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hanges to the look of the print edition of the Brainerd Dispatch started small — so small that most readers

probably didn’t know what had changed. But what began a few months ago with getting rid of rules — those lines that separated stories

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and other elements on the pages — evolved into a

complete new look for the paper, from how stories and photos are packaged to the uses of color.

“I think the Dispatch was a lot like 99.99 percent

of the newspapers in the country. They’re tired, their

format is old and stodgy,” said Keith Hansen, Dispatch vice president of audience development. “I wanted a

three-dimensional look, a digital-age look to our newspa-

per. It was just a matter of finding the right people in the right places.”

The changes began in earnest with the hiring of page designer Jan Finger, who took Hansen’s ideas for the redesign and ran with them.

“When Tim (Bogenschutz, Dispatch publisher) and Keith hired

me a little over a month ago my assignment on the redesign included

these directions: ‘Make it pop, make it three-dimensional, think outside the box (and) we want to break the newspaper mold,’” Finger said. “I

asked how long is my leash and Keith said, ‘There is no leash.’ This assignment is a designer’s dream. I’m having so much fun.”

The Dispatch will soon change the body copy to make it more reader

friendly and add more dimensional design treatments to section fronts, inside

pages, and special publications. Typically when people think of newspapers they

think flat black and white with an occasional color photo. The Dispatch’s goal is for people to think “Wow! Is this our local newspaper?”

Hansen said the goal is to look unlike any other newspa-

per in the country. That future could also change the way ads are placed in the newspaper.

“Newspapers are not dead. Imaginations have been dying because everybody else is saying they don’t want to go up against the digital age,” Hansen said. “I want our paper to be as aggressive and progressive looking as our digital stuff. Look at the (Dispatch’s) iPad edition. It’s phenomenal. It pops.”

! i on

By MATT ERICKSON matt.erickson@

The paper’s redesign hasn’t gone unnoticed. Along with numerous compliments from readers, Washington, D.C.-based selected the May 4 edition as one of its “Today’s Top Ten Front Pages,” a first-time honor for the Dispatch. MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.

MORE than a newspaper - we are a multi-media company!

ea et e’r W


The evoluti


hanges to seemed to many of our readers to come as an overnight surprise, but for those of us working on the transition it was a long time — and a lot of preparation — coming. The new made it’s debut on Dec. 8, 2010. The biggest change was the transition from an HTMLbased site with a separate content management system to a Drupal-based platform content management system. In layman’s terms, our new site is prettier and a lot easier to use. Denton Newman, manager of multi-media for the Brainerd Dispatch, has overseen the evolution of since its inception in 1996, when the paper was owned by Stauffer Communications. Newman said the launch of the original was a month-long process that involved a crash course in learning about websites and the codes that made them work. “One of the visionaries was corporate Technical Adviser Mike Foreman of then owner Stauffer


—Digital Delivery—

ow, more than ever before in the history of the Brainerd Dispatch, avenues to access news about the community are just a finger touch away. And more options are coming. All with a goal of providing more news — from community events to hot-conversation topics to smart shopping — in as many ways as possible. Smartphones, iPads, laptops and desktop computers are all in the mix as enhancements to the traditional morning paper. Going digital for the newspaper means more options for people to get the news and additional original content — from blogs to video to photo galleries. Since its launch in mid-April, about 350 readers have downloaded the Dispatch iPad app. The iPad version displays the newspaper in a digital format with immediate links to video and additional photos all within the exact replica of the printed paper. “It’s a different way to consume the news,” said Dispatch Circulation Director John Gagliano. “I think the iPad app is the best example of what this can be. The iPad version is taking that to a whole new level. It’s interactive.” With a touch of the finger, readers can go from the iPad app to link to the Dispatch website and view comments on stories from other readers or add their own. Readers also have access to download and keep past editions. It looks and reads like a newspaper. “I think it’s a bridge,” Gagliano said. “We are going to be able to reach new audiences with this. To me that’s really going to be the future of things.” Readers don’t have to own an iPad to get a digital version of the paper. For subscribers, the e-edition, or electronic version of the newspaper, is available from the Dispatch website. The e-edition may be reached by clicking on “connect” at the top menu bar on the Dispatch home page. With a searchable archive of newspapers back 60 days, the e-edition provides access to stories long after the print version is recycled. With all the additional digital ways to access local news, Gagliano said the print product continues to grow. “Our circulation on Sunday is going up,” Gagliano said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that.” The digital versions are enhancements to the printed paper, Gagliano said. “They are not taking the place of it and I don’t think they are going to for a long time.” But the digital versions do offer to reach people who are accustomed to getting their news on the go. The Dispatch mobile website — available by typing in via a web browser — is available on smartphones whether iPhone or Android or Windows versions. With digital access, readers are able to customize alerts to their mobile devices for updates on weather or news content. And options continue to grow. Gagliano said in the next few months the Dispatch will be adding

low on Twitter at www.twitter. com/Dispatchbizbuzz.

