After a very slow start, the news business in North Dakota is now making the digital transformation at warp speed.
In recent months we've read of some community weekly newspapers closing, but the announcement of the daily Dickinson Press moving to a weekly printed product with a daily digital or online product is the latest example of the quickening pace.
Many factors play into these business decisions, not the least of which is the changing reading habits of our readers. Digital-only readership of The Bismarck Tribune now stands at about 40% with a little more than half of that being paid subscribers. The difference in those numbers are readers who read our news via our app and Facebook, which is delivered without a subscription fee and paid for by digital advertisements.
Most of our subscribers have both digital and print access, but there is still a large number who prefer the printed version.
The good news for our readers, and print readers of the Dickinson Press, is that at The Bismarck Tribune we have press and production equipment that is newer, by industry standards, and which we continue to invest in.
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In October, for example, we completed a six figure electronics upgrade on our press controls system. Presses older than ours are generally not being upgraded because it doesn’t make economic sense. As other presses go silent we are in a position to take on other publications as printing clients.
As much as we may like to, we cannot accommodate all of them. The economics of transportation over great distance, and even harsh weather play into the equation in North Dakota.
It may come as a surprise to some readers that Bismarck is home to a regional mailing facility, located on the Expressway. This too helps us serve readers in south central and southwestern North Dakota, most of whom receive their printed newspaper via same day service when entered at the facility before about 3 a.m.
While we are taking on the production of the Dickinson Press, that work is limited to printing, inserting, labeling and mailing the product. We will not be involved in news writing, editing or design of the product. That work will remain with their talented and dedicated staff in Dickinson and Fargo.
While we will partner with the Dickinson Press to produce their publication, The Bismarck Tribune plans to aggressively pursue new readers in the greater Dickinson area via expanded retail sales locations, digital subscriptions and same-day mail service.
We will announce in the coming weeks and months our plans to not only provide the Dickinson area a daily paper, but one that has locally generated content.
Navigating the digital transformation is an everyday challenge, so we are thankful for this unique opportunity to grow both our reader and advertiser base around the region.
Gary Adkisson is publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.