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News site is launched as biweekly newspaper

WestSideTodayPicAs today’s media landscape has adjusted to the constant flux of the industry, most attention has focused on the digital side of business. Print publications have struggled to remain relevant, so it’s always a surprise when a publisher takes a digital product to paper. But that’s what happened last week when Los Angeles-based Westsidetoday.com was launched as a newspaper to supplement its online offerings. TJ Montemer, who purchased the site in October, spoke to inVocus about the launch and why he felt it was necessary.

Q: What made you decide to launch a print edition of Westside Today?

TM: I believe that you cannot have a fully functional community media resource unless you incorporate the three major mediums: Print, Digital, Video.  Launching a biweekly print version of Westsidetoday.com, called “Westsidetoday.com,” was essential to striving for the above functionality.

Q: Are you worried about the state of print newspapers and how that will impact Westside Today?

TM: Not at all. People think newspapers are dying…well, only the big boys are dying, or big Metro Dailies. Community newspapers are thriving.  Warren Buffett, who is not known for making poor investments, invested in newspapers with very specific criteria — it is community-oriented, smaller population/DMA, no competition.

When I was part of a deal team that bought the Tampa Tribune newspaper, which originally was part of Media General, Buffett bought 91 of 92 print entities from MG, and left Tampa. Well, once I got there, I realized why working a major daily is a pain in the… and there isn’t enough market share to build anything to be excited about on a business perspective. In fact, their largest room for growth on a print level was in community and that was it. Things may have changed since I ended my contract with them, but [I] highly doubt it. With the Tribune numbers posted today, I’m going to assume most big metro dailies are counting their days.

Q: Was there a demand from your audience for a print paper?

TM: Nope, I didn’t talk to a single soul.  However, I don’t need to talk to people to know the audience is stratified in how they consume their information.  I know one thing — if you neglect a certain medium, you are neglecting a certain portion of your audience.  With that theory, making the decision to move to print was pretty easy.

Q: Is it coming out on a weekly or daily basis?

TM: Biweekly, hopefully weekly in the future if the revenue is there. Daily in my mind would be suicide…

Q: Does it have much competition in the way of print papers covering the same area?

TM: There is competition, yes.  But competition is what makes us all better.

 Q: Will the main focus still be on the digital product? How will the digital product and print product differ?

TM: The main focus is providing the best community media resource for the Westside. I don’t compare the two things, because they are so different in nature. The digital product is now, today, this instant. Furthermore, we are so heavy in video, that we can do things you just can’t do in paper.  The newspaper will be more an aggregate of news, but will focus mostly on stuff that is NOT timely and more features.  In fact, our main news section of Westsidetoday.com is a double truck of about 18 to 24 stories, about three to four sentences long, touching the surface of stories…the basics, Who, What, Where, When, Why…and that’s it.  So not a lot of in depth stuff in there.

I look at Westsidetoday.com the newspaper, as walking a fine line between community news and an alternative newspaper.

Q: How has your community received the launch?

TM: A bit early to tell. Not sure yet. I have heard a few people tell me that it was needed and that it is a nice product. I think time will tell. I know advertisers have taken a liking to it…which is a nice thing.

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