You’re Launching What?!! The Future of Newspapers — Today!
We’re all well aware that print publishing is in serious trouble. The Seattle Post- Intelligencer and other fabled dailies are no more. Gourmet Magazine is defunct. BusinessWeek has been herded into the Bloomberg stable. And efforts to monetize print content online, has been largely unsuccessful. Consider The New York Times’ failed effort to take even part of its premium online content out of the ‘free’ column.
Despite these gloomy facts, some print media veterans are exploring where print’s future may lie. Case in point is Westchester Eye, a weekly paper launched today (Monday, Oct 19) by newspaper veterans – and long-time Westchester County, New York residents — Kenneth A. Chandler, Publisher & Editorial Director and Peter Moses, Editor-in-Chief.
I met the two on Friday when they presented to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Westchester-Fairfield Chapter. They see a niche for a new kind of regional weekly publication in their market that will benefit local advertisers, while meeting the desire of readers for stories no longer being covered by besieged dailies or not easily found online. They have the creds to take a decent stab at it, too.
Chandler is a former publisher of the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Moses was a long-time reporter for the Post whose beat covered the Bronx and Westchester County and who served an almost decade-long stint as a broadcast producer, so he understands journalism from more than just the print platform. Both intimately know the turf on which their experiment is unfolding.
What Chandler and Moses recognized is that, while dailies are struggling to survive in print, migrate to the web or come up with some hybrid formula (see annarbor.com), weekly community papers are thriving. In my area, for example, some years ago, the parent of the daily Connecticut Post bought Brooks Community Newspapers, weeklies serving a number of towns in Fairfield County.
So what makes Westchester Eye new and different? You have to ask, in a region where every small town is served by a daily (here a localized version of Gannett’s Journal-News), a local weekly or shopper, maybe a county-wide weekly specialty publication (here the Westchester County Business Journal), and maybe a glossy monthly lifestyle magazine, what’s the need?
In general, Westchester Eye eschews day-to-day breaking news coverage. Rather, the emphasis is on identifying and covering new or emerging trends. This puts them into more of a forecasting mode. It also allows for in-depth coverage of stories over time.
“People have told us we’re either visionaries or crazies,” said Moses. “Of course, we think it’s the former. Our sense of the marketplace is pretty sanguine and straightforward. There is no local business news in the Journal News anymore. The Westchester Business Journal does a great job, but is mostly a business-to-business weekly. Our focus on business stories differs from that model.”
Moses added that lifestyle stories have suffered, too, in daily paper coverage, the result of wide reporter layoffs. They intend to package lifestyle coverage in, “a smart and entertaining way.” Politics will also figure large in the paper’s coverage, crossing borders to go from hyper-local perspectives to more regional implications and impact.
For his part, Chandler described their venture as, “letting the dinosaurs out of Jurassic Park!” The paper has an ad-based business model. No classifieds. Online presence will be limited to teasing stories and giving advertisers an extension of reach – for now. Striving for editorial and journalistic excellence over time, good old-fashioned separation of church and state is the ruling policy. No pay for play. He sites some recent precedent for trend-focused reporting – NewsWeek and Sporting News.
According to publisher Chandler, the bigger dailies are too expensive for local businesses to have any significant impact. And local weeklies have a limited reach. Although packages with group publishers of community papers may extend that reach, the cost can come close to or even exceed the cost of advertising in dailies. He believes that the closer you get to grass roots, the less the Web is a factor, and, in fact, has been very inefficient for local advertisers.
“Print is still good for the local business,” he said. “It allows the plumber, for instance, to build a presence so he’s top of mind when a plumbing emergency arises. And our geographic reach will allow retailers and others to reach potential customers from a broader geography.”
For now, Westchester Eye will be distributed to about 200 locations including major office parks, train stations, retail locations and others. On the editorial side, it is carefully vetting and hiring freelance talent.
I agree with Chandler and Moses’ assessment that this region has long been a nightmare for advertisers. And one of the reasons that publicity has been so attractive a part of the marketing mix. So – go for it Ken and Peter! Hope Westchester Eye is a smashing success. Hope to see you in Fairfield County before too long!
Today, the story is inspiring the music choice. In honor of the Chandler-Moses collaboration, you’ve been enjoying one of the most delicious jazz collaborations ever – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from the album Ella and Louis Again. The tune is George and Ira Gershwin’s They All Laughed. Seems apropos for a venture that may well succeed despite conventional opinion to the contrary.