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Upstate NY Newspapers Strive To Survive

The internet age has presented opportunity and challenges to newspapers.  It's a new era for several regional publications.

In the past decade we've seen newspapers come and go; the void created by the demise of Albany's popular Metroland weekly filled by two new tabloids that have embraced particular components of the defunct paper, essentially splitting the readership . In 2010, the Watershed Post appeared. That came at a critical time for Delaware, Schoharie, Greene and Ulster counties, which saw a tropical storm and two hurricanes. But the outlet faltered early this year when the team that launched the online news site discovered they couldn't compete for advertising dollars with Facebook and Google.

In Rensselaer County, the Petersburgh-based Eastwick Press has struggled to stay afloat, and at one point was on the verge of shutdown. Editor and publisher Alex Brooks tried desperately to find someone to take over.   "...and I announced publicly that I was gonna stop publishing. But now it turns out that my head reporter, Doug La Rocque, has managed to get enough backing from the community to help him re-organize it and go back in to publication."

In 2015 three of its journalists purchased the long-running Altamont Enterprise, still going strong at newsstands and online. Now Brooks has kept the Eastwick Press on the rails.    "You have to energetic about continuing to promote the paper and to sell advertising and so on, and I think the response will be there. We're gonna start publishing again July 14th."

With La Rocque at the helm, Brooks will devote his time to the online aspect of the paper.   Meantime, over in the vicinity of Greene and Columbia counties, a batch of news weeklies managed to survive long enough to meld into a new website that intends to become the "go-to online destination for news and events in the Hudson Valley."   Mark Vinciguerra is the publisher of Columbia-Greene Media. It includes The Hudson Register-Star, Daily Mail, Ravena News-Herald, Windham Journal and Chatham Courier, which all be accessible at HudsonValley360-dot-com.   "We absolutely believe in good local journalism. We're hiring reporters. Our newsrooms, we've made some modifications. But we're really trying to do what I call modern journalism. From the user's standpoint it's gonna have faster downloads, the navigation's a lot easier, and more importantly for our journalists, it's going to be publish once, publish anywhere type of situation. We were able to really help shape what this looks like and some of the functionality. I just think it's gonna be a much better user experience, and probably a much better advertiser experience too."

Vinciguerra adds new technology will allow for more creative multimedia storytelling, expected to attract and engage visitors to the printed page, as well as the website, widening readership beyond current numbers.   "Our percentage of visitors are 54 percent female, 46 percent male. The percentage of people coming from various age groups, basically, we have about 15 percent of our traffic is 65 years old or older, everything else is younger than that. Online anyway, it tends to be a younger reader, more affluent and more female. For us, the number one area that people come from is Hudson, and right after that is New York metro, and then the third largest traffic geographic source is Albany."

Although the internet has become the go-to source for news for people all around the globe, in upstate New York the publishers of Columbia-Greene Media and the Eastwick Press believe their strategies will keep their publications alive in a world where the printed page has been dropping in popularity.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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