equals more reader options By RENEE RICHARDSON renee.richardson@

the Associated Press’ iCircular, which puts the store advertising inserts people are familiar getting inside their newspapers on the Dispatch ’s app and mobile site. The Dispatch is working with eight area stores for the weekly ads. Gagliano said as a bonus iCircular provides a searchable option so shoppers can look for deals on orange juice, for example, either before they hit the stores or as they walk down the aisles. Tim Bogenschutz, Dispatch publisher, said he finds himself reading the newspaper on the iPad while sitting on a deck in the morning as he checks emails at the same

time. “What I really like is being able to have, on the iPad, all the previous editions,” Bogenschutz said. And for those who don’t have iPads, he said the e-edition offers a similar experience of searchable back issues of the news online available to any subscriber with a computer. Gagliano said it’s just one example of more options and more access than ever before. “We are evolving.” RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 8555852 or renee. richardson@ brainerddispatch. com. Fol-

ion of Communications Inc., Newman said. “He introduced us QuarkXpress newspaper pages. to the web, the possibilities and showed me some simple Our fourth-generation, and current, website is by far the HTML.” most advanced upgrade to With Newman spent weeks building the site and experiment- its Drupal-based platform and new content management ing with its features before unleashing it on the World Wide system, ContentWatch, an additional component added Web. in November 2011, we now “I remember how excithave the freedom to make digBy SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER sarah.nelsonkatzenberger@ ed we were to see the logs ital content our first priority. that showed 10 or so people The transition to the newest had visited and looked at the didn’t page,” he said. “That was back before DSL and broadband come without its share of setbacks. The new site proved to offerings. Our connection to the Internet was through a 28K be challenging for users who had grown comfortable with Global Village Telemodem and the zinging sounds of the the layout of the old site. Page views were down for an enmodem as it connected to that electronic mystery place are tire year following the relaunch. “That was mainly because still some of my favorite memories.” we lost the forums we had,” Newman said. “We had a lot The website has undergone a number of make overs of users accessing the forums.” during the last 16 years, including a transition from handEven with its growing pains, has coded pages to a coding assistant called Sitestitcher to a proven itself in terms of faster, more accessible news updatabase built website that extracted text directly from our dates and community involvement.

For the first time, Dispatchers are able to share blogs, videos and most recently streaming tweets. In addition to our the changes on our traditional website, the Brainerd Dispatch launched a mobile version of the website in 2011 — an addition that typically contributes nearly 10-percent of our site’s total traffic. As for our user base, 122,000 unique registered users were transferred over from our former site, and while our new site no longer requires registration, approximately 200,000 unique users access our site every month. By the first year anniversary of the updated page views had largely recovered from the previous year. “We are now back to where we were before — beating last year’s numbers and growing,” Newman said. SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER, Staff Writer and Online Content Editor, may be reached at sarah.nelsonkatzenberger@ or 855-5879.

Tweets and Facebook:


mmediacy has taken on a whole new meaning now that Facebook and tweets are part of a reporter’s communications arsenal. Gone are the days when a reporter could amble back to the office and start writing up a meeting for the next day’s print version. It’s a 24-hour news cycle and now means now, when it comes to breaking news. Keith Hansen, vice president of audience development for the Brainerd Dispatch, initiated the newspaper website’s “On the Fly” section in which the tweets of reporters in the field are immediately posted on the paper’s website. As the section name implies these are news items that are offered to Dispatch readers as reporters are still in the process of gathering information. “It’s not the finished product,” Hansen said. Because the tweets go directly to the website there is no edit-

