Readers may think they know the Brainerd Dispatch but Publisher Tim Bogenschutz is asking them take a second look at the 131-year-old news and information organization as it works to keep its news content relevant and accessible.
While the media platforms the Dispatch uses may now include the printed page, online websites, mobile phone applications and others, the goal remains the same.
“We’re telling the story of what’s important in our community,” he said.
A four-page insert in this weekend’s issue of the Brainerd Dispatch provides stories that offer in-depth explanations of what the Brainerd Dispatch is offering in terms of services and audiences. The insert details the newspaper’s redesign. The evolution and diversification started with our online presence, which debuted in 1996.
“We’re not just a newspaper, we now bring you the news through five different platforms,” he said, “print, web, e-edition, smartphone and our new ipad app.”
The remaking of the Brainerd Dispatch — an ongoing process — has required an enormous investment on the part of the newspaper. It was aided by online and email surveys to help determine the wants of Dispatch readers. Bogenschutz, who has been publisher since January of 2011, said the Dispatch has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on computers, smart phones, tablets, software and training.
It has been necessary to make these changes on the fly and to refocus employee resources to meet the changing times and a challenging economy, Bogenschutz said. Unlike a storefront business, he said, the Dispatch can’t shut down, institute its changes and then reopen.
“We’re doing more stuff with less people,” he said.
The changes have come in the midst of some management turnover, consolidation of the Lake Country Echo and Pine River Journal staff into Dispatch office space and installation of a new computer system. When one considers “the economics we have to work with,” Bogenschutz said he is appreciative of the talents and dedication of all of the newspaper employees.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the crew I’m fortunate to lead,” he said. “They are a very dedicated bunch.”
Already, the Dispatch redesign has drawn praise from readers, Morris Communications (the Dispatch’s owner) and from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which picked the May 4 edition as one of the top 10 front pages in the world that day.
With all of the new technological platforms used by the Dispatch’s news stories and advertising are reaching a far more massive audience than they reached five to eight years ago, Bogenschutz said.
For example, he said 1 1/2 years ago www.brainerddispatch.com received 60,000 to 70,000 unique visits a month. Now it receives more than 200,000 such visits a month and is approaching a quarter of a million visits. The website’s page-views are 30 percent above last year’s number. The number of mobile readers has jumped from 0 to 10 percent of these visits in the last year.
The publisher pointed out the Dispatch is the only business that has made this large of an investment into compiling and distributing Brainerd area news. He said the Dispatch has a news staff of 16 dedicated to their trade and their communities.
Although the Dispatch is so well established in the community that many regard it as a public resource, Bogenschutz said it faces the same financial challenges as any other private enterprises.
“We are a for-profit business,” he said, “and if you like what you see please feel free to support our efforts.”
The Brainerd Dispatch (a daily newspaper), the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal are more than just newspapers, he said. In addition to those three publications the Dispatch press operation prints 21 other weekly publications. It also is the distribution agent for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, the Pioneer Press of St. Paul and the New York Times.