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Watertown Daily Times, Changing With the Times: Part 4

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Watertown Daily Times, Changing With the Times: Part 3
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Watch Part 5 of the series.

WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- Before John Johnson returned to Watertown, he had a great family, a great home, and a great job. But, the draw of helping the Watertown Daily Times through a troubling time was something he needed to do.

"I don't know what the answer is. All I know is that I'm a young guy. I'm 43. I didn't move to Watertown to preside over a decline so we're going to look for areas to make the business stronger and help the business grow," said John B. Johnson, the CEO and co-publisher of the Watertown Daily Times.

Not much is off the table, except a scenario that sees the paper cut back on days it provides news.

"We are committed to production of daily journalism. We will use every reasonable platform to accomplish that," said John Johnson, the chairman of the board for the Watertown Daily Times.

However, the best way to do that depends on who you ask. Steve Davis, the chair of Syracuse's Newhouse Newspaper and Online Journalism department, said the printed paper is dying.

"It may come in a couple of waves. It may come in slightly different times depending on the market, but I don't see a model where the printed newspaper will persist," said Davis.

Just because it's how he sees it, doesn't mean it's a good thing, especially as papers and other organizations continue to tighten the budget and see long-time employees go with it.

"Can quality news be provided by smaller and smaller digital news organizations who's staff are less and less experienced?" said Davis.

He said there will come a time for the community to realize it's getting essentially what it asked for.

"We're going to reach a day where more of us will realize, 'Gee, we really lost something there.' I'm concerned whether or not we'll recoup that in these new models or not," Davis said.

Like it or not, it's happening. The path the Watertown Daily Times takes will likely include a printed and delivered paper, but that extent depends on many factors.

"Everything is possible. Am I going to go buy a new printing press? No," said Harold Johnson, the president and co-publisher of the Watertown Daily Times.

Johnson does think printing and delivering papers will happen there for a long time. However, there are opportunities to cut down down costs, especially on slower news days like a Sunday.

"So you look at Monday and you say are we better off from a business perspective having a Monday print product or are we better off putting those resources into an extraordinarily strong and robust Monday breaking news and online product?," said Johnson.

Cutting the days of print and/or delivery is an experiment that's been tried in cities like Syracuse, Cleveland and New Orleans with mixed results.

"It hasn't been as much of a success in New Orleans, but they did it in Ann Arbor, Michigan and it was very successful," said Johnson Jr.

As much as the focus can be on cutting costs, it's important to remember just about everything is on the table, including new ways to use what it already has to keep interest and revenue growing.

"He blew up the magazine. He rebuilt it. A new look and feel and all of a sudden it just exploded. It was excellent," said Johnson.

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