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Record changes.

Record Changes

The Daily Record Makes Format, Content Changes Hoping To Boost Circulation

The Daily Record is not a publication that has gripping cover photos or startling headlines. What is does have are:

Lists and lists of court proceedings.

Corporation and bankruptcy filings.

Listings of births and marriage licenses, to a name a few.

But it caught readers' attention May 1 when it altered its style and reformatted its news.

Before the changes, Publisher William F. Rector Jr. says, "Unless you saw the date, you couldn't tell what issue it was."

Now there's specific, targeted news to generate interest -- and subscriptions.

The publication features real estate news on Tuesdays, new business reports on Wednesdays, credit news on Thursdays, law reports on Fridays and weekly reviews on Saturdays.

Welcome to the new Daily Record.

This is the second revamping The Daily Record has undergone since Rector purchased the paper in March 1987. (Rector is an almost 50 percent shareholder of Business Information Group Inc., which owns the paper.)

The paper was "everything but dead" before then, says Rector.

The most color the paper saw was in its founder, John F. Wells.

"John was a crusty old bastard," says Rector, "and he probably would be proud to be called such."

While The Daily Record was noted for its detail, Wells wasn't known for keeping records.

An attempted sale of the paper in 1985 for $35,000 ended in a lawsuit, and Wells eventually had to take a $100 bill to the printer each day his paper was published because his credit was so bad.

Rector, who negotiated a contract for $25,000 two months before Wells died in a car accident, paid the printing bills to keep the paper in circulation until Wells' estate allowed him to purchase the paper.

While circulation hasn't increased significantly since Rector purchased the paper -- it's gone from 370 to 500 paid subscriptions -- Rector says the paper now is poised to do more than just break even because of a new data base system.

In January 1990, Rector began converting the paper's electronic entries to the data base system, and that operation quickly has grown to 25 percent of his business.

Rector says the data base is on its way to being a money-maker, and he is concentrating on increasing subscriptions and making The Daily Record profitable as well.

Selling Point

Except for some customers sitting at the eatery on the first floor of the Main Street Market, the three floors below The Daily Record's fourth floor office are lifeless.

A picture from Urbi et Orbi, the art gallery that was one of a slew of shops Rector leased when he developed Main Street Mall (now Main Street Market), hangs in his office and is now just a remnant of the failed complex.

The bustle of activity at The Daily Record -- the brightly lit, spacious offices house seven employees who type on computers and talk on phones -- contrasts sharply to the mall.

Rector took the role of publisher in January 1990 when he decided to concentrate on rejuvenating The Daily Record after Main Street Mall went into a highly publicized and painful foreclosure.

While a 1989 business plan called for the paper to build its subscription list, then begin a data base system, Rector felt it made more sense to start with the data base first.

Rector converted information to the data base then printed lists and put them directly into the paper. While this system is convenient for formatting the paper, more importantly, it's a business of its own.

Sales almost have doubled in the last year because of the date base, but Rector says no matter how much he develops the data base, there will always be a need for The Daily Record.

"It's the pulse of what's going on," says Rector. "You've got to keep up with all of it."

Rector includes information in The Daily Record that the casual reader would want, but leaves out more specific information for the data base.

For instance he leaves off social security numbers on bankruptcy filings, but makes the numbers available through the data base.

"We do things that no other people do," says Rector. "What would you do without The Daily Record?"

Dry But Not Dead

While the data base serves a distinct purpose, Rector admits The Daily Record is fairly dry reading, so he and business manager Rick Tilley deliberately are creating a more readable format.

"We are developing patterns for readers and advertisers," says Rector.

Small but significant changes are evident, such as putting the names of buyers and sellers in deed listings in boldface. Document numbers used to be boldfaced, but for no real purpose.

Rector and Tilley asked themselves and their readers, "How does this need to be presented?" and "What do people want to know?"

And they found out.

"I called them and thanked them for doing it," says Gary Hopper, the No. 1 sales representative at Storer Cable.

Hopper uses the new resident listings for sales leads. The names used to be listed in alphabetical order but now are listed according to zip code.

"I couldn't believe how much time it saved me," says Hopper.

Stylistic changes also have been made in an attempt to give The Daily Record a sharper image.

A sky box in the top left-hand corner of the paper touts the coverage of the day, and a blank space in the right-hand corner provides space for the address sticker, which used to cover up part of the banner.

Rector says, "It's hard to get a reaction in this business until you really tick somebody off," but he's hoping the changes will be a catalyst for eventually reaching 2,000 subscribers.

Promotions are planned, such as offering a cellular phone for $49.95 with each new annual subscription to snag new customers.

Physical changes and advertising promotions will be coupled with content changes that Rector hopes also will boost sales.

Several months ago, the paper began publishing the Pulaski County Bar Association's weekly newsletter, and that increased circulation to 2,000 on Fridays.

Rector and Tilley are working to create a money-making machine in The Daily Record.

Rector says he expects to make "at least as much as I'm used to making in real estate. That's pretty good business."

PHOTO : SETTING THE RECORD: Publisher William F. Rector Jr. and business manager Rick Tilley talk in The Daily Record offices about changes they implemented in the paper May 1 and the new goals they've set.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Daily Record changes publication format
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 13, 1991
Previous Article:More money.
Next Article:Cash crunch, divorce court and heart surgery.

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