When people ask me how the newspaper business is, I explain that we are no longer just a newspaper operation but have transitioned into a digital-first local media company.
The BND traces its roots to the first issue of the Weekly Democrat, published Jan. 16, 1858. One constant in our uninterrupted 157-year history is change — change in how often we publish each week, change in the time of the day we publish, change in ownership, and on and on. The pace of change continues to accelerate.
Publishing unique and local content has been another constant. In the 1800s, our reach was very specific and geographically limited, as were our publishing and distribution platforms.
The daily newspaper remains an important part of our business model, but it is but one of four platforms.
Never miss a local story.
Today, we publish content first on mobile, tablet, desktop and finally in print.
Readers consume our content in so many different ways and at so many different times of the day. While a majority of our readers are local, we have readers across the state, the country and the world, every hour of every day.
Sorry to disappoint those haters who have been predicting our demise, but after 157 years and counting, the BND is not only still around, we are moving rapidly forward.
We have been investing in and changing our organization, our culture and the way we do business in this digital age. There has been considerably more change in the last seven years than in the previous 150.
We recently transitioned onto a new news publishing system; we will start using a new audience and distribution system by summer; and we are investing in upgrading our main building and several of our production tools. And we are now preparing again to rethink, redesign and re-energize the way we present and package our various products.
We have invested a staggering amount of money to make these changes to improve our products and the readers’ experience, and we plan to continue investing in our company in the years ahead.
Folks often ask me about the future of the print edition. Will newspapers exist in the printed format in five years? In 10 years? Sure, the demand remains strong, and many readers and advertisers want information in that format.
Recently, a reader asked me about the price he now pays to have his paper delivered. “It can’t cost you that much to print one more copy,” he said. I replied: “No, but the first one costs millions of dollars.” Our production and distribution costs for our print editions are now roughly four times our current news-gathering expenses.
This reality has pushed us to take a closer look at delivery rates, increase rates for store copies, include charges for extras, and reduce discounts and incentives for new and returning customers. Also we have eliminated the availability of delivery in a few outlying areas. All of this is to find a better balance between revenue and expenses.
We’re proud that after 157 years we remain the leader in covering Southern Illinois. We know we provide valuable content on multiple platforms for a reasonable price. And we are thankful for all of you, our readers, who support us through your patronage and give us feedback about the content we produce each day for smartphones, tablets, desktops and print. Thank you.
Jay Tebbe is president and publisher of the Belleville News-Democrat.