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Big changes in 2011, more coming in 2012

One year ago, the first thing I did as the new publisher was write a column on some of the changes you could expect see at the Dispatch and in the news and information industry going forth. How could anyone predict the massive changes we have seen everywhere in our world in 2011. Many serious world events have occurred since that will never allow us to go back to “what was.” The Arab Spring is huge example of that and it has changed the lives of those living in the Mideast forever. Social media was highly credited in helping shape those changes via the world of Wi-Fi with smart phones and computer technology. That same technology and the accompanying apps are supplying each of us with unending ways to change our lives.

At the Dispatch, as we look back at these past 12 months, we have changed just about every major system we use and have virtually recreated ourselves. Most all of these new softwares and procedures are based in the “clouds,” another way to say “the Internet”. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in new computers, smart phones and tablets to makes sure we can adapt to these changes as well as anyone. This will allow our sales reps and our news gatherers to virtually have their desks with them wherever they go. If we are to understand the digital mobile world, we must be a part of the digital and mobile world.

Last year I wrote, “Having acknowledged the changes ... there’s one thing that will never change: The Dispatch is still the leader in recording news and the history of our local community ... we not only have 25,000 to 35,000 reading our printed product daily, we also have 120,000 unique IP addresses tuned into our website on a monthly basis. Our readership and the responsibility to our community have never been greater or more important ... following high school sports; publishing death notices and birth announcements; covering meetings and governmental affairs, the list goes on.” I also mentioned, “Coming soon you will be able to pick mobile options and use your smart phone, ipad, or other readers. The big change will be the way we deliver the news and you will dictate that.”

All of this is still true and just as important today, here’s what has changed though ... more people are reading the Sunday paper then last year (yes our circulation has gone up!), we now have well over 200,000 unique monthly visitors reading our news and information (a huge jump in the last year) ... and finally, a very interesting stat, since we introduce our smart phone and tabloid apps in May, seven percent of our page views are now coming mobile devices. We are still the best source of local news and you, the readers, will dictate how you consume the news we provide.

We have diligently gone about the business of change this year. We have seen jobs descriptions and responsibilities change, we have seen familiar faces leave us. Roy Miller who was the steady head of our news department for almost 30 years moved on and now sadly another longtime writer, Jodie Tweed, has decided to be a stay-at-home mom and will be leaving us. We will replace them with highly qualified people as we continue our restructuring.

Today I am announcing another major change in how we do our business, one we hope to have in place by Feb 1. Now that we have this ability to work efficiently mobile and more so to be creative in spending our time and other resources gathering the news, we will consolidate the workforces for the Pine River Journal, Lake Country Echo and the Brainerd Dispatch into one location, the Brainerd Dispatch building. Let me be clear here, we will still produce all the products we did before and will cover all the things we did before. We truly believe this will give us an opportunity to do all of what we do and do it better! We pride ourselves on the service we provide to all our communities.

Another thing that has not changed is we will still employ 100 great people. It needs to be said that with all of the changes we have made this year, none of it could have been done without the professional dedicated people who call the Dispatch, Echo and Pine River Journal their home. Some might even think it is their home considering how many hours they spend recently doing their jobs. Their enthusiasm and the way they have embraced the future of the news and information business makes it a pleasure to guide them.

I have said this before — ”our franchise and the communities trust has always centered on our local news.” Most of our changes in the last year, and those yet to come, have been made so we are able to rededicate ourselves and our resources to better serving our communities. It may not seem like it sometimes to the readers who want us to do more, but a year from now, I plan on writing this column and extolling our successes.

As I mentioned last year, we still have to survive like any other “for profit” business. That is more true than ever. But here’s what we know. As the Internet and digital world encroach on our lives we have all been affected in more ways than are apparent to the naked eye. It has affected the way we buy products and services. It has affected the way we get our news, form opinion or consensus. It has affected the way we communicate with family and friends. In the coming year we will be working on a series of stories that will highlight how these changes have affected us, our communities, our businesses and how we live, work and play.

Here’s hoping we all survive this year’s presidential campaign and the over-sensationalized media crush of something called 12-21-2012.

Finally we wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.

TIM BOGENSCHUTZ, publisher, may be reached at 855-5844 or