New reporter tools ing process, but Hansen noted editors Jessi Pierce, staff writer, said tweets By MIKE O’ROURKE mike.orourke@ have the ability to correct or make adare a way to share information and justments to the tweet when it’s necestures well before the presses roll at 506 sary. An added benefit of the prominent James St. She said she also likes that display of “On the Fly” on the website, Hansen said, is tweets can give readers insight into a reporter’s interests that it will increase the number of followers on reporter’s and personality. Twitter accounts. Staff Writer Jennifer Stockinger said she tries to reSenior Reporter Renee Richardson, with more than member to tweet information before she rushes to the 100 followers, leads the newsroom in that category. She scene of a fire or accident. While reporting on a recent often tweets business news regarding the Brainerd area Nisswa structure fire she started tweeting scanner reports or live updates from governmental meetings as they are and then relayed photos and information from the scene in progress. — including the fact that two bodies were found. She said she likes the immediacy, the informality and Sports Editor Mike Bialka tweets items from sporting the ability to draw more people to an upcoming story. events but is often limited because he has to compile When she strays from her normal beat reporting Rich- statistics at the competitions. ardson’s tweets can range from her first sighting of a The temptation to stray from one’s normal beat is one robin in spring to the welcome news that a missing that sometimes can’t be resisted. One Dispatch reporter 4-year-old in the Breezy Point area was found. felt the need to chime in as a music critic after listening to “Good news!” she tweeted after listening to music from the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse. scanner reports. “The 4-year-old was found “Most unusual and challenging song I’ve yet to hear just before they were going to put thermal on Brainerd’s carillon bells: Jimmy Webb’s “Up, Up and imaging equipment in place to try to lo- Away.” Nice effort!” cate the child.” The Brainerd Dispatch sends stories, photos and news Outdoors Editor Brian Peterson updates to its Facebook fans but has maxed out at the visited about a dozen lakes during Facebook limit of 5,000 friends. New Media Director the last fishing opener, providing Denton Newman Jr. said between 15 and 20 friend relive Twitter reports on the bite. quests are still received each week and those people are He said his followers are seri- added as other friends drop off. The options for readers ous about fishing and hunt- who want to receive Dispatch updates, he said, are to ing and the outdoors so subscribe to Dispatch updates on Facebook or to like he sticks to the facts in the Dispatch fan page. Those options would allow them his reports. While he to receive most of the updates Facebook friends receive, believes many of his Newman said. readers might be Reporters routinely use the Dispatch Facebook page electronically/ to find sources for news stories. In one of the more fardigitally chal- flung examples, former Dispatch Staff Writer Jodie Tweed lenged, he asked on Facebook for anyone who was affected by the thinks that’s Japanese earthquake to contact the newspaper. That res l o w l y sulted in the wife of a Brainerd area traveling businessc h a n g - man linking the newspaper to her husband while he was ing. still overseas. In this age of new communication models, writing tweets has proven to be a challenge, forcing the journalists to make their point with only 140 characters. Older, tech-challenged reporters may forget that if their message is too long it may be cut off befo MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed on Twitter at

Brainerd Dispatch delivers more than just words

By JESSI PIERCE jessi.pierce@


s a newspaper, words are our power. Storylines, facts and interviews are intertwined together to paint a picture for the readers and tell a story as reporters witnessed it. Often times, however, words are not enough to express the whole story the way we see it. That is why, beginning in 2009, the Brainerd Dispatch uses video to complement its stories. “It’s a different demographic,” said Denton Newman Jr., Multi-media director at the Brainerd Dispatch, who said the Dispatch receives roughly 20,000 video views each month. “It applies to a whole other audience who wants information in a video format rather than to sit and read it. “And we use it now to augment and enhance our printed news.” Hosting 308 videos on the Brainerd Dispatch YouTube channel that range from Brainerd High School prom footage to video of fires and storm destruction, the channel has seen relative success with some videos seeing just under 3,000 views. Now when out on assignment reporters and photographers have on hand a notepad, pen, recorder and a video camera — via phone or Dispatch flip cam. And with a movement in to the digital age, including the latest release of the iPad app, the Dispatch is able to link videos with its online formats even easier. “We have video actually embedded into the articles with our iPad app,” said Phil Seibel, digital manager at the Brainerd Dispatch. “It’s similar to being posted on our website, but having the ability to actually embed the video into a story is just one more element that we have extended to.” Even more than just a complementing feature to written articles, the Dispatch sports section has expanded to include “Sideline View,” a weekly video broadcast hosted by Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka, and Dispatch sports writer Jeremy Millsop, breaking down area sports on location across the area.


video BD Video

Steve Kohls •

“As long as we’re trying to attract as many readers as possible, I believe this is an informative and unique way to do that,” said Bialka. “I like the opportunity to inject some humor into the show...It’s our opinions about what we cover locally, opinions that probably wouldn’t be expressed in print and aren’t expressed by any other media outlet since we’re the leading newsgathering medium in town.” Just another element, beyond just words, in the world of news at the Dispatch.

