Forum Communications Co. invests in Twin PortsPeople who prefer their morning paper in hand can rest easy in the Twin Ports and surrounding communities — print isn’t going away any time soon.
By: By Candace Renalls/Duluth News Tribune , Superior Telegram
People who prefer their morning paper in hand can rest easy in the Twin Ports and surrounding communities — print isn’t going away any time soon.
That was cinched Thursday when Forum Communications Company, the regional newspaper chain that owns the News Tribune, Duluth Budgeteer News, Superior Telegram, Cloquet Pine Journal, Lake County News-Chronicle and Northland Smart Shoppers ordered a new state-of-the-art Goss newspaper press, a $2.67 million investment that should be up and running by the end of September.
For readers, that means the newspapers will continue in print for years to come. By October, they’ll see better print quality, higher-resolution pictures and more color throughout the paper.
“It’s a big commitment to print,” said Lloyd Case, Forum’s president and CEO. “We invest a lot of money in the digital side, too — in people, software and designs — so we do both. We can grow both. We do believe print is here for a long time, and we’re not going to give up on that.”
News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall echoed the pledge.
“We have strong print circulation, and we expect it to keep growing,” Browall said. “We expect online to continue to grow but not at the expense of print. It’s a commitment to the print product, to Duluth, to the market we serve.”
The News Tribune also is investing in a new production center.
The new press can’t be installed in the newspaper’s downtown building while running the current press. And the site at 424 W. First St. is no longer conducive for the big tractor-trailers that use the rear alley for pickups and deliveries. So last week, Forum closed on the purchase of Bernick’s Beverages former distribution center at 4305 Airpark Blvd. in Duluth.
The 35,000-square-foot site is 10 years old and move-in ready. It has the multiple loading docks, large garage doors and the space for big trucks to load and unload that the newspaper needs in not only a production plant but also a distribution center, at a cost of $1.6 million.
A second press — a used one from another Forum newspaper also will be brought to the new production plant to boost printing capacity further. More than one newspaper could be printed at a time, and other commercial print jobs could be taken on to boost newspaper revenues.
The News Tribune prints all Forum Communications newspapers in the region in addition to other publications including the Hermantown Star, UMD Statesman and North Shore Journal.
With some parts of the News Tribune’s current press 60 years old and better-quality printing expected today, a new press is needed, Browall said.
“The press has reached the end of its lifespan,” he said. “There’s a lot of used presses in the country, but we’ve made a commitment to buy a new press because we’re looking to the future.”
Besides better print quality and sharper pictures, color on every page will be possible. The new press will be more efficient and save on production costs. And the newspaper could be printed faster. The News Tribune now prints 18,000 to 20,000 copies an hour. With the new Goss press, it could print 30,000 copies an hour, said Production Director Mike Farmer.
“We might not need to run that fast, but we can if we want to,” he said.
Forum Communications’ investment is even greater than the cost of a new press and building. Add on the additional production equipment needed, expense of moving in and installing a second press and myriad other costs, and the investment reaches $5 million to $7 million, Case said.
That’s the biggest capital investment Forum is making this year in any of its newspapers, Case said, adding that it was time to invest more in Duluth.
“Every year, Forum Communications invests a certain amount of profits back into the company,” Case said. “We just believe newspapers are here to stay. We’re going to continue to invest in our properties and provide our employees with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. That’s our philosophy.”
Tom Slaughter, executive director of the Inland Press Association, is impressed.
“It is a remarkable investment and a sign that the company believes in its core product so much so that they’re willing to make this kind of investment,” said Slaughter, whose organization has 1,200 newspaper members.
And it comes as more and more newspapers are outsourcing their printing, paying someone else to do it, he said.
“So it’s a big deal,” he said.