Business 5 in 5 with Raymond Eckenrode

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5 Questions in 5 Minutes

An interview with Raymond Eckenrode, Publisher with Breeze Newspapers

Can you please describe your day to day as a publisher with the Cape Coral Breeze?

I’m very new in my job. I’ve been a general manager for a newspaper in Pennsylvania for 14 years. I’ve been at the Breeze now for four weeks and I wanted to be a hands-on leader. You have to figure out what people do before you help them do it better.

So at this point in time, I’m pretty much every day getting involved in the day to day of how projects are done. Understanding our systems technology is such a huge part of how we all do our jobs now. And I think you really have to understand that too, to understand the flow of your business and also what the people who work for you do. I’m maybe more hands-on right now because I’m learning the operation.

We’re so connected and I’m OCD with my email. I can’t let it pile up in my box. So a big part of my day is managing email in real-time and I find that to be something a lot of people really appreciate. But then there are times when that impinges on what I should be doing in my job. So that’s, I think that’s a balancing act for better or worse. I like at the end of the day to feel like today is done and let’s see what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow usually starts bringing that by the time I get home that night.

Can you please summarize your career path to being publisher?

I did not have a dream to get into media. I showed an aptitude at an early age as a writer and basically that steered me into a college degree in writing. I settled on journalism. I began developing a passion for it there. Penn State, central Pennsylvania in the 80s, with some professors who were just fantastic. And that’s where passion started coming into it.

So I spent the first half of my career as a journalist. I was lucky to have a bunch of fantastic coworkers who helped me learn that end of the business. And I think that was important because I got into the management end of it in in 2004.

And journalism and media is a balance right now between content and revenue. I really think publishers who have a content background can be real change agents in trying to keep media and media models that work going, because they really do go hand in hand and content drives revenue and vice versa.

I learned the business side of the operation after the content side. I think that’s really helped me. Something I did in central Pennsylvania, working in a declining manufacturing market that’s becoming a service economy, is to drive new revenue in different ways. Getting involved in events, getting involved in concerts, getting involved in ticketing…

Southwest Florida is a very different market, growing population, growing business space, tremendous opportunity here. Tremendous competition, too, as you would expect. I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of media products that are out there in every niche. What about lifestyle magazines? Here’s five of them. What about senior citizen magazines? Here, there’s 10 of them. Coupon books, there’s four. You would expect it. And it makes us a very interesting and exciting market coming from in a market that was much more challenged.

How do you define success as a publisher?

I think you have to put it in silos because, ultimately, publisher success is determined by the bottom line. It is, and you can’t get beyond that. A newsroom can say we have a great product. That’s their silo and that’s part of success. But it has to start with the bottom line. I really believe in media right now, that you can have it all, especially in a great market like this. You can have great products that drive audience, that drives revenue, that drives a positive bottom line. But for a publisher, it has to start there.

Can you give us an example of a success here at the Cape Coral Breeze?

I still believe in print revenue, in print media, print marketing, and a business model around it. I love digital marketing. I understand digital marketing, I understand the components of it. I think there are ways it can dovetail with other business models, especially in this market where boomers and seniors still drive. Most of the consumer purchases in this country come from boomers and seniors. They read print and print will still drive results for advertisers.

But, the biggest problem is that there are no analytics for it and everyone loves – I love – analytics. I love to know that I sent 10,000 emails and 3,000 of them were opened and the link was clicked on by 158 people. I understand the appeal of that.

But the problem is (with newspapers) we can’t tell you we printed 37,000 papers and your ad was looked at by 54,000 people and 10,000 of them made a mental note about it, 200 of them actually jotted down and 150 of them acted on it. There are no analytics with print. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t work because it does. It’s the only media that the advertising message is welcomed as part of the package.

Hyperlocal newspapers are a Friday product in Cape Coral. I would put it against any print newspaper in the country as far as the content that is hyper-local. And here’s how we define hyperlocal: when people are reading the paper, the names in the paper are people they recognize. There’s still a market for that level of print journalism. If you look at the weekend Breeze every week, you would have no idea there is an advertising crisis for print newspapers across the country. That is to say, you know, there is a future for print, it’s hyperlocal products.

What do you see on the horizon for the Cape Coral Breeze and for the newspaper industry in general?

The newspaper industry I think is a question because let’s say this about the newspaper industry: I think the best business models are at the very top end. National brands, New York Times, the Washington Post… The New York Times, despite what you might hear otherwise, is having tremendous financial success and has found a model where digital works. Digital subscriptions work. They’re growing. They’re growing their revenue and they’re maintaining their coverage.

So, I think at the top end, national brands have a real good chance of extending a business model and on the bottom end of the scale, and that’s where we are, which is hyperlocal products. And a lot of those are weeklies. Some of them are monthly.

There’s a niche for magazines, as well — hyper-targeted magazines. General interest magazines have real tough sledding ahead. But I think very focused interest magazines, whether that’s focused by geography or focused by a certain topic, have a chance.

We think of The Breeze as a big operation, but it’s really six little operations. You know, we’re hyperlocal to North Fort Myers, we’re hyper hyperlocal to Pine Island, we’re hyper-local to Sanibel-Captiva, we’re hyper-local to the Cape, to the Beach and Lehigh. And so, I think at both the upper and the lower end of the newspaper industry, there is a business model that can keep that going for the next five to ten years.

We’re almost living in a new world every two or three years now. And that’s going to be true in media, as well. You’re going to see newspapers reduce frequency and become some combination of print and digital. The implications of daily newspapers going away are really social and political, as well as economic. And that’s a topic that’s much larger than us sitting here.

Hyper-local print will continue to be our driving force. We’re going to look at those opportunities in the market and try to find ones that are good fits for us in terms of the people we have, our methods of delivery. We don’t need to try to be all things to all people. We are looking to look for opportunities to be the right things to the right people. So I think you’ll see us diversify with the Breeze in this market, but our core is for the foreseeable future is going to be those hyper-local print products.

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You can learn more about Raymond Eckenrode by visiting the website www.breezenewspapers.com

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This has been a presentation of American Business Writers. Clear, concise communication for your business. www.americanbusinesswriters.com