Legacy Case Study: Chattanooga Times Free Press

Smart phones, Wi-Fi accessibility and the growth of a social networking revolution underscore the growing awareness legacy organizations bear.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press is a legacy organization located in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Over the last decade, it’s made extensive adjustments and shifts in its approach to meeting the demand of its readership.

Some of these adjustments appear to be part of the growth associated with the merger of the two local news publications, The Chattanooga Times and the Chattanooga Free Press.  In 1999, the two papers were purchased and merged to become what is now known as The Chattanooga Times Free Press (TFP).  A unique quality emerged as, to this day, the publication prints two editorial pages; one representing a liberal view while the other represents a conservative perspective.  This, combined with its journalist’s work garnered the attention of peers as the TFP was named by Editors & Publisher’s trade publication – as one of 10 newspapers “doing it right”.

Five years following the merger, the TFP launched its online presence which was only available to current subscribers.  At this time, this website only offered a few sections and links to those seeking online information.  Four years later, a redesign debuted with an emphasis on breaking news but added the components of video and multimedia to the online reader’s experience.

Nathan Gayle was on the redesign team.  Gayle witnessed quite a bit of the internal brainstorming and goal setting as management in news, sales and throughout the organization sought to keep up with the changing times.

Gayle says the organizations response to the changing media landscape came every time a manager returned from conference and with them, bringing a new way of doing things.

Just one example of this, “new way of doing things” line items would be the efforts to target the “boomers”.  Gayle says one initiative targeted the baby boomer demographic – pushing web stories and supplemental video out at “an alarming rate”.

Gayle says on the front in, coverage of stories about people doing normal things went on like business as usual.  However, the writing and the focus of the stories would be adjusted to target this one demographic.

Gayle adds, that the numbers and feedback indicated that not everyone in the readership appreciated being classified or covered under the “boomer” umbrella.  In addition to this initiative’s challenges – came the challenge of balancing the web with print to be relevant to both the target demographic of “boomers” and the youth market.

Around 2006, the Times Free Press hired a professional news videographer and editor, Christian Bruce.  In addition, it supplied its journalists with small video cameras to gather video elements while out in the field on their stories.  When a story hit the website, a reader could read the story, could listen to simple audio files (MP3) or be able to watch video from the event or interview.  In the field, the reporters found a new challenge in the gathering story elements and gathering video.  Among peers in a press box, some of these traditional print journalists admitted the burden of this added task as well as frustration of shooting video without the true expertise of videography.

Eventually, it appears the video requirement may have gone away as the frequency these print journalists were seen lugging the extra gear, subsided.  In 2009, TFP’s Publisher and General Manager, Jason Taylor shared  his thoughts via video on the publication’s growth since the merger as well as its efforts to expand to different platforms.

Today, visible adjustments are seen in the print and one the web as headlines or section names occasionally mimic that of text message abbreviations.  There is now a “2-minute read” section offering those seeking a brief look at the latest news can find it quickly.  For those seeking a quick audio/video experience, there is also a short online, one anchor news read accessible to those with the streaming capability.

There are many facets to the ‘keeping-up’ aspects to technological advancements for print media, legacy institutions.  While the TFP was the first of Chattanooga’s news media to engage on social media by sharing and having conversations (via Twitter) – its greatest transformation and evolution exists in and ON its online presence.


One thought on “Legacy Case Study: Chattanooga Times Free Press

  1. Carrie Brown says:

    Interesting, good insights. Video has actually been bringing in both viewers and revenue at places like the WSJ but haven’t seen any numbers for smaller papers.

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