“Video is a whole new dimension for newspapers,” said Seibel. “When you read a well-written article, you have something going in your mind that displays the images from that story, but for us (Dispatch) we have the ability to have video to put all those visual things together.” JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5859 or jessi.pierce@ Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter. com/jessi_pierce (@jessi_pierce).

The results are in!

tarting the end of March we sent out a survey through an email blast, posted a link on our site and solicited participants in the newspaper. We wanted to refresh and update our knowledge of our reader demographics and find out what our readers’ perception was of the Brainerd Dispatch.

The response was huge. More than 750 people took the survey and the results were very interesting. We took to heart these comments and have made policy changes as well as design changes because of them. Let’s start with the demographics: Gender: Male – 40.6% Female – 59.4% Age: 17 or younger - .1% 18-20 - .4% 21-29 – 3.5% 30-39 – 10.3% 40-49 – 15.8% 50-59 – 26.3% 60 or older – 43.6% (Keep in mind this survey was done completely online – so we can’t say online news and advertising doesn’t reach an older demographic.)

• 93% of survey takers own their own home.

• 96.5% are not students. • 62.7% have a job. • 33.2% have at least one dependent in some sort of education.

• 83.8% are full-time residents of the Brainerd lakes (or surrounding) area.

• 49% are current subscribers to the Brainerd Dispatch and of the nonsubscribers, 69.7% read it online.


• 42.6%

of our subscribers read the print edition 6-7 days each week.

• 12.4% read it at least 1 day a week. • Online readers were pretty even across

the board whether they read online 1 day, 2-3, 4-5 or 6-7 days a week. Reading the news on a mobile phone or iPad platform is still small, but we continue to see growth in that daily.

• 74.2% said that reading the Brainerd

Dispatch is part of their daily routine and the majority read the paper at home or at work.

• 85.7% felt that the Brainerd Dispatch addresses issues or topics that they are concerned about.

• 82.8%

said that the Brainerd Dispatch is the best way to stay in touch with their community.

• 69.1%

responded that they see information in the Brainerd Dispatch or on first. Other news sources people turn to were television news stations (78.1%), radio (53.2%), and other newspapers (38%).

• 70.7%

felt that the Brainerd Dispatch offers a variety of perspectives. Some said it is slanted to the right and some said left.

• 55.4%

if our readers would like to see more graphics/photos. Most felt there was already a pretty good balance.

• 75.7%

Surprisingly only 12.4% read or shared links from our Facebook page. Many did not know we had one so make sure to “like” it to get updates on feature articles.

said it was extremely important to have a strong local news source. trust the Brainerd Dispatch to be accurate.

We asked what our readers felt the personality of the Brainerd Dispatch was and the top three results were “Neighborly, friendly and helpful.” The Main Section, or A section, was the overall winner when asked what is the first thing our readers turn to. We also asked what our readers find most useful when reading the Brainerd Dispatch and there were a variety of responses including: local news, obituaries, details on community activities, sports schedules, business topics, coupons, real estate and auto sections, outdoors and more.

• 60% said they would be more likely

to read the paper if there was a big story going on.

81.7% like to follow ongoing stories.

• 60.3%

prefer short stories rather than long ones, all depending on what that story is.

It was pretty close to 50/50 when asked

• 58%

have used brainerddispatch. com to search for archived articles.

And to end the survey, we asked which of the comic strips our readers viewed most. Ranking at the top were “Family Circle,” “For Better or Worse” and “Peanuts.” As with any survey, we received our fair share of criticism and truly value your opinions. We are making changes daily based on your feedback and are taking stride in making your local news source a community icon and something our readers are proud of.

We want to invite you back to let us know what you think of the changes we’ve made so far. Go to and click on the “How are we doing?” link. To subscribe click the subscribe icon or call 218-855-5897.

Brainerd Dispatch - A New Look