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Pete's Point: State of Echo Publishing

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Echo Publishing’s staff experienced numerous changes in 2012 with the goal of solidifying its future.

Those adjustments, made with an emphasis on improving efficiency and increasing financial stability, were also designed to maintain the quality level of our media products.

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We started out 2012 by consolidating Echo Publishing’s weekly production of our print and online products to the office of the Brainerd Dispatch, which is a sister company for Morris Communications. We closed our Pine River Journal office and kept the Pequot Lakes office open weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon with a limited staff. We also sold our commercial printing operation to Lakes Printing of Brainerd.

These changes were made to improve Echo Publishing’s financial status. Although we remain a profitable business by outstate Minnesota newspaper standards, Echo Publishing’s operating margin needed to increase to help Morris Communications, which successfully rebounded from bankruptcy.

The changes we made turned out to be a financial success as Echo Publishing improved its profit margin and reached its financial budget in 2012. More important for our readers and advertisers, Echo Publishing was able to maintain its standard as a small-town newspaper operation that represents our lakes area communities.

Echo Publishing has made some key changes in recent years with an eye on the future. In 2006, we consolidated the distribution of our products with the Dispatch. Although it was a challenging conversion, the circulation complaints per thousand are now at an admirable rate. It also helped Echo Publishing become more diverse with its distribution between mail, carrier delivery and store dealer copies.

We also created a “Minnesota Hub” in 2009 by combining the Echo and Dispatch graphic arts departments. The goal was to save local jobs while many newspapers were taking similar work to design hubs in other parts of the country.

Following is an update for key departments at Echo Publishing that affect our readers and advertisers:

Editorial

The Lake Country Echo, which started in 1972, and Pine River Journal, established in 1935, both remain the official weekly newspapers for recording history, like covering many of our area city councils along with the Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus school board meetings.

Nancy Vogt, editor for both the Lake Country Echo and Pine River Journal newspapers, coordinates staff coverage with reporters Kate Perkins, Travis Grimler and a handful of correspondents to attend almost every community event in our area. We’re also the only weekly publications covering the Pequot Lakes Patriots and Pine River-Backus Tigers athletic teams and school activities.

The primary goal of the consolidation was to make sure there was no sacrifice in coverage for our readers. Not only did we continue to average between 15-20 weekly byline stories between our two newspapers, but we also earned three Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in 2012.

Advertising

We’re currently working on the advertising phase of the consolidation project. The Echo and Dispatch media consultants will soon be adjusting their account lists to promote industry specialization and become more efficient in territory coverage. The Echo and Dispatch sales staffs will be cross-selling both print and online products. The combined staffs will work together as DE Media (Dispatch/Echo).

We have expanded marketing services to offer with our newly designed pineandlakes.com website and total media consulting services. Our traditional products continue to be successful, especially the popular Echoland-Piper Shopper that reaches an average of 21,000 homes each week.

Online

The redesign of our pineandlakes.com website was recently completed. The update allows for improvement in editorial coverage, especially breaking news updates. The Internet allows weekly newspapers to provide daily news coverage.

We also plan to expand our weekly video coverage. Besides the weekly high school activities update with sports writer Wayne “Wheaties” Wallin, Echo Publishing plans to add weekly reports of area news and entertainment highlights.

We’ve also expanded the classified advertising information on our new website, along with other marketing opportunities.

Pineandlakes.com remains one of the most viewed websites in the lakes area. Our E-Edition views are also on the rise. Echo Publishing’s weekly audience is actually larger than it was 10 years ago with our combined 4,500 weekly newspaper copies and the 5,000 weekly unique online viewers.

Overall

The consolidation allowed Echo Publishing to become more efficient in numerous departments by sharing the work loads between Dispatch and Echo employees.

As publisher, I thank the dedicated staffs at both the Echo and Dispatch for the sacrifices made with the consolidation. Although Echo Publishing’s staff is about half the size it was just seven years ago, we still continue to produce quality publications each week.

As a longtime journalist and member of the Minnesota Newspaper Association board of directors, I support all the newspaper operations around the state. I couldn’t imagine life without community newspapers.

Who would report on government activities, feature area personalities and provide coverage for community events and local athletic teams?

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