012115opinion randall mug

If you look at the publisher’s box on page A2 of today’s paper, you’ll see a small change to the title under the name William B. Randall. That’s me, although I’d prefer that you call me Will. On Monday, Jan. 19, I became chairman of the board and chief operating officer of Randall Family LLC, the company that produces The Frederick News-Post. I thought it would be helpful to introduce myself and to hopefully start a conversation about the future of your local newspaper.

Many of you already know me. I have lived in Frederick almost my whole life. One of my ancestors, John Thomas Schley, brought the first settlers to Frederick in 1745 and built the first house in downtown Frederick. My great-great-grandfather William T. Delaplaine founded this newspaper. I moved into the area when I was 4 years old, after my dad completed his master’s at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have worked at the newspaper for almost my entire professional career. I earned my master’s in business administration from Hood College in 2011. I am active in the Rotary Club of Frederick, I’m on the board of directors of the Frederick Arts Council, I attend Chamber of Commerce events and I love both old and new Frederick. I am excited about Frederick’s future, and I am truly excited about the future of our company.

Future? You may ask. But isn’t the newspaper industry dying? It’s a question we get a lot. The answer is emphatically no, but the industry is changing. The days of daily printed newspapers being the only source of news for a majority of Americans are over. The media landscape is fragmented and competition for eyeballs and marketing dollars is fierce, and comes from both traditional and nontraditional sources. I believe that if a daily printed newspaper expects to maintain business as usual and not change in response to consumer behavior, then yes, that newspaper will die. However, the things that newspapers have traditionally done so well — being a credible source of news and information, driving informed public policy debate, creating ways for businesses to reach customers by creating a vibrant marketplace and fostering a sense of community — are things that will always be in demand in a healthy democratic society. How newspapers provide these services has to change.

To survive in the new economy, newspapers are challenged to position themselves as digitally integrated local media companies without alienating their traditional core readers. What does this new business model look like? This is a question that the entire industry, us included, has been experimenting with for the last several years. A model is beginning to emerge. It sounds simple, but newspapers must simultaneously find less expensive ways to do their jobs while finding new sources of revenue and listening better to their customers. Many newspapers are outsourcing printing and production to other printers so they can focus on a future when demand for print will likely be further diminished. This trend has actually helped us, as we now have a busy and successful printing operation. Like The News-Post, many newspapers are expanding into promoting, organizing and holding events, and offering digital agency services such as search engine optimization, reputation management and social media services. Successfully capitalizing on these new revenue sources, as well as emerging digital technologies, will allow us to continue to invest in the community we have loved and served for generations.

As I take the reins as chief operating officer, leading this charge is my primary focus. But I — we — need your help. How can we continue to provide you with what is important to you in a changing world? What aren’t we doing that you would like us to do? Where should we be focusing our attention? What are we missing? We have a lot of ideas and experience, but for too long our industry has been too internally focused. We know we need to change, but we need to change with you — the community that we serve.

Keep an eye out for more from me in the future. We are planning a meet-and-greet event for our members in the coming month to continue this conversation, but if you have questions or comments in the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or any of us on the management team.

You can reach me at wrandall@newspost.com or 240-215-8702 or publisher Geordie Wilson at gwilson@newspost.com.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And thanks for reading.

(32) comments

DickD

Congratulations on your promotion! There are some things you can do differently. I will e-mail some thoughts to you.

Great, I look forward to your insights. Thanks!

gary4books

That should be "two spaces"

gary4books

I see to spaces (or two uses for the space) of newspapers in the future and they are local information and local influence.

If I see something about Worman's mill and mill island I want to be able to respond and make comments or suggestions about how the proposed changes to Monocacy blvd should go - even if I am not familiar with the highway planning process or when meetings have been held. I want a voice through the news paper and to know local news from the local paper. If that comes with a good national coverage, I will be happy to support the paper. Even when editorial cartoons push the limits.

Thanks Gary, good comments.

DickD

Good ideas.

fnfn

An improvement would be to add comments to the AP articles. [beam]

Members can comment on AP articles as long as they are logged in so you should be able to comment. If you have a specific example or ongoing issues please contact interactive@newspost.com

Thanks!

gary4books

They often need some.

fnfn

To see what the patterns are on letters about presidents, go to Snopes.com and look at the content and numbers per year of those about Obama and last Bush. That could make an interesting factual article.[beam]

fnfn

Welcome and good luck.

