Local commitment LNP names executives; Krasne is president and publisher Record Express leadership promoted

By on March 20, 2013

Lancaster Newspapers, which owns the Lititz Record Express, has announced two top-level executive appointments as it moves forward with major improvements in its print and digital publications.

Robert M. Krasne was named president and publisher of the company. He had been interim chief executive officer.

In addition, Nancy D. Fisher was named vice president, finance and administration. She had been finance director.

The announcements follow the appointment of Shane D. Zimmerman as senior vice president last week.

The executive changes signal the solidification of the media company’s new strategy of intense local news coverage, in both print and digital formats, for Lancaster County readers.

Krasne is overseeing the company’s shift to state-of-the-art news publications.

Fisher is responsible for ensuring that the company has the resources and analytic tools to support its expanded news mission.

"This company is focused on being the source of news and information about Lancaster County and for Lancastrians," Krasne said.

"That was the course that was set last year. We’re going to fine-tune it and improve on it going forward, but that remains at the core of our mission."

While some news publishers are reducing print publication, Krasne said, Lancaster Newspapers remains committed to its paper just as much as its digital publications.

Over the next nine months, he explained, readers and advertisers can expect to see a series of new, improved products roll out:

A new, interactive digital replica of the newspaper, or eEdition, will launch by early summer.

An easier-to-navigate design of the LancasterOnline website will debut by fall.

And the organization and appearance of the newspaper itself will be improved by year’s end, with popular features anchored where readers can easily find them.

Krasne, an attorney and former business school professor, took over leadership of Lancaster Newspapers in September.

He serves as its corporate board vice chairman in addition to performing his daily operational duties.

Fisher, who holds a degree in business accounting, joined the company in 1999 and became its controller the following year.

Over the past six months, Krasne said, Lancaster County readers have responded positively to the increased focus on local news.

"Subscriptions are up. Advertising revenues are headed in the right direction as well," Krasne said.

"The changes we’ve made are producing momentum both in our organization and in the community."

Those signs of a turnaround come after several years of recession-related turmoil that brought reductions in staff and news content to many publications.

Now, however, there is growing recognition that newspapers are essential for keeping a community informed about the lives of its people and the issues they face, Krasne said.

"Newspapers bring to the public’s attention issues that can help move this community forward," Krasne said. "They promote conversation about issues important to our lives."

"They are the glue that holds communities together."

In Lancaster County, for instance, the paper reaches about 200,000 people each day, or 75 percent of all adults during the course of a week.

Another 125,000 people read the digital version of that news online.

The size of newspaper-reading audiences in tight-knit communities makes local news a unique and valuable asset.

Local news is a great niche to have, said businesswoman Beverly R. Steinman, chairman of Lancaster Newspapers’ board.

"People want to read local news and local businesses want to advertise where they know people are reading," she said. "They go hand in hand."

Bullish on newspapers

Krasne noted that Lancaster Newspapers isn’t alone in feeling bullish about locally focused newspapers.

Warren Buffett, "probably the pre-eminent financial investor of our time," has acquired 28 daily newspapers in the past 15 months, spending $344 million.

In a recent letter, Buffett told shareholders he made the purchases because newspapers "continue to reign supreme … in the delivery of local news."

Since taking over leadership of the company, Krasne has reorganized all departments with the goal of improving their products and services.

The newsroom has dramatically increased the number and prominence of local news stories.

The advertising department has reached out to small businesses, signing up more than 50 this month alone for long-term campaigns.

The circulation department has reversed a trend of declining readership, gaining new print and online readers.

"We are striving for excellence," Krasne said. "Good enough is not good enough."

To further the turnaround, Krasne said, the company intends to launch major upgrades of its news products, all intended to give Lancaster County residents state-of-the-art quality.

The first to roll out, the replica or eEdition, will give readers a digital copy of the printed paper, available for viewing on computers, tablets or smartphones.

The content on the digital version will be interactive: With a mouse click or finger tap, readers can visit a website, send an e-mail or see a video mentioned in the paper.

Readers also can adjust the size of printed words to their personal preference and, if they wish, hear the articles read to them.

The website upgrade, now in its early redesign phase, is intended to make it easy for LancasterOnline readers to find relevant news and information.

It will also contain content not easily presented in print, such as interactive maps, calendars and data sets.

The newspaper redesign — the most ambitious project — will provide more sections and more pages for the growing volume of news and advertising.

