Chattanooga: Paper splices ink with electrons to become media platform

Chattanooga: Paper splices ink with electrons to become media platform

January 6th, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell Chris Fox, left, Bryan Keene, and Laura McMillan work on the website at the Times Free Press.

What a difference a decade makes.

Since Chattanooga's morning and afternoon newspapers joined to debut as what is now the Chattanooga Times Free Press 10 years ago as of Monday, the paper has become more than the neatly rolled, plastic-wrapped bundle that lands each morning in readers' driveways.

By the time most people drink their first cup of coffee and begin to scan the pages - filled each day with an average of 40 local stories - the newsroom has already updated its Web site, timesfreepress.com, with the latest local coverage.

"We started with a one-dimensional product and we've enhanced it; it's multidimensional," said Tom Griscom, publisher and executive editor of the Times Free Press. "You can come to us and get content in so many different ways."

multiple channels

As a media company, not simply a newspaper, the Times Free Press is working to give its readers, advertisers and the community the information they need through the channels they use most, said Jason Taylor, president and general manager of the Times Free Press.

Each day through timesfreepress.com, the paper provides news stories along with multimedia projects and daily coverage with accompanying audio and video clips.

"Whether it be the core newspaper, magazines, digital, mobile or live events, consumers all have a different preference for how they engage with the information we gather," Mr. Taylor said. "Our readers now have the availability to pick and choose from multiple channels of information to enhance their lives."

The newspaper today includes components such as audio and video clips that complement daily news stories. There are also online blogs, podcasts and eventually, social networking sites that will together enhance the paper's relationship with its readers. Utilizing the paper's multimedia capabilities has allowed reporters to produce in-depth special reports with separate Web pages featuring slide shows, diaries and interactive maps, among other elements.

niche papers, magazines

In addition to recent improvements to timesfreepress.com, the paper has added several niche publications, including a North Georgia edition, a monthly magazine called Chatter, nine neighborhood weeklies and Spanish language paper Noticias Libres.

Each of the weekly community publications, as well as Chatter and Noticias Libres has its own Web site separate from the timesfreepress.com.

Much of that work on the Web is the responsibility of online director Ed Bourn, who came to the paper in 2004. The paper earlier had had a free website, but had gone to a paid subscribers model. It also had only a few buttons for visitors to select once they got there.

Four years later and Mr. Bourn's staff of 10 - twice what it was in 2004 - is preparing to debut a redesigned timesfreepress.com in mid-February.

"We are moving toward a way that will allow people to customize how get their content, where they really have ownership and loyalty to our site and create their own version of timesfreepress.com," Mr. Bourn said.

looking ahead

In the years to come, the paper will continue to utilize the latest developments in technology to give readers the best content possible in the format they want, Mr. Taylor said.

In some ways, that could require rethinking the traditional newsprint product and taking risks. It also could mean making some mistakes along the way, and learning from them, Mr. Griscom said. In the process, the Times Free Press and its related products will continue to be much more than just a newspaper, he said.

"That's what we are working to be, and that's a company that provides content to various audiences over a number of platforms, and if we can figure that out, I think we've got a very strong proposition for years to come," he said.