This week I traveled to Orlando, where I was privileged to participate in the strategic planning session for the PaperChain group. Two national associations and state and regional groups created PaperChain as the branding, education and marketing arm of the Free Paper Industry. Along with 18 other industry professionals, including publishers and association executive directors, we mapped out a plan to create greater awareness and improved visibility for these publications built on the bedrock of the American entrepreneurial system.
Even with so many changes happening in the way communication companies operate, combined with the effects of changing technology and the struggling economy, the Free Paper Industry — primarily made up of privately owned local companies — has weathered the last four years very well. PaperChain was established to bring greater attention to the industry made up of small companies, like Denton Publications, that are built around the local economy. Though the companies are small, they together reach over 54 million homes in the United States and growing.
Independently operating small firms like these have typically been overshadowed by other traditional, highly-financed forms of media. But with declining circulations in the paid newspaper industry and a plethora of electronic options, the audited free paper industry continues to grow in acceptance, producing strong results for their customers. Since these publications have always had a strong focus on local news and information, they haven’t had to reinvent themselves to fit the changing information landscape. All they needed to do was continue doing what they’ve been doing for years. The success of these free publications has in many ways led to the circulation losses of many paid publications who focused so much attention on national, international and statewide news at the expense of a strong local component. As more daily publications were acquired by large corporate entities, they were willing to sacrifice local staff in return for a stronger bottom line.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.