We’re changing faster than Pony Express riders

By September 19, 2011

I was invited to speak at the Cameron Park Rotary club recently. Members were interested in hearing how California’s oldest newspaper was doing as we celebrate 160 years in publication this year. After my presentation one Rotarian asked, “Where do you see newspapers in the coming years?”

This seems to be a common question on peoples’ minds these days. It’s a good question; one that seems to be asked more often since the birth of the internet and the devastating economic fallout of the newspaper industry since 2008.

I remember hearing the same concerns when television media replaced newspapers as the primary source of news. Where television news beat newspapers in speed; newspapers countered by providing greater in-depth news analysis.

Newspapers have faced media transformation ever since the last pony express rider trotted through El Dorado County in 1861.

Back then the Mountain Democrat, just 10 years old, was providing area miners with local news. People then, like today, were hungry for information.

And information moves along faster with every new technology introduced — from the pony express to the transcontinental telegraph to the telephone. Imagine the excitement in 1915 when the first coast to coast telephone call was placed. And try to imagine an attentive audience sitting in movie theaters in the 1930s watching newsreels before the feature movie. This was in fact how many people received their news.

Today, movies are magically streamed to your computer and world news events are available in real time from … well … everywhere.

Here in El Dorado County local news and information is provided by the Mountain Democrat, Village Life, Cameron Park Life and the Georgetown Gazette. Local news is our niche. It’s what we do. State, national and international news coverage is readily available through several other sources.

As a successful business, we have come to accept what many others have faced in their struggle to survive and grow. It comes down to one word — change.

If you don’t like change, you’ll like the irrelevancy less. Because that’s what happens to businesses that fail to see the need to reinvent, retool, and/or gravitate to new technology.

So with change in mind we’ve undertaken a transformation of sorts with Village Life, our El Dorado Hills community newspaper. Earlier this year we changed our distribution model by eliminating carrier delivery. Residents in Serrano and elsewhere in El Dorado Hills now receive their local newspaper by mail. This change has improved the condition of the product while eliminating calls to my office about water-logged newspapers drenched by lawn sprinklers.

Starting with today’s edition of Village Life, readers and advertisers will experience a new redesigned look and feel of their community newspaper. We hope you enjoy the changes and welcome your feedback.

Cameron Park Life, our monthly newspaper serving the areas of Cameron Park and Shingle Springs was also changed to mail delivery. This change insures the publication arrives in a neat manner — unlike the condition of the four telephone directories recently dropped at the foot of my driveway. Those of course are now sitting neatly at the bottom of our recycling container.

At the Mountain Democrat we recently changed our delivery policy to ensure re-delivery of your newspaper if not received by 6 a.m. Yes, if your newspaper isn’t delivered by that time then please let us know by 10 a.m. and one of our customer service reps will deliver an edition to you.

Our website also continues its transformation. Beginning this month, all advertisements publishing in our print edition will appear online in the same format. now averages 30,000 unique visitors and 398,000 page views per month and our digital team’s innovation was recently recognized nationally by the Suburban Newspapers Publishers Association. Innovation involves change and our staff recognizes how critical change is for our future.

At both the Mountain Democrat and Village Life newspapers we’re making necessary changes that allow us to continue providing readers with local news that’s relevant to their lives and an economical means to reach prospective consumers seeking the products and services local businesses have to sell.

In response to the Rotarian’s question of how I see newspapers in the future: I simply see nothing but opportunity as we change to meet our readers and customers needs. Those in search of local news will continue to find us in print, online, or on your favorite mobile device while riding in your car or riding on your pony through El Dorado County.

Richard Esposito


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