June 27, 2010

Connor: We are 1 year old and we thank you

(See larger version) Rich Connor speaks about the sale anniversary.

It's hard to believe a year has gone by since MaineToday Media bought The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram along with other Blethen newspapers and affiliated properties. We sealed the deal on June 15, 2009, and today, with a special section insert in this edition, we observe our first anniversary as stewards of the largest newspaper and news website organization in the state.

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The commemorative special section highlights in words and pictures our first year as custodians of the vital public trust that is part and parcel of being Maine's premier print and online distributor of news and information.

It also documents what was arguably our most monumental undertaking, The Portland Press Herald's move from its longtime home on Congress Street in downtown Portland to new offices at One City Center.

The company we purchased last year was on the verge of bankruptcy, its longtime roles as a crucial Maine employer and a leader in shaping the goals and accomplishments of the state in serious jeopardy.

Today, MaineToday Media is profitable and growing. Our newspapers are thriving. Our websites, which we redesigned and modernized early this year, are setting records for traffic and visibility.

Our expanded State House bureau in Augusta is establishing new standards for covering government and politics in a state whose citizens insist on being well-informed and never hesitate to demand a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and pocketbooks.

Our news staff at all three of our daily and Sunday newspapers in Portland, Augusta and Waterville and our weekly Coastal Journal in Bath have more than 125 newspersons covering their towns and the state. Portland alone has a news staff of more than 90 people.

We have covered local news and restored the community "feel" to our papers while at the same time literally spanning the state, country and globe with our coverage. Our reporters and editors have traveled to Haiti and most recently to Afghanistan and the Gulf of Mexico to localize stories of import at home and abroad.

As we write our own story, we are able to tell you one about our business that is rarely seen or heard these days: We are growing. Advertising, our biggest source of revenue, is climbing. Total revenues are increasing and will exceed those of 2009. Circulation has begun to stabilize and will start to grow again by midsummer.

We have restored in-paper classified advertising, an area many newspapers have abandoned. Segments of advertising such as automobile, real estate and help wanted have grown. Automobile advertising has grown just over 100 percent in the last year.

Meanwhile, audience and traffic on our new websites are exploding. On primary Election Day, our websites recorded more than 400,000 page views.

And while our business has flourished, we have done our best to show our appreciation by demonstrating our commitment to the communities we serve. In Portland, for example, we joined with other local businesses to help pay for the city's traditional Fourth of July fireworks display when the event was in danger of being canceled because of municipal budget cuts.

In the end, we have just been doing our jobs.

Those who are truly special are our readers and advertisers, who stuck by us during difficult times and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our talented and dedicated employees as we returned to profitability and growth.

Saying a mere thank you is not nearly enough, but it's all we can do -- other than to promise to constantly strive to do even better.

We know there is much more to do. The news business today is far different than it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago or even one year ago, when we seized upon the opportunity to stake our claim in the fiercely competitive information marketplace that is Maine.

Please join us in celebrating our first year serving and informing the people of this great state. 

Richard L. Connor is CEO of MaineToday Media, owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A newspaperman for 40 years, he has served on two Pulitzer Prize for Journalism nominating committees. He can be reached at:

rconnor@pressherald.com

 

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