When you want to be a "credible source" I suggest you all do a cursory check of Snopes.com before publish not credible letters with at least a link to the truth. Check the comments on recent Fonda letters.

[beam]

Thanks for the comment. Here is how I responded to a similar one: http://bit.ly/15ySXG0

DeDeuceCoupe32

Hey Will, take my "six bits" i pay for the paper and put it towards a "shave and a haircut".

Haha. My hair used to be even longer. But yes, I do need a trim!

DeDeuceCoupe32

[thumbup][cool]

Boyce Rensberger

Why on Earth would a newspaper claim to provide "reputation management"? That is not a service protected by the First Amendment.

The only effect a newspaper should have on anyone's reputation is by publication of the facts so that readers can form their own opinions of a person or a business.

Now that young Randall says the FNP is providing this service, readers should have far less confidence that what appears in its pages is straight factual information. Possibly someone has bought Will Randall's reputation management service.

And in the one area where the FNP publishes its opinions, we may now wonder whether the editorials are part of the paper's reputation management service.

Boyce Rensberger

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of reputation management, look it up. Wikipedia has a fairly good article. It is basically the suppression of opinions unfavorable to a client through the creation of astroturf organizations, downlisting search engine results that a client does not want people to see and other attempts to prevent the public from seeing an even-handed account of information that bears on a reputation.

Many reputation management practices are considered unethical.

Thank you for your comments. I share your passion for the first amendment and share your concern about maintaining our credibility. Please know that we would never do anything to compromise our journalistic integrity. The reputation management we offer is digitally focused and is completely separate from anything that makes its way onto our pages.. We help businesses with their online reputation. We help them to monitor search results, social media, etc and notify businesses when negative comments, reviews, and the like are posted so they can respond (kind of like what I am doing manually right now).

Boyce Rensberger

Thanks for responding.

So the reputation management applies only to the digital version of the paper? I don't see how you can do that and have a truly integrated cross-platform newspaper.

I would like to see you publish--on all platforms--an explanation of exactly how your reputation management service operates.

And as for "search engine optimization," can you state categorically that the FNP will never push negative articles or comments down in the search results your readers see?

Dwasserba

I googled it and you should know the first two verbs I encountered were "suppress" and "control" (negative information.) So I am reserving judgment for now.
I already archive "news" sources that start tailoring information available to me based on what they knew I already read. Stuck in a loop of my own thoughts aaaaarrrrgh No thanks. Now I'll have to discern what's factual from what's "image management?" Whatever keeps you in business...

Reputation management does not apply to either the physical or digital versions of our newspaper. It is essentially a stand-alone service that applies to individual clients' websites and social media presence.

Search engine optimization also does not apply to searches on our site, but with how individual websites show up on unpaid search engine results such as Google.

There really is no crossover or cause for concern on either of these.

Boyce Rensberger

So are you saying that reputation management and search engine optimization have nothing to do with the newspaper? That they are the same as if your corporation were selling, for example, plumbing services?

If those services are as separate from the FNP, why does your piece in today's paper lead readers to believe that they are services of the Frederick News-Post? Something doesn't wash here.

Sorry for the confusion, Boyce.

We have a separate digital agency called FNP Optimize that specializes in this function (check it out here: http://fnpoptimize.com/). We also have a separate Printing Division called FNP Printing and Publishing (check it out here: http://fnpprintingandpublishing.com/).

My intent in referring to these was to talk about how Randall Family, LLC is diversifying into new businesses and evolving into a local media company with many products, one of which is the newspaper, another is the printing unit, etc.

public-redux

Kirby obviously didn't pay into the "protection" fund.

bpsws

Best wishes, Will.

public-redux

Do we start with the Airing of Grievances, as we do for Festivus?

Just kidding. Congrats and welcome to your new responsibilities!

dcg326

A family member.An article needed about the Delaplaine killed in WW2 fighting for the USA.No more Fonda stories.

bigdogs02

Try reporting without any slant -- especially the liberal leftist regurgitation --- #truth_prevails

The pen is mightier than the sword, except when the pen is used as a sword, then my Second Amendment will restore the First Amendment!

shiftless88

Wow, you just signed in to FNP the other day and start slinging darts all over the place, spouting right-wing phrases and hashtags like someone cares. Welcome.

franklin3

Is this county as redneck as the responses to the daily questions suggest?

bigdogs02

#Wow_you_continue_to_spew_the_liberal_hate_speech

#Yes_directed_at_you

DickD

It would have been bad enough without your nonsense on 2nd Amendment rights.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.