As Journal Community Publishing Group looks back over its 40-year history, beginning with the founding of Add Inc. in 1972, its greatest challenges have developed in the last decade.
Newspapers have experienced two recessions in the first decade of the 21st century and a major shift in technology that directly affects the industry.
Since the advent of the Internet and the explosion in mobile devices, a growing number of news readers have shifted from print to online sources.
JCPG has responded to 21st century challenges through consolidation, online products and a reaffirmation of its business values.
After three decades of rapid expansion, JCPG began focusing its efforts in Wisconsin. In the summer of 2007, JCPG sold its papers in Ohio, Louisiana, Connecticut and Vermont. Publications in Florida were sold in 2011.
At the same time, JCPG would expand its presence in Wisconsin. In October 2007, JCPG purchased the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, followed by the acquisition of the Iola Herald and the Manawa Advocate in January 2008 and Waupaca Publishing Co. in October 2008.
Six Waupaca County newspapers were then combined into two products, the County Post West that covers Waupaca, Weyauwega, Fremont, Iola and Scandinavia; and the County Post East that covers New London, Clintonville and Manawa.
Currently, JCPG has a total of 32 Wisconsin publications with a total circulation of more than 390,000. Headquartered in Waupaca, JCPG also has offices in New London, Clintonville, Rhinelander, Marshfield, Merrill, Hartland, Jefferson and Mukwonago. JCPG’s total revenues are projected to reach $22 million in 2012.
“Despite the many changes in our industry over the last four years, Journal Community Publishing Group is still a very strong player within our industry,” said Terry Lodewegen. “We still continue to be a driving force within our area.”
Lodewegen, who became JCPG’s northern Wisconsin group publisher in the spring of 2009, said there will always be a need to connect buyers and sellers, whether it’s online or in print.
“We continue to focus on delivering a print product with hyperlocal content while expanding our footprint online,” Lodewegen said. “Before, we used to reach beyond the local market. Now, we’re placing more emphasis in being really strong in the local market rather than broadcasting all over the place.”
Lodewegen said that over the past few years, all of JCPG’s Wisconsin newspapers have upgraded and changed the appearance of their websites. This has resulted in growing readership and revenues.
“Our overall challenge will be to find new products that our readers want and that our advertisers want, whether it’s print or online,” Lodewegen said.
Steven Smith is chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president of Journal Communications, JCPG’s parent company.
In addition to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and JCPG’s community newspapers, shoppers and magazines, Journal Communications’s broadcasting division owns TV and radio stations throughout the country.
“I think the transition and evolution to digital is probably the largest change,” said Smith, who has been with Journal for 36 years. “We have seen a proliferation of communication tools, and we have seen more competition, but what hasn’t changed is the relationship of the brand to the local community.”
Smith said JCPG’s philosophy of constantly developing new ways to build relationships with the local community can be traced back to Add Inc.’s founder, Tom Karavakis.
“Tom is an example of the classic entrepreneur,” Smith said. “When he managed Add Inc., he asked his managers in all those different markets to be entrepreneurs with him. When he met with his managers, he would ask them, ‘What are you doing that’s new, that will generate more interest in the community?'”
Smith said Karavakis encouraged creativity in the company.
“He built trust, and he built talent,” Smith said. “He let people do their work and grow within the company.”
Smith said the core values that made Add Inc. successful remain relevant in the digital era.
“You need to look at your readers and ascertain how you can gain their attention and serve them,” Smith said. “You have to look at what your local community is all about and provide relevant content.”
Smith said the Journal’s vision for all its media is to be recognized in each community “as the most committed and successful local media company in the market.”
Smith said this vision can be realized through integrity, excellence, determination and innovation.
“We constantly seek new ways to engage our audiences and our customers,” Smith said.