A year from now, readers of MaineToday Media’s daily newspapers will find more community news, access to information on handheld devices and beefed-up news coverage that could include a revived Washington bureau.
These are some of the ambitions of Richard L. Connor, MaineToday Media’s publisher and chief executive officer, as the company looks ahead to its second year of ownership.
“We’ve stablized the business and we’re profitable,” Connor said. “Now we’re going to look at ways to grow our audience.”
MaineToday Media is hiring a director of new media to expand ways to integrate print, Internet and mobile applications. The idea is to make information available to customers at any time, through desktop or laptop computers, or the growing variety of wireless, mobile devices.
“The future is finding ways to deliver your content on every platform that’s available,” Connor said.
For instance: The newspapers are preparing to launch text messaging, in which readers can sign up to receive breaking news, traffic and weather alerts on their mobile phones. The service could have been especially valuable earlier this month, when violent storms spawned a tornado in western Maine.
Overall print circulation has continued to fall in the newspaper industry, but Connor said the company expects to grow readership in York and Cumberland counties by reviving local, small town news gathering. Over the next year, he plans to hire a network of correspondents and freelance writers who can provide local content from their communities.
“My term for it is making a big paper feel smaller, in terms of its local news coverage,” he said.
On the other end of the spectrum, Connor has been looking at options for reopening the newspaper’s Washington, D.C., bureau, which was closed by the previous owners for economic reasons. He also would like to add more staff reporters to the newsroom. These changes will depend on the company becoming financially stable, he said.
To some degree, the newspapers have enjoyed a honeymoon, Connor said, after being at risk of closing. But for the business to be sustainable, readers need to see improved newspapers that have more content and are available in a variety of ways, and advertisers need to feel that they are attracting more customers.
“Our focus now is, ‘how do we make the newspaper business better?” he said.