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Opinion Richard Connor: The Business Press has seen the future and it is...

Richard Connor: The Business Press has seen the future and it is now

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We are smarter or savvier than we look – the editors at the Business Press, that is.

You might say we are old but we understand the new – the new digital age in media, that is.

Several years ago, at our annual “Meet the Editors” forum, someone in the audience took note of the experience, shall we say, of our top three editors and asked if we had a “succession plan.”

There are actually four of us at our newspaper and online business who’ve been in the news and content business for a long time and plan to be in it for a long time to come. We love the work and we love our jobs.

As much as we love the work we know time marches on and succession planning becomes increasingly important. The question from that reader a few years back was a good one.

Our plan is to constantly look for young persons who want a career in media and who hold high respect for news. We have augmented our staff with younger personnel who have literally grown up in the digital era and we are asking them to help lead us in these new directions.

It is crucial to the future of our business to stay current with trends, push the envelope for change, engage more fully in social media and build a company in the digital world parallel to our print business.

What’s great about the news business these days is that we know more about our audience – more about what folks will read and what they won’t, what they like and what they can’t stand. We monitor readership on our website and especially on our daily AM and PM newsblasts virtually by the hour. The data we get helps us decide what stories to run and where to place them.

In the old days, we planned the front page and other sections of the newspaper based on little more than instinct and experience. Now we look at numbers, trends, minute-by-minute reader preferences. Lately, we’ve seen encouraging signs from our readers that indicate we are moving forward with our old editors and our new, young staff.

As the second full week of August began to heat up the Texas summer, for instance, our digital news platforms were sizzling as well. By mid-week we had over 100,000 – yes, 100,000 – page views of one story. The number continued to grow each day.

The story that caught fire with readers was a roundup, in words and pictures, of the top 30 locations for alcohol sales in Tarrant County over the first six months of the year.

Number 1 on the list was Grapevine’s Gaylord Texan with sales of $11,862,416. Fort Worth’s world-famous Billy Bob’s Texas ranked fourth and the city’s showcase convention hotel, the Omni, grabbed fifth place. Click here to peruse the complete list and all the photos.

In researching the story, we learned that Tarrant County drinking establishments have been serving up booze at a record pace, selling $9 million more in mixed beverages in the first half of 2019 than during the same period in 2018. We’re a thirsty lot here in North Texas and likely to get thirstier as we continue to simmer through the remaining weeks of summer.

Meanwhile, the Business Press continues to warm to the exciting and evolving potential of digital information. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts have been reworked and we are reaching more customers through those avenues than ever before. One of our recent Facebook posts – our report on Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price’s visit to Washington to discuss federal funds for the Panther Island project – was opened by more than 4,000 Facebook users. A number of them shared the post, which means the audience multiplied; many even took time to comment on it.

Within the next few months we will be redesigning our website and newsletters, and exploring a new app. We’ve also initiated new offerings through video and YouTube.

We are currently working through our data base of about 40,000 individuals and companies who have either done business with us or had some direct contact with our products. We will refine that list and market directly to those folks, especially using social media.

What is interesting to us is that while we are rapidly expanding our digital and social media offerings we have an amazing renewal rate for paid print subscriptions. About 90% of our customers renew for periods ranging from one year to three.

The so-called old media will evolve by preserving many aspects of our business that have been successful in the past and merging them with the ever-changing tools of the future.

Speaking of which … I am frequently asked about our nonprofit journalism project, The Fort Worth Press. We actually have a website but are moving slowly as we develop plans to populate the site with local news. The infrastructure is being put in place for a bold and forward-looking news platform. You can see it at fortworthpress.org.

Ultimately, we will need to raise $500,000 to $1 million to launch The Fort Worth Press and that will be a challenge. Right now our time to raise money is limited, even though we frequently get offers from individuals who want to donate.

It’s all new and it’s all good. Let’s raise a glass to that …

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

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