Chattanooga Newspaper Marks 10 Years Under Wehco Ownership

Walter Hussman talks Times Free Press

Walter Hussman talks Times Free Press

The Chatanooga Times Free Press this week marks a decade under the ownership of Walter Hussman’s Wehco Media, which of course also owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Times Free Press plans a whole week of anniversary coverage, and the first story in the series is available here.

While you’re there, take note of that Web site. Pretty snazzy compared to the ol’ locked down Democrat-Gazette home page, eh? Turns out there’s a big difference between the sister newspapers’ Web strategies. Where Hussman’s Democrat-Gazette keeps most of its daily newspaper content locked down to paying subscribers, it’s a relative free-for-all in Chattanooga, and has been been for a few years now.

Heck, Hussman himself even sits down for some free, online video in a segment here.

According to today’s Times Free Press story on the newspaper’s Web site:

Much of that work on the Web is the responsibility of online director Ed Bourn. When Mr. Bourn came to the paper in 2004, the same year the Web site launched, the site was accessible only to paid subscribers. It also had only a few buttons for visitors to select once they got there.

Four years later and Mr. Bourn’s staff of 10 — twice what it was in 2004 — is preparing to debut a redesigned timesfreepress.com in mid-February.

“We are moving toward a way that will allow people to customize how get their content, where they really have ownership and loyalty to our site and create their own version of timesfreepress.com,” Mr. Bourn said.

Sounds exciting.

Also noted on the Times Free Press site: lots of multimedia content and blogs. In recent years, the Democrat-Gazette has added more multimedia to its Web site, including video. But those offerings don’t appear to be as integrated into the newspaper’s routine news coverage as they are in Chattanooga (see how audio, video and photos are integrated here, here and here).

Different media markets often mean different strategies. The Democrat-Gazette’s Web content is mostly locked down on its statewide Web site here, but free in Northwest Arkansas, where Hussman is fighting a newspaper war with Stephens Media. And while Hussman bought the Chattanooga newspaper’s competitor not long after first entering that market, his operations are close enough to other major media markets like Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., to warrant a more aggressive Web plan.

The question is, how long before Hussman begins deploying more of the Chattanooga strategy in Arkansas? Some might argue that he already is. But we know by looking at Chattanooga that there’s so much more to be done.

Also

Frank Fellone tries to explain the panicked seniors why their TV Week has changed

Shafer in Slate: How newspapers failed to reinvent the Web

From the ArkansasBusiness.com Archives

Does Hussman’s Chattanooga purchase mean war? (April 1998)

Hussman expands $145 million empire (April 1998)

Hussman’s empire covers broadcast, print (April 1998)

Wehco buys another newspