Changes to your Brainerd Dispatch
The obituaries look different. Forum News Service and Reuters stories are appearing throughout the paper and the website weather bug is temporarily stuck at “Fair weather and 56 degrees.”
Yes, there are changes aplenty at the Brainerd Dispatch these days. Readers and advertisers and all Brainerd Dispatch employees have had to adjust to a different news media landscape.
The Brainerd Dispatch, a newspaper with roots in this community that go back to 1881, was sold to Forum Communications Co. (FCC), of Fargo, N.D., as of Jan. 1, 2014. Acquisition of a business with as many media platforms as the Dispatch is a daunting task and the Dispatch’s integration with what is likely the fastest growing media group in the upper Midwest has resulted in extensive training for this newspaper’s staff members.
Dispatch employees realize this transition has resulted in some rough edges that are visible to our readers and ask for your patience for what has been a work in progress the last five months.
Following is a rundown of some of the changes various Dispatch departments have been going through.
The emphasis continues to be on bringing readers the best coverage of local news possible. As a part of the Forum corporation the Dispatch substituted the Forum News Service and Reuters for The Associated Press. The Forum News Service owns a host of newspapers in Minnesota and the Dakotas and the Dispatch now has access to all of their stories. In addition, the Forum News Service is supplemented with select stories from the Pioneer Press in St. Paul.
Reporters and editors are using new templates and news systems to get their news articles to the readers and they are also still learning those systems and processes.
Obituaries, which are available in print and online, are now handled by Forum Communications Co. Digital Obituary Service.
Matt Erickson, a Dispatch journalist since 2000, was named editor of the Dispatch May 23.
“There have been a lot of changes at the Dispatch the past three years, and I realize change can sometimes be difficult. Like our readers, we here at the newspaper have had to work through the growing pains to adjust to those changes,” Erickson said. “I think readers will appreciate the end product, though, with a larger focus on central and northern Minnesota news.”
The Brainerd Dispatch moved to a new website format late on May 30. All of the design work for the new website was done by Forum Communication Company’s Digital Division.
Denton Newman Jr., new media director and online editor, said like with readers, Dispatch employees are still getting used to the new website.
“When you change a procedure or process you’ve used for nearly 10 years, your mind doesn’t always remember the new procedure as fast,” he said. “There are some things we like on the new website and some things we miss (a lot) from the old site.
“We’re aware there are parts of the new site that aren’t fully fleshed out and that some of our systems are having issues or are broken. But if you find something let us know because it could be something we may not have noticed. We and the techs at FCC are busy working to fix the problems as fast they can be fixed.”
The basic structure of the new website is different from our previous site, so if readers have saved page links and bookmarks for pages they frequently used, they’ll get “Page not Found” errors when they try them. Search engine links to older pages may not have been updated by the search companies yet, which will also lead to the same “Page not Found” error.
Other pages and features readers may have used frequently, such as access to the Crow Wing County in custody list and the “On the Fly” Twitter feed are missing from the website. Newman said the Dispatch is working on ways to integrate them back into our new system, if possible. The website’s simple and easy to use archives pages with dated calendars that allowed browsing by date are gone. And our archive of digital articles before Dec. 7, 2010, have not been integrated into our new website yet because they were created in a different format.
But there is positive news. The website is a responsive design and adjusts to the device which you are viewing it on. Whether you view the site on your PC, phone or tablet you get all the news and features available on the site. On the new site there are features such as the large photo slider format for featured articles and a clean, modern page design featuring a larger type size for easier reading.
Readers can see what articles interest other readers the most with the “Trending” block and see what the latest articles added to the site with the “Latest” block. And there are new video features yet to be added.
“Once our staff gets familiarized with our new blogging platform we’ll try to give you interesting reading there as well, and if you feel like you have thoughts to contribute and share, you can start a blog on the Forum’s Area Voices blogging site as well,” Newman said.
Creative Services Supervisor Andy Goble said creative work on ads will be run through a creative group consisting of on-site and off-site designers, which could have some effect on advertisers.
“We may have to follow more strict deadlines in order to assure we can get the ads through the system correctly,” he said. “Some of the design looks that our customers may be accustomed to may change, but we will work to maintain the continuity of our designs.”
The newspaper will also have different fonts with the change to PCs, so that may affect some of the advertisers’ look, according to Goble.
“Hopefully we’ll have something similar for most instances, but I’m sure a few will be different,” Goble said.
He said efficiencies may go down as staff members learn the new system, re-save all of the art work and get used to new computers. It may take a little longer to get a proof at first, he said. However, he said staff members’ efficiencies will improve in time.
Phil Seibel, advertising director, pointed out some of the changes that have been made or will soon be made:
• Expanded print and online ad network.
• Equipping our sales force with better tools to make us more efficient.
• Refined geographic and demographic marketing solutions for our local businesses.
• Resources to provide cost effective, high quality, printing through Forum Printing and We Prints Plus.
• Expanded distribution and marketing options further into the Walker area.
• Classified design and layout is evolving to include more information than ever before.
• More classification options — check out our Jobs area.
• Growth for our recruitment, auto and real estate offerings by including established programs.
John Gagliano, circulation director, highlighted some of the changes his department has seen.
• Six-day subscribers will get all-access included with their subscription.
• Other print subscribers will be grandfathered in until Jan. 1, 2015, then will have to pay a minimal additional monthly charge.
• Digital only subscriptions will also be available for $6.95 per month.
• Content on the website that is less than seven days old will be open to all subscribers and non-subscribers.
Gagliano said he’s received reports of people being re-directed to a sign-on screen and going to articles from other papers. The problem, he said, seems to be intermittent.
The circulation director said as of June 9 we will no longer provide content for the old iPad app.
Starting July 1, 2014, Gagliano said readers must have a subscription to access:
• E-edition archives.
• Mobile reader.
• Website archives (content more than seven days old).
The new mobile reader will replace all apps, Gagliano said.
“It will be an exact replica of our print edition, and you will also be able to select a view that displays each article in a format easier to read on a handheld device.”
It features responsive design to adapt to any mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), regardless of size or operating system.
“Our subscribers who have Kindles, Android and Windows devices will now be able to enjoy the same type of experience we have only offered iPad users in the past,” Gagliano said.
The reader is accessible through the e-edition login screen. The user will be prompted to choose standard e-edition or mobile version.
“We have had new bills since March, and now generate renewals weekly instead of daily,” Gagliano said. “Our EZ Pay information line on bank statements changed to BD Wells. It should be changed back to Brainerd Dispatch when they bill out this month.
It’s an exciting time as Brainerd Dispatch employees work to bring this community a better news and information product. The Dispatch hopes our readers continue to demonstrate their patience with occasional imperfections while we continue this transition process.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews.