Longtime publisher is a community newspaper expert
While an increasing number of newspapers have come and gone, and many continue to seek the ever-elusive formula for popular content, Julie Main has stood at the helm of San Diego Community Newspaper Group (SDCNG) for more than a quarter century, maintaining readership with a steady serving of hyperlocal news.
Her newspaper group covers San Diego’s most vibrant coastal areas with three community papers: La Jolla Village News, Beach & Bay Press and The Peninsula Beacon.
As publisher, she has proven herself a clever and resilient businesswoman by guiding SDCNG through good times and bad. The company rode a wave of extreme popularity through the 1990s, once publishing five newspapers and four magazines. SDCNG survived the ensuing downward spiral of print news, and today strives to add to its digital presence. The fact that SDCNG still maintains its top three papers and website, sdnews.com, is a tribute to Main’s ingenuity. There are many ways to fail, but Main continues to find ways to prosper. Throughout the years her papers have built a tradition of success, garnering numerous local, regional and national awards for editorial content, advertising design, promotions and general excellence.
Main describes her view of changes hitting the newspaper industry, and explains her outlook and tactics for the future.
NL:How has the community newspaper landscape changed since you started publishing papers in San Diego more than 25 years ago? JM: There is no question that the general newspaper landscape has changed. The 21st century is a blur of rapid fire technology that has changed the face of traditional news sources (mainly dailies and TV) for more instantaneous (digital) options. According to Pew Research, 50 percent of the public cited the Internet as their main source for regional and international news. This proved to be too much competition for dailies, big and small.
As bleak as that sounds for newspapers, these changes have not had the same drastic effect on community newspapers. We have found our local readers to be even more appreciative of having a news source providing local coverage.
NL:What sets your papers apart from your competition? JM: There is a growing number of the younger (local) population who would be interested in obtaining their local news via the Internet. We are aggressively working on our digital presence. We have to focus putting more of the news online first and the print product second. In other words, we are producing a reverse (print) edition. We are continuously adding news online as it comes to us, and publishing only the most important news and information in print.
NL:What is the biggest challenge you face as a publisher? JM: We have to re-educate our editorial staff to write according to the platform. The web allows us to get more and more in-depth information out to our readers (everywhere) but challenges our editors on how to condense the news to get as much in print as possible in less space. You’ll see shorter versions in print with links to read more online, for example. We are continually educating ourselves on the best use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media options. NL:What new things are you implementing these days? JM: New, younger talent! If you want to reach out to the younger audience, then hire accordingly. There are a lot of talented up and coming journalists who know what and how to appeal to this audience. I think this new generation is more interested in knowing what is going on around them than the last two generations.
It’s an exciting time for journalists and newspapers. We have so many more options at hand now than ever before to get news out to our readers. We’ve seen a new resurgence of interest by young investors buying and reinventing dailies.
I don’t think print will go away entirely, but we must be diligent in understanding our audience and demographics.