Newspaper Family Embraces Digital Age

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 6, 2017 | Go to article overview

Newspaper Family Embraces Digital Age


Byline: Ed Russo The Register-Guard

Tyler Mack shows up at The Register-Guard/RG Media Company motivated by the challenge of his work, though not just for business reasons.

Mack, a fourth-generation member of the Baker family of Eugene, is digital solutions director at the newspaper and media company.

Mack, 36, and seven other relatives work at the family-owned business, all engaged in various ways to help the company transition from its newspaper roots to 21st century digital platforms.

"I enjoy the challenge and look forward to every chance I have to tell local readers and advertisers how The Register-Guard has changed, and what's new and what's next," he said.

This issue of Blue Chip contains profiles of other longtime Lane County family-owned businesses, including Eugene Toy & Hobby, restaurateur Cordy Jensen, and Springfield Creamery, the maker of Nancy's Yogurt.

The Register-Guard/RG Media Company this year is celebrating 90 years of ownership by the Baker family. Alton Baker Sr. moved with his wife and young children from Cleveland to Eugene when he purchased the Eugene Guard in 1927. He merged it with the Morning Register in 1930.

The roots of the companies go back even farther - 150 years. The Eugene Guard newspaper began publishing in 1867. For more on the history and anniversary celebration, visit registerguard.com/150.

Since the Baker family acquisitions, the newspaper has provided news, commentary, features and sports coverage for generations of Lane County readers. Along the way, the newspaper survived the Depression, numerous recessions and competition for advertising revenue from radio and television stations.

But, now, as it approaches a century of Baker family ownership, the business is facing its most crucial test.

Like other newspaper companies, The Register-Guard faces pressure from declining circulation and advertising revenue. Younger readers are not subscribing to the newspaper like older readers have.

Advertising has shifted away from printed newspaper ads in favor of online ads, accessible by computers and mobile devices. And firms that advertise are increasingly using their own websites and social media to reach potential customers.

But Alton "Tony" Baker III, the Register-Guard's former editor and publisher, says the media company is bolstering efforts so it remains Lane County's main news and information provider in the years ahead.

The company's website, registerguard.com, is available worldwide 24 hours a day, he noted.

"When we were print only, we'd drop the paper on your doorstep by 6 a.m., every 24 hours," Baker said. "Today, we still drop that paper on your doorstep by 6 a.m., but we're also available with news and information 24/7."

With average weekday circulation of 39,250 and 42,300 on Sundays, The Register-Guard is the largest circulation seven-day home delivery newspaper in Oregon. Baker said.

Nearly 3,000 digital subscribers pay for access to the company's electronic edition and to registerguard.com.

The website draws more than 650,000 monthly visitors. Facebook and Twitter bring thousands of readers to registerguard.com every day.

The company is generating new sources of revenue, including from commercial printing, Baker said. "We print the Salem Statesman Journal seven days a week because we have additional capacity on our press," he said.

But technology-driven initiatives are the company's focus, Baker said.

"We've worked mightily in the last six to seven years to beef up our own digital presence and expertise with our own website," he said.

Mack said The Register-Guard's digital audience is growing with higher usage of mobile apps, such as RG News and Duck Sports, and interaction with social media and email newsletters.

Even though the company charges for full access to its content, "we still have been able to maintain a steady traffic flow of loyal subscribers, as well as less frequent readers who look at content without paying," he said. …

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