WATERTOWN — The Watertown Daily Times and Northern New York Newspapers, in investing in the digital future of news reporting in the north country, announced changes to titles and frequency of its print publications Thursday.
In a meeting with staff, John B. Johnson, CEO, told employees that June 24 will be the final print edition of the Monday Watertown Daily Times. After that date the newspaper will be in print Tuesday through Sunday and online always.
That announcement came as the newspaper rolled out a new regional website for news and advertising named NNY360 that will include reporting from Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties. The subscription-based website will include an expanded mix of hard and community news, opinion, sports and advertising readers are accustomed to receiving through their daily and weekly newspapers.
Mr. Johnson said the restructuring of the company to align it with the readers and expectations has also led to the closure of the Ogdensburg Journal, the St. Lawrence Plaindealer, the Carthage Republican Tribune and the South Jeff Journal. Those bi-weekly and weekly publications were not supported by enough readers or advertisers to be profitable and more readers in those communities had already chosen the Watertown Daily Times as their source for news and information. The company will instead focus on the Watertown Daily Times, the Courier Observer in Massena and Potsdam, the Lowville Journal and on one weekly newspaper in Oswego County.
The gradual loss of print subscribers and the growth of a digital audience led to the changes, which will allow the company to effectively deliver news throughout a five-county region at a time when the costs of fuel, paper, trucking and staffing continue to increase.
“Johnson Newspapers will survive going well into the 21st century,” Mr. Johnson said. “We are taking today’s tools and delivering quality content.”
The new website, NNY360, will have more content that previously was spread over several websites. It will have more videos, news and a more direct connection to advertisers, who are choosing digital over print. “We are meeting their needs,” Mr. Johnson said. “There has never been a greater demand for content, however we have to provide it in an effective manner to reach those readers who use their cellphones, tablets and computers more than a printed paper.”
The newspaper is following a national trend that is tipping the traditional newspaper business model that predated digital advertising. “We are shifting from an advertiser based pay model to a subscriber based pay model,” he said. “We have to capture our readers where they are.”
Print subscribers to the Watertown Daily Times will have full access to NNY360. Those who have not yet subscribed to the print edition will be charged $9.99 per month for access to the website. All readers will have free and full access to the website through August 1. The website will not be merely a digital replica of a day’s newspaper, but its own content channel that is updated and adjusted based on the news and events of the day.
As a part of the restructuring the company has also been required to eliminate positions that were focused solely on the print editions of the newspaper.