BERLIN — A number of improvements were recently announced at The Dispatch, including a redesigned website, the hiring of a photographer, a new distribution policy and the addition of a new delivery vehicle with a customized message.
Publisher Steve Green said the changes have been instituted over the last couple months and are aimed at accomplishing the company’s goal of being a progressive media operation.
“We are always looking to implement changes here because the only non-option is the status quo. Leaders do not stand pat and rest on past laurels. We strive to be a progressive company out in the forefront of our industry,” Green said.
New Website Launched
Seven years ago, the newspaper began a partnership with D3Corp, a leading web design and hosting company in the region. That included launching a modern website as well as the creation of the Daily Buzz email updates, which are sent electronically Monday through Friday and contain timely news articles.
For example, on Monday morning, the Daily Buzz email consisted of a recap of the Majestic Hotel fire from last Friday as well as the beginning of the St. Louis Ave. construction project that began that morning. The Daily Buzz email is opened by an average of 2,000 people each day, Monday through Friday. Users sign up through the paper’s website, www.mdcoastdispatch.com.
“Through our website, our Daily Buzz campaign and social media concentration, we have demonstrated a commitment to the ‘E-first’ mentality. The entire news team has embraced this approach. We release news articles as they happen and as reporters complete their stories, rather than holding them for several days until the print product is released on Friday,” Green said. “It makes no sense in today’s world to not distribute news as it occurs. Who wanted to wait for a week to read about last Friday’s Boardwalk fire? I know I didn’t, so a story was published online within hours of it occurring and timely photos of the scene were released as it occurred through Facebook and our website.”
It’s a common sense approach to today’s news business, according to Green, that has led to the website averaging 30,000 visitors each week and our Facebook page garnering about 500 new likes every week, for a total now of about 22,500 likes currently.
“We are a daily news operation with our web presence with the newspaper at the end of the week recapping all that took place this week, along with all our weekly staples, such as photo pages, columns, local happenings …,” Green said.
Photographer Joins Team
The decision to invest in a photographer has been weighed for years, according to Green, but budget restraints have made it impractical. Fortunately, adding a part-time professional photographer of the team is now a reality. Ocean City resident Chris Parypa is a familiar name in the area, as he has been a frequent contributor to The Dispatch over the last five years.
“I am looking forward to expanding my relationship and partnership with The Dispatch as a photojournalist. It’s an honor to be affiliated with a true newspaper that is the leader in the local industry,” said Parypa. “I look forward to having a role in making the publication even better through my photographs of local and regional events and scenery on a weekly basis. It’s an exciting new opportunity for me.”
Green said bringing on a photographer of Parypa’s caliber has been a dream of his for many years.
“Adding a photographer to our news team has always been a desire. Chris’s work has graced our pages for years now and began with a simple email from him after the first OC Air Show. He asked if we were interested in Air Show photos and, of course, we were. He has been a frequent contributor ever since in the hardcopy edition as well as online,” said Green. “This is an exciting development for us and we believe this new commitment to photography will be immediately noticeable.”
With a skilled professional photographer covering events, the newsroom is able to offer non-conventional news coverage. Green elaborated on the point this week, referring again to last Friday’s Majestic fire and last weekend’s Making Strides race as examples.
Rather than using a wide smoking building shot of the hotel on the cover this week, Parypa was able to provide a unique photo of a firefighter emerging from the burned building. That same approach was used with the breast cancer event last weekend. Instead of the predictable wide crowd shot of runners and walkers, a photo of an actual breast cancer survivor, who happens to be a local teacher, approaching the finish line was chosen.
Additionally, photos of the fire were available online as the blaze was being extinguished and within hours of the Making Strides race a photo gallery of more than 100 photos was published online.
“Photojournalists are being eliminated at most newspapers across the country because of fiscal issues, and we are thrilled to have the means to buck that trend,” Green said.
New Delivery Approach
About one year ago, following the untimely death of Circulation Manager Randy Hamlett, Raymond Wells was named as his replacement after serving as a delivery driver for the paper for 10 years. He has refined the company’s delivery operation and approaches the hardcopy distribution from a strategic standpoint.
The Dispatch is distributed weekly to more than 200 locations, from Snow Hill north to Bethany Beach (in the summer) and Ocean City west to Salisbury. It’s a vast regional circulation, according to Green.
“Ray has introduced the concept of ‘recovery’ to our circulation. It’s an approach rooted in common sense. The paper is delivered on Friday, and we restock high-volume places throughout the weekend. Additionally, Ray goes out daily and moves papers from locations that might not be moving as well as others. For instance, if a north Ocean City convenience store is not moving as many papers in October as it was in July, he will relocate those papers on Sunday morning to high-volume sites, like Wal-Mart or grocery stores in other areas. This allows our paper to reach the people where they are on a daily basis and nobody else does it. It makes a big difference.”
According to Green, better managing the paper’s circulation is critical because the goal each week is a zero return rate, meaning every paper printed is consumed by the public.
“Every week is different. Some weeks the papers do not move at a certain grocery store as well as they did the week before, and we can address that and shuffle papers to places where the demand is greater,” Green said. “It’s a big deal for us. Simply plopping the same amount of papers in high-volume places every Friday morning is not good enough anymore. We have to be flexible and react on a weekly basis through our ‘recovery’ work.”
Customized Delivery Van
Since the circulation of the printed product is so critical, a new delivery van was recently purchased to carry out the work. The Ford E-350 van features a customized wrap created by Green and a Delaware vendor. The van is capable of carrying thousands of newspapers and provides the paper the opportunity to further its brand through the ad wrap, said Green.
“It’s imperative for us to maintain our marketing and branding so our readers continue to seek out our publication. It’s proactive self-marketing. We have been in business since 1984 but we take nothing for granted. We are not guaranteed future success and reinvesting is dollars well spent. By promoting our product in this way, we enrich our brand and that helps our advertisers,” Green said. “Like most businesses, which make changes each year to their products, buildings and offerings, we need to constantly be reinvesting in our brand, and we believe this will help our clients as well by continuously encouraging readers to seek out our product.”
The newspaper recently partnered with the WAMU 88.5 radio station for a monthly regional talk show that dives into the region’s headlines. Green appears on the Coastal Connection program with host Bryan Russo once a month. On his show, Russo, a former staff writer with The Dispatch, seeks to “hold a weekly conversation about the issues and the people that make this area so appealing for millions of people to visit each year and for the many others who call the peninsula their home.”
The station can be found on the dial at 88.5 FM throughout Maryland, Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Virginia as well as in the metropolitan area. The show airs at noon on Fridays on 88.5 and 88.3 in Ocean City and is always available online at www.wamucoast.org.