It also is aimed at placing news and features in the same place day after day, so that readers can find their favorites quickly.

While some news organizations are cutting back on newspaper production — notably the Harrisburg Patriot-News, which now publishes only three days a week — Lancaster Newspapers intends to grow, Krasne said.

"I do not believe you can cut your way to growth," he said. "You must invest to grow, but invest wisely."

"For the foreseeable future, I’m committed to printing a newspaper seven days a week — and I know the owners are as well," Krasne said.

As Lancaster Newspapers rolls out these improved products, eventually it will need to charge for them, Krasne noted.

Currently, it charges for the paper and for some, but not all, of its online products.

"We believe that content has great value to readers and advertisers," Krasne explained, "so I am confident that our readers will see the value in purchasing our products."

Data-driven analysis

Underlying the company’s decision-making is an elaborate system of data-driven analysis that the new vice president of finance and administration is setting up.

In every department, "We want to measure ourselves against industry norms and our company’s standards," Fisher said.

"For example, we’re measuring factors that affect (delivery) complaints, trying to get a better handle on them," she said.

In the newsroom, she said, the company intends to measure the number of stories on various geographic areas of the county, to make certain all are covered satisfactorily.

That emphasis on measured performance comes out of Krasne’s experience.

Before moving to Lancaster in 2008, he taught corporate governance in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University for eight years.

He also was a corporate consultant.

Before that, he was a partner at Williams & Connolly LLP, one of Washington’s most prominent law firms. He handled criminal, civil and administrative litigation and oversaw internal investigations of corporations and banks.

Fisher, of East Lampeter, is a Shippensburg University graduate with a degree in business administration, focused on accounting.

Shane Zimmerman, formerly of PNC Wealth Management, will assist the owners of Lancaster Newspapers in the oversight of its business holdings, financial affairs and philanthropic endeavors. More LOCAL NEWS, page A16 William Burgess and Peter Lindquist were given executive promotions earlier this week.

Burgess is now president and publisher of Lancaster Farming Inc. and Lancaster County Weeklies Inc., a corporation that includes the Lititz Record Express. Lindquist has been named vice president. Their offices are located at 1 E. Main St. in Ephrata, where the Record Express is printed each week. Robert M. Krasne will serve as CEO of both companies.

The promotions were announced to employees Monday morning by Krasne, new president and publisher of Lancaster Newspapers, which encompasses the Ephrata-based operations as well as Lancaster City’s daily and Sunday newspaper.

Burgess took over the general manager position held by former Record Express and Lancaster Farming owner Robert Campbell in 1998. Before joining Lancaster Newspapers, Burgess was sales manager with the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as publisher of the Hanover Evening Sun and Suburban Publications. Bill’s wife is Valerie and he has two children, Margaret and William.

"It is an honor to continue to guide this organization in delivering timely local content that matters to our communities," Burgess said earlier this week. "The Lititz Record Express, The Ephrata Review, and Lancaster Farming are some of the longest-running newspapers in the country with continued circulation growth. Susquehanna Printing is also an integral arm to our commercial print operation."

Burgess also spoke of taking the publications into the next chapter of their long histories.

"It is a privilege to manage their evolution to digital format as well as to constantly improve and enrich the printed product," he said. "In addition to the fine production quality of the newspaper, the editorial staff routinely wins awards for its content and journalistic integrity. Our (Lancaster Farming) digital product recently won numerous awards at America East. These awards are justly deserved by our staff, as they are motivated not only by their own commitment to excellence, but by their dedication to the communities they serve. This is only the short list of accolades achieved by the entire company."

Lindquist was assistant general manager and advertising director for Lancaster Farming. Prior to his move to Ephrata, he held publisher positions at Chesapeake Publishing in Elkton, Md.; Gannett in Toms River, N.J.; Goodson Newspapers in Manahawkin, N.J.; and was interim publisher and ad director for the Daily Local News in West Chester.

He and his wife Joan have four children, Mia, Michael, Brian and John.

"I’ve been with the company 10 years and look forward to my new position," Lindquist said following the announcement. "We will continue to put out the best newspapers each and every week, and develop new and lasting relationships with our readers and advertisers."

Steinman Communications (formerly Steinman Enterprises) is owner of Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. (publishers of the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era and Sunday News), Lancaster Farming, Inc., Lancaster County Weeklies, Inc., Intelligencer Printing Company, and Delmarva Broadcasting. More PROMOTIONS, page A16

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