The Watertown Daily Times is located at 260 Washington St., Watertown, N.Y
“Don’t believe what you hear about the state of the newspaper business,” says John B. Johnson, VP & General Manager, Northern NY Newspaper Corp. – a division of Johnson Newspaper Corp., the owner of the Watertown Daily Times. “In our marketplace,” says Johnson, “we have a business that is revered and reviled by the same people. That’s great, they’ve engaged with us.”
Johnson believes that “creative, operationally disciplined” managers are needed now in the newspaper business and that content is critical. “The core strength of a news organization is its content gathering and content creation,” says Johnson. Even though the newspaper had to make difficult cost-cutting decisions, it has had no editorial layoffs and has grown its newsroom staff. Bob Gorman, the Watertown Daily Times managing editor, describes the owners as hard-core news people who believe you “can’t have [strong] content without journalists.”
The Times was one of the first newspapers in the U.S. to have a website paywall, but Johnson says, the newspaper was too early and the paywall worked against them. A local news aggregator opened up in their region and stole some of their online business. They dropped their paywall, and now report the newspaper has eclipsed its competition.
Like all newspapers, The Times is looking for a profitable “pay to read,” total marketing strategy. For the future, Johnson envisions a diverse set of revenue streams, but now, even though the growth rate is good, they make “more in one month in ROP sales than a year in online” sales.
John B. Johnson, the fourth generation in a string of Johnsons (watch “The Story of the Newspaper”) left a corporate job at 3M to return to Watertown, N.Y., where he grew up. The younger Johnson wanted to work with his father, John B. Johnson, Jr., as a professional colleague, and to live in a setting where he can spend more time with his wife and three children. (Watch The Sequoyah (OK) County Times report: G.M. Jeff Mayo made a similar life move.)
Interactivity on the newspaper’s website is a hot-button issue. General Manager John B. Johnson thinks there’s “no need to control the comments,” while his Managing Editor, Bob Gorman, checks them carefully and holds the comments “to newspaper standards.”
-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle