ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany Herald has entered into a new printing agreement with Gannett Co. that will result in a reduction in the newspaper's press and mailroom departments.
John Hetzler, publisher of The Herald, said the loss of jobs was regrettable, but the economic climate forced the newspaper to take a hard look at its business and make a major adjustment to allow it to continue to compete in the marketplace.
"We can see no other way to do this other than to fundamentally change our business model," Hetzler said. "In the future, we will have to rely more heavily on revenue from Internet advertising in addition to our traditional print."
The agreement will result in The Herald being printed at the Tallahassee Democrat, which Herald officials expect to improve the reproduction quality of the newspaper. The expected start date is Oct. 25.
"As with most every business in America today, The Herald is committed to adapting to societal and economic changes," Scott H. Brooks, The Herald's director of sales and marketing, said. "That's what's happening now. Improving the quality of our products, the efficiencies of our business model and meeting the needs of our advertisers are driving these important changes.
"As a result, we will be out soon with a variety of newer, better products for both readers and advertisers."
The Herald's offset press was installed in 1977 and the adverse economic climate has made investments and upgrades to that press unfeasible. The only realistic way to improve the quality of the print product was to move to another facility, Hetzler said.
"Aging equipment, both in the press and inserting department, and the high costs of replacing this equipment was unrealistic for a small business like ours, plus there are the high costs of repair to maintain the aging equipment," Director of Operations Lynn Ridder said.
Ridder said the move will result in an "improved quality of reproduction" and enable The Herald "to use a better quality of paper at a lower price than a small paper can purchase, along with all the other materials and supplies required for printing a newspaper."
The change will reduce the newspaper's payroll, facilities and maintenance costs to help it remain competitive financially.
"The Albany Herald has continuously published a daily paper for more than 120 years and has shown growth in every aspect of our business over those years," Hetzler said. "To do that we've had to be successful financially and this new approach will ensure we remain viable.
"We believe our newspaper, like every institution and business, must adapt to change and reinvent itself. There are many more options for advertisers to get their messages delivered, and newspapers, TV and radio have seen their revenues suffer from the number of media options available to consumers. The competition for every ad dollar is intense."
While Internet-based competitors, many of which rely heavily on traditional media for information that they repackage and transmit, have minimal expense in both people and delivery of their service, The Herald maintains a top-quality, independent news staff and physically delivers its news and advertising to its readers' doors. The newspaper has also worked diligently to compete in the Internet realm, with its news room - which is not part of the force reduction - routinely breaking stories and posting them in real time as they develop, Hetzler noted.
"The off-site production may give us some deadline challenges, but we will continue to provide the most comprehensive local news report possible and augment that with breaking news on the website," Editor Jim Hendricks said. "We'll make optimum use of both platforms (print and web) to complement each other for our readers."
"Businesses tell us they get very good results from advertising with The Herald," Hetzler said, "but they have far more options, including www.albanyherald.com. With the ad market as fractured as it is and by maintaining our newspaper delivery and news reporting, we've had to tighten our belts, just like every business and every person has had to over the past several years. A newspaper has to be viable for it to be successful and we believe this move will help us maintain that viability in a changing media landscape."