The Concord Monitor is surrounded by densely, tree-lined streets in a suburban setting at One Monitor Drive, just north of Concord, N.H.
The Concord Monitor is the second of the New England newspapers visited for the “Who Needs Newspapers?” report. There’s new leadership at the Concord Monitor and the newspaper is undergoing a period of introspection.
John Winn Miller, The Monitor’s publisher, had been at the newspaper for 15 days when we interviewed him. His comments reflect the perspective of an executive bringing fresh eyes to the newspaper he calls a “national jewel.” Speaking from an industry perspective, Miller says, “It’s hard for an old, successful industry to turn around and come up with new business models,” but that’s what the Monitor is engaged in now.
Miller says The Monitor is turning its focus to readership – print subscribers and its digital audience -- rather than merely print circulation. (See the Backgrounder for circulation and online stats.) To sharpen its marketing tools, the newspaper is reviewing all its vendors and seeking appropriate partnerships to select the best software and platforms to deliver to its advertisers.
More training for the newspaper’s ad staff to sell online products is also critical because Miller believes there is “huge potential” for increased digital revenue. Currently, the newspaper’s digital revenue comes from display banner ads, classified ads, web searches, hosting fees and business directories. Miller thinks business directories are a “wave of the future” for generating digital revenue.
On the news side, Concord is the state capital and national presidential candidates make their case in New Hampshire every four years says Editor, Felice Belman. In this unique venue, The Monitor is the “community connector,” and also has a reputation for training young reporters for larger newspapers.
Community Outreach Editor, Meg Heckman, who oversees the newspaper’s digital news content, says the newspaper is “re-imagining” its digital and hyper-local coverage. The newspaper’s “open-source, home-grown website” has given it flexibility for experimentation, says Heckman. (See the Backgrounder for information on The Monitor’s online operation.) Looking forward, Belman says discussions about websites feel like “old fashioned” discussions now because “maybe people really want to get their news on smart phones and mobile devices.”
Historically, The Monitor has had a comfortable newsroom budget. In 2011, the news budget is tighter and prioritizing coverage is critical, says Belman. The newspaper is offering less national and international news now, it has canceled some syndicated columns and it is “focusing on the things people can’t get elsewhere,” says Belman.
Belman discusses The Monitor’s ongoing internal debate about letting readers respond anonymously online. Click on J-Epiphanies to see/hear Miller, Belman and Heckman reflect on moments when they experienced the power and purpose of journalism. Click on Bonus Interviews to hear Randy Bennett’s, Sr. V.P. Business Development, Newspaper Association of America, analysis of the business picture for newspapers.
Coming next in the New England series: The Portland (Me.) Press Herald, The Boston Globe, The (New London, Conn.) Day, and The Providence (R.I.) Journal.
-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle