<> Gazette publisher diversifies company to keep it strong | The Daily Gazette
 

Subscriber login

Business

Gazette publisher diversifies company to keep it strong

Outlook

Gazette publisher diversifies company to keep it strong

DeAugustine has added multiple units to support the journalism
Gazette publisher diversifies company to keep it strong
Gazette Publisher John DeAugustine discusses a new business venture by the newspaper's owners
Photographer: Peter Barber

SCHENECTADY — There’s an old saying in the newspaper business: You’re supposed to report the news, not be the news.

We do follow that model in The Daily Gazette newsroom, but let’s take a pause to look at the business of running the company.

The family-owned publication dates to 1894, and is one of the oldest businesses in Schenectady. Longevity notwithstanding, it has had to adapt its business model at a rapid pace in recent years to keep up with changes in the media landscape that have altered the size and source of its revenue streams. 

Publishers nationwide have reduced their workforces and shrunk their print editions as advertising and subscription revenue decrease in the face of competition from digital media. And yet, even in the era of instant communication via social media, newspapers and their broadcast counterparts retain an important role as independent watchdogs and trusted sources of accurate information.

John DeAugustine, 51, of Saratoga Springs, came on as publisher of The Gazette in 2013. He is now also president of the company.

He gave an overview of the changes the company has undertaken in his nearly seven years here, among which are adding a delivery business; acquiring a sign-making franchise; increasing contract printing on a new printing press; renting out empty space in the headquarters building; starting an events business; and acquiring three newspapers in Montgomery and Fulton counties.

Notice that most of those initiatives are not journalistic. They aren't a move away from journalism, DeAugustine explains, but are a way to diversify the revenue stream.

“The Daily Gazette is a journalism company. Our goal is to build the communities we serve through outstanding local journalism and marketing tools. We know that our business is going to see consistent change and disruption over the next few years. Because the model is so much in flux.” 

The company prints nearly 30,000 copies of The Daily Gazette each day and delivers the same news digitally on its website or via email. It also maintains social media streams with headlines and links to stories on dailygazette.com

Some subscribers want just the print edition, some want just the online product and some want both.

“The cost structure around delivering a multiplatform news source is ever-changing," said DeAugustine. "The revenue that you can generate from that is also changing. So we need to make sure that we can consistently deliver that great journalism, even if there are some bumps in the road or quick changes to our [balance sheet] because of this rapidly changing way our consumer wants to receive that journalism.”

DIVERSIFIED REVENUE

So there has been diversification at The Gazette, with employees and managers outside the newsroom undertaking roles that would seem to have no obvious connection to traditional journalism. But reporting and delivering the news of the day has important synergies with dropping off a package or printing a sign.

“The thing we realized is that we’re a very powerful marketing source. So when we buy a sign company, we market that sign company through our media company. When we buy a logistics company and we need to hire truck drivers, we utilize the delivery people and the expertise we have here. It’s not the same people driving, but the core expertise to build those routes is here and we use our marketing sources to recruit the drivers, which is very difficult. When we have an event, we market our events through our marketing resources.”

If the advertising revenue in the newspaper is light one quarter, or if circulation dips, the revenue from these other businesses can fill the gap. And they all share the same back-office support team, so there’s no need to duplicate expensive personnel and infrastructure.

More from Outlook 2020

“We’re building these businesses around the journalism. We’re allowing the newspapers to bring customers or employees to these businesses and then we’re feeding money back into the journalism, creating this ecosystem that could survive anywhere in the United States,” DeAugustine said.

The newest Gazette business is DG Logistics, which runs a FedEx delivery territory east of Schenectady as an independent service provider out of the FedEx hub in East Greenbush. 

There’s a bit of irony in this and it’s not lost on DeAugustine: As local retailers have suffered loss of sales to online retailers, newspapers have suffered loss of revenue because local retailers are buying fewer print advertisements. Now, The Gazette is making money by delivering items sold by those same online retailers.

But again, there’s that synergy, and a very relevant institutional heritage.

“People want things delivered to their houses," said DeAugustine. "We’ve been delivering newspapers to people’s houses for 125 years. FedEx is a market leader in that space and we can get into it.”

DeAugustine expects to acquire additional FedEx routes by the end of 2020.

“It’s about a million dollars in revenue that we’re bringing in to The Gazette and it’s just our first toe in the water. We hope to continue to grow that. We love that business. FedEx is an outstanding partner. They’re a well-oiled machine.”

