The Register Citizen is a daily newspaper serving Northwest Connecticut. The paper also publishes a weekly shopper, The Foothills Trader, which serves Northwest Connecticut, the Farmington Valley and the Waterbury area. Publisher Matt DeRenzio answered the questions.
(MB) Five years from now what role will publications like yours serve? For example, some people predict a complete migration to the web for many types of publications, do you?
(RC) Five years from now, our publications will serve the same basic role that we do now and that we have for 130 years … being the primary source of local news for our readership and the most effective and targeted vehicle for local advertisers to reach potential customers.What will change – and has already changed/is changing – is that we are using technology and a change in mindset to deliver that news and that advertising in a way that better fits our readers’ needs and lifestyles. Instead of "this is the reach, this is the price," we are offering advertisers the ability to reach specific zip codes, renters vs. homeowners, etc. And if readers are too busy to follow the print edition, they can go to our Web site. If they are too busy to remember to go to our Web site every day, they can receive emails once a day and as news breaks with top local news headlines, allowing them to click on what they’re interested in or hit "delete."
Another thing that is changing already – and will only grow over the next five years – is that publications like ours are using technology to interact with readers as never before. Today on our Web site, readers are visiting all day long and debating each other via story comments and blogs. If they are at the scene of a big fire, they can upload the photos they took with a camera phone to our Web site to share with fellow readers and possibly be published in our print edition.
But in five years, as now, and as was the case 130 years ago, no one else – not Google, not Yahoo, not TV news, not bloggers – can offer comprehensive coverage of the school board meeting, the high school football game, the accident that shut down the street near a reader’s house.
(MB)Looking forward to 2009, do you have any significant changes in store for the new year?
(RC) We are expanding the space we devote to local news and expanding the space we devote to reader comments and reader-generated content, much of it submitted via our Web site. We are leveraging our 130 years of newsgathering in Northwest Connecticut by expanding our local history content. As larger metro and mini-metro daily newspapers cut back severely on newshole and pages, we see a perfect opportunity as a small local daily to invest in those areas and grow circulation.
(MB) What was your most successful advertising initiative in the past 12 months?
(RC) Our most successful advertising initiatives were 1) a program that provided advertisers heavy frequency and flexibility for larger seasonal advertising at discounted rates in exchange for a year-long commitment; 2) a glossy magazine with shelf life focusing on summertime activities; 3) a section celebrating the long history of numerous local, family-owned businesses.
(MB) How does your publication hire and, even more important, retain top sales personnel?
(RC) The toll that the economy has taken on real estate agencies and auto dealers this year has provided us with many good salesperson prospects migrating from those industries. The recruitment and retention pitch is a pay structure that offers unlimited income potential, and a steady stream of creative sales ideas and products that we are always willing to adapt to the needs of the customer. If the organization is focused on serving the customer in that way, the sales job is easier, more rewarding, and more lucrative.