Pilot Has Exciting Places to Go in 2013
When my teenage daughters were little, I loved to read them Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
We read that book together so many times they knew it by heart — and they would catch me whenever I tried to skip a couple of pages.
I remembered Jenna and Freddie’s favorite bedtime story, as I pondered the year our country has just endured — everything from a divisive presidential election that lasted forever to the protracted negotiations on the federal deficit to the absurdity of the Mayan Apocalypse.
It seems like America and all of its commercial activities have been put on hold. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they didn’t want to make an investment in their business until the election was over or until the “fiscal cliff” situation was resolved.
That kind of thinking reminded me of a passage from Dr. Seuss’ last book.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...
But, here at The Pilot, we have taken a counterintuitive approach and tried to be anything but useless. We haven’t been content to sit around waiting.
Instead, your newspaper staff resolved at the beginning of 2012 to spend the year seeing how many exciting places we could go, always following this wit and wisdom from the good Doctor:
That’s not for you!
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
Well, we didn’t exactly find those Boom Bands, but your hard-working crew tried mightily to make things happen. In the process, we did manage to grow our revenues slightly. In this economy, we consider that quite an accomplishment.
We ardently advocate for growing your business during these slow times. That philosophy, we believe, will position your publishing operation to capture as much market share as possible in the inevitable economic rebound. Speaking of which, here’s hoping that recovery occurs sooner rather than later.
In this column last New Year’s, we set two goals: hire a new editor and find a new use for our pressroom. I’m happy to report that we’ve accomplished both goals.
We successfully transitioned the editor’s job to John Nagy, who joined us from the Greensboro News & Record, from Steve Bouser, who retired after a highly successful 15-year tenure as your editor. John is a good newspaperman and a great guy. He’s brought plenty of energy and good humor to our newsroom and ultimately to the pages of the newspaper.
We’re lucky to have John and his family here in our community, and we’re very pleased with his performance since he took the reins last March. Just last week, we received preliminary word about a record number of first-place awards from the North Carolina Press Association, which we take as a small confirmation of our decision.
We’re even luckier that Steve agreed to semi-retire and work part-time as your opinion page editor. This move allows Steve to focus all of his editorial judgment and writing ability exclusively on the opinion section, which is widely regarded as the finest in North Carolina, and allows our community to have a forum for civic debate. I hope you agree with the improvement to this vital part of the newspaper.
Grow or Die
About our other goal — finding a new use for our pressroom now that we’re printing the paper in Raleigh and have sold our production equipment — we decided late in the year to move the magazine and telephone directory staffs into that renovated office space.
After several attempts to rent that space failed, we decided the better path would be to get all of your staff together, rather than sprinkled across three buildings, and rent those vacated offices. It’s a six-figure investment in downtown Southern Pines that we’re delighted to make. The project should be completed by mid-spring.
There’s a saying that if your business is not growing, then it’s dying. With that in mind this year, we created a regional automotive publication, the Central Carolina Auto Guide, and doubled the publishing frequency of our popular O.Henry magazine in Greensboro. That’s allowed us to create three new jobs here in the Sandhills. I’m happy to report that both of these new products are already profitable.
This year, we also decided to bring the production of your Moore County Telephone Directory in-house, which required a significant capital investment in new computers and related software. That move will allow us to extend the advertising deadlines for local businesses and gives us greater flexibility in selecting a printing partner.
This year, our home-delivered circulation for the newspaper remains steady at 10,000 subscribers. However, we have followed a national trend of declining single-copy sales of the newspaper this past year. We believe that many of our occasional readers have stopped picking up The Pilot in newsracks and instead are reading it for free on our website.
In 2013, we will address that situation. We will convert thepilot.com into a subscription-based model. Our goal is to bring you an even greater array of digital products and reinforce our position as the information provider for this special community.
We’re putting the finishing touches on a redesign of your website, which was — once again — named runner-up in Editor & Publisher’s annual contest to determine the best community newspaper website in America. This is the third year in a row we were the bridesmaid in this important competition. That’s still no small achievement. With apologies to the famous Avis commercial, we’ll try even harder this year.
Included in this new website design will be an electronic edition of the newspaper, which is a digital replica of the printed paper. We will also incorporate a version of our website optimized for mobile phones and tablets.
None other than legendary investor Warren Buffett, who purchased a couple dozen newspaper companies this year, summed up this dilemma best when he said:
“Newspapers have been giving away their product at the same time they’re selling it, and that is not a great business model. So when they put papers up on the Internet and you get it free, you’re competing with yourself … And you’re seeing throughout the industry a reaction to that problem and an answer to it. You shouldn’t be giving away a product that you’re trying to sell.”
We’re in total agreement. So, we’re making this change in just a few months.
Our new website and related digital products will feature a paid (metered) content model. Existing and new subscribers will have full access to all our digital content. But while certain features — classified ads, obituaries, breaking news and other alerts — will remain free, other content will be restricted for non-subscribers after five free page views per month. Also, commenting on the website will be available only to paying customers. That has the added value of allowing us to monitor this popular but frequently abused function of our website more tightly.
We will provide much more detail on this important development as we move closer to launching the upgraded site later this spring.
Our magazine division grew steadily, propelled by the success of O.Henry, our Greensboro magazine. We took O.Henry monthly this fall, a move that has been popular with readers and advertisers.
The popular PineStraw magazine continues to gain advertisers and readers. Editor Jim Dodson and Creative Director Andie Rose have a created a publication that celebrates the Sandhills and strikes a chord with the community.
We completed another year as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s official publisher. We produce all seven of the ACC’s championship programs — including football and men’s basketball — right here on West Pennsylvania Avenue.
Building on that success, we’re looking to start another magazine somewhere in North Carolina this year. We’re still evaluating a couple markets and hope to announce something in six weeks or so.
Not unrelated to the greater cultural life of this community, we’re still awfully proud to be the owners and caretakers of The Country Bookshop, which we acquired two years ago. Our goal is to restore it to the glory the shop enjoyed under the late Joan Scott’s stewardship.
A measure of that good health is that we hosted 60 authors and the community enthusiastically turned out to meet — and support — these writers. The fact that our Eden in the Pines can support an independent bookshop, when so many other towns of far greater size cannot, speaks volumes (pun intended) about our cultural vibrancy.
Where will we go in 2013? It’s a fitting question for The Pilot, its related businesses and the community at large. Once again, the good Doctor says it best.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Contact David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, at (910) 693-2495 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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