THREE MORE NEWSPAPERS

Around the same time as it started DG Logistics, The Gazette acquired three newspapers: The Recorder in Amsterdam, the Courier-Standard-Enterprise in Canajoharie and The Fulton County Express. This doubled the roster of print titles for the company, which publishes The Gazette and two free weekly newspapers that DeAugustine launched several years ago: Your Clifton Park & Halfmoon and Your Niskayuna.

The Clifton Park and Niskayuna weeklies are not huge revenue streams. But they were launched in an era when very few new print newspapers are being created and they do turn a profit, which is a rare combination. DeAugustine considers that a significant achievement, and one that furthers the company’s vision of providing marketing and journalism to communities.

The Gazette’s newly acquired titles in Montgomery and Fulton counties are smaller newspapers serving an area with a smaller population. But they, too, further the company’s goal of community journalism.

And here again, there’s that synergy with The Gazette’s other businesses.

“We’re going to sell signs in Amsterdam, we hope to deliver packages in Amsterdam, we hope to do events in Amsterdam. That’s the plan: Local newspaper, build companies around it, support the local journalism so that we can build a model that’s sustainable for the next 125 years.”

The events business is at once less obvious and more visible than some of The Gazette’s other endeavors. It’s not something delivered to your door like a newspaper or FedEx package, but it brings together thousands of people at a time and is an important part of the company’s profile in the communities it serves.

“The events business is a great business for The Gazette. We just did our bridal show. It’s the premier bridal show in the region, thousands of people. We have 140 vendors there,” DeAugustine said.

Other highlights include the Home Show and Living Expo, both hosted in 2019 by Rivers Casino, and the citywide yard sale.

“Then we also have the holiday parade that we manage in Schenectady — 17,000 people, 120 floats, sponsors, it’s just a monster event. It’s a really wonderful synergy because our readers love these events and we market the events through our products.”

PART OF THE COMMUNITY

Some Gazette initiatives are not intended as sources of revenue for the company, but as investments in the community that supports the company.

“Live-In Schenectady, we’re a firm believer in that," said DeAugustine. "It’s affordable housing for working-class citizens in Schenectady. Schenectady is growing. It’s just such a great place to be, so we were very excited to be part of that. 

“The Smart Cities initiative, that’s not a moneymaker for The Gazette. That’s because we believe in smart cities, we believe in the free Wi-Fi for citizens. No one’s doing that now. It’s an outstanding program and it’s going to do more for the citizens of Schenectady than I think we can even imagine right now. So I’m super-excited about being part of that.”

One of the metrics by which the company’s owners measure the success of the newspaper (and of DeAugustine) is impact on the community. So that type of involvement will continue indefinitely.

All of those things — printing competitors’ newspapers under contract, managing parades, creating slick signs and graphics — are part of the larger picture. At the top of DeAugustine’s priority list is creating a great news product.

“The thing I’m most excited about is the journalism we’re producing every day. I believe that [Editor] Miles Reed has really zeroed in on the key stakes in the ground that we’re going to cover on a daily basis. And when you go to our website in the morning or you open that print product, I think we deliver a consistently strong product. And we cover the things we commit to cover. I consistently see that we’re picking the best stories, the most meaningful stories and we’re covering them in a way that our readers understand.”

More from Outlook 2020

There are news developments that don’t get covered and news that is covered in a way that some people don’t like. In either circumstance, DeAugustine might get an earful from a politician or business owner as a result. He welcomes these complaints, even if he doesn’t agree with them, because it means the community is engaged and knows it can reach out to the newspaper.

“That’s what we do, we support this community, and we’re not always going to make everyone happy. But I think that those people and everybody here understands the need for local journalism. 

“Journalism now is under attack from a lot of different areas. I think sometimes people take this national [‘fake news’] narrative and they try to apply it to local journalism, and it really has nothing to do with what we’re doing on a daily basis. There’s no hidden agendas here. We cover what’s most important to readers. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of that passionate team that goes out every day.”

View Comments
Hide Comments
0 premium 1 premium 2 premium 3 premium article articles remaining SUBSCRIBE TODAY
Thank you for reading. You have reached your 30-day premium content limit.
Continue to enjoy Daily Gazette premium content by becoming a subscriber or if you are a current print subscriber activate your online access.