Upcoming changes will help focus our mission

May. 12, 2013 @ 02:05 AM

A marketing analyst would describe Durham as having a lot of noise.

This newspaper is the local daily newspaper serving Durham. There also is an assortment of weekly papers, in addition to a regional newspaper delivering products here.

There are too many magazines to name and radio stations by the dozen. A variety of television stations include Durham in their home market and we’re still just talking traditional media.

With the advent of the Internet, there are local bloggers and websites for all sorts of organizations and causes.

Noise. Lots of noise. Durhamites have many options for their news.

There is one news source, however, that stands a little taller and talks a little louder, rising above the noise. It’s this newspaper. Several years ago we adopted the slogan of We Are Durham.  As our distribution zone travels to the west, we adopted a similar theme for Chapel Hill with the slogan there of We Are Chapel Hill, appearing in each Chapel Hill Herald.

Day after day, the most complete report on Durham news appears in our pages. Day after day, the local merchants whose survival and prosperity are closely tied to support by Durham shoppers use this newspaper to communicate with their customers.

With this as a backdrop, two changes at the Herald-Sun are in the works.

The first change involves our digital platform, which has been going through yet another transformation. The digital world changes daily, if not hour-by-hour. A few years ago, traditional newspaper readers were treated to a reduced electronic version of the paper at no cost. Newspapers have been at the front end of building a robust Internet with valuable and timely news and information.

Today what daily newspapers offer electronically has changed significantly. To list a few new features of your Herald-Sun that didn’t exist several years ago, we now offer a mobile app for your smart phone or tablet, an e-edition which is an electronic replica of our print product, an expanded employment database through our affiliation with monster.com, an expanded automobile database through nccarz.com and daily posts to social media to keep followers updated as news happens. Launching soon are email newsletters sent to reader mailboxes while they sleep and a new version of news alerts.

What soon will change is that unlimited access to our digital platform no longer will be free. We will have tiered service, with a limited number of articles that can be read before a subscription is required.  This approach is not new to our industry, nor to this market. Frankly, our industry was wrong, when our Internet presence began in the early 1990s, to give away what costs millions of dollars to assemble and present. What we do has value. Print subscribers will continue to have full access to our entire suite of products. A digital-only subscription also will be offered.

The second change reflects a changed world. The newspaper business operated very differently 20 years ago. Today we are leaner and more focused.

Recognizing that our space needs fall well short of the square footage of our building, we will be selling our physical plant and moving to another Durham location, hopefully sometime in the not too distant future.

This is not new to our industry, as papers from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to Minneapolis  and Boston to Woodland, CA have done likewise. Our decision mirrors theirs. We don’t need the space we have and it doesn’t make sense to be in the property management business. That’s not our core business. Staying in a building that’s much too large is costly and time-consuming and only gets in the way of doing the really important things critical to our mission, which again is providing local news and advertising.

We Are Durham. That’s not bragging. It’s a commitment. The two changes mentioned above will make our mission even more focused and intense.

Rick Bean is publisher of The Herald-Sun. He can be reached at 919-419-6501 or rbean@heraldsun.com.