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Mr. Paton goes to Journal Register: bringing 'link economy' thinking, after bankruptcy.

JOHN PATON HAD AN ENTIRE career in Canadian newspapers before founding impreMedia and growing it from a single Spanish-language daily into the largest source of Hispanic news and information in the United States, with an audience for its print, digital and mobile products second only to television giant Univision. This month, Paton takes over as CEO of Journal Register Co., a chain with such venerable flags as the New Haven (Conn.) Register and The Daily Tribune in Royal Oaks, Mich. Because of disastrously ill-timed acquisitions, JRC teetered under huge debt and emerged from bankruptcy protection last December in the hands of its former lenders.


Paton discusses this new challenge with E&P Managing Editor Shawn Moynihan.

Q. What's Job One at JRC?

A. The first thing we will have to do, just as we did at impreMedia, is to radically re-focus our thinking, and that will mean declaring Brands and Digital First--and Print Last. This is not to dismiss print but only to fiercely focus us on the future. Our digital competitors don't and won't have our print infrastructure costs, and that gives them a competitive advantage. Only one-third of a newspaper's costs are in content creation, marketing and sales. We will need to find creative ways to reduce the other costs in the two-thirds bucket, and that could mean consolidation and outsourcing of some of those costs.


Q. The Latino audience is a young-skewing demographic that is a natural target for impreMedia's array of digital and mobile offering. But with JRC, you'll have an older demographic to serve. How does Digital First fit in there?

A. The idea of creating multiple platforms is to be able to create compelling news content to be consumed on platforms of the customer's choice. The part of the demographic that wants print will be able to satisfy that demand. So will others who want the digital offerings of Web, mobile and online video. The digital platforms will let the Journal Register Company re-engage with customers who have left print or were never there in the first place. This is not a zero-sum game. Our audience will expand--not contract.

Q. ImpreMedia recently launched "Community E-Journalism Labs" in New York and Los Angeles. Will we see them at JRC? And what are they, again?

A. There is no way to be hyperlocal without harnessing the power of entrepreneurial journalists. The establishment of the labs will help do that by making content--and more importantly, sales--arrangements with those entrepreneurial journalists.

We will use the labs to essentially bring community people and organizations in and discuss how we can work together on content. We will carry their content and vice versa. We will bring our sales and marketing relationships to the table in order to drive sales for both them and us. Under the deals we will strike, they can sell our space and vice versa. There will be rules of the road, of course, but by doing this we will be widening our news gathering capabilities, our sales abilities and our audience. And so will the entrepreneurial journalists.

Q. You've been something of an evangelist for the so-called "link economy," a term I think confuses some other publishers. Could you give a specific example or two of how you put that into place at impreMedia, and how it might work at JRC?

A. I don't think the term--coined by Jeff Jarvis, the author of What Would Google Do?--confuses other publishers. I think they don't like what it stands for.

The "link economy" means you have to be open to working with what used to be called the competition. And by competition, I don't just mean other media companies but also those folks we used to call the audience as well. A lot of newspaper editors and publishers like the comfort of a closed shop where they dictate to the audience. They are not comfortable in making the audience and competitors partners.

At impreMedia we struck partnerships with everyone from MySpace and AOL to ESPN, to name a few. More importantly, we harnessed the power of bloggers and our audience to get deeply hyperlocal by creating the Community E-Journalism Labs I talked about. We also opened up discussions with companies like Outside. In and SeeClickFix to be part of the ecosystem on local news.

At JRC we will do all that plus expand our discussions to exciting ideas like Jay Rosen's and Daylife. By doing what we do best and linking to the rest, we can re-allocate resources to create more compelling, in-depth and contextual journalism.
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Title Annotation:New haven
Author:Moynihan, Shawn
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Interview
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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