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Online ad sales are increasing for newspapers

The newspaper business is facing hardships. But, rather than throw in the towel, those in the business can adapt with the times. That was the message presented to Thomson Rotarians last week by Alan English, executive editor of The Augusta Chronicle.

"It's a pretty tough time in the newspaper business. But, I'm sure it's the same at your businesses as well, these days," Mr. English said, adding that circulation expenses and news via the Internet, combined with a downed economy adds up to a challenge.

"But where there is challenge, where there is stress, there is great opportunity," he said.

Mr. English was invited to speak to the Rotary Club by McDuffie Mirror Publisher Todd Rainwater, who is a Rotarian. Both The Augusta Chronicle and The McDuffie Mirror are publications of Morris Communications, headquartered in Augusta.

Since he came to The Chronicle a year ago, Mr. English said his job has been to restructure the staff and operations of the newsroom. One result has been to strengthen the emphasis on watch-dog journalism.

"We need to be looking out for your tax dollars and holding people accountable to tell the truth," Mr. English said.

The aspects of news reporting have been broadened by combining hard-news reporting with "personal decision-making of everyday life" faced by readers, Mr. English said. The newsroom now also has a customer service representative to act as a liaison between readers and writers/editors.

"We also are working with our community papers more to better coordinate our geographic coverage," he said.

Mr. English explained how online news is "equally as big" as news in print. He said over 100 percent of the printed stories in The Chronicle also appear online.

"Holding a print story hostage doesn't make sense," he said. "The stories appear immediately online as they happen, then they are adapted as more is learned, and a brief of the final version appears in print the next day."

The plan appears to be working. Mr. English said profits of online ad sales have doubled since last year.

And even though the number of people who read the paper exclusively online is growing, Mr. English said he thinks printed newspapers will always be around. When he asked for a show of hands at the Rotary meeting, most of those present indicated they read the news both in print and online.

Web posted on Thursday, March 18, 2010

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