
But make no mistake: We will to continue to print a comprehensive local daily newspaper seven days a week.
And contrary to what you may have been led to believe, the Freeman is not going out of business. We are relocating production and distribution operations. But reporters, editors, sales representatives and others will continue to work in our Uptown Kingston facility.

As we hope you’ve already noticed, the digital revolution is well under way here. Our website has become a dynamic, ever-changing source of important content.
When news breaks, you’ll see it first on one of our many Twitter feeds and on our Facebook page. Then it will show up on our website, initially as a short story, which will expand throughout the day until press time for the print edition. Again, if a late story doesn’t make it into print, it will be on the website.
We currently offer links to a variety of local bloggers on our website, with more to come. A Community Media Lab is planned. We’ll be doing more of what’s become known in the business as “crowd sourcing.”
Combined — digital and print — the goal is for the full complement of Freeman offerings to allow the market’s strongest news operation to continue to grow.

We're proud to tell you that what we’re undertaking at the Freeman, as are others under the umbrella of our parent company, Journal Register Co., is the talk of the newspaper business.
Our “Digital First” game plan and all that it entails, much of it described above, is making us industry leaders, something we’ve rarely been able to boast.
There will be fits and starts, hits and misses, both in the digital expansion and the print relocation. But we hope and trust that you’ll stick with us for what promises to be a dynamic transition.
We look forward to your participation and feedback. We want you help us shape our future.
On a variety of distribution platforms, newspapers are vital, living and breathing institutions in the communities they serve. We pledge to remain a big part of your lives in this one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Coming Sunday

Look for my column on the future of the Freeman on the front page of Sunday's edition.

I'll post it as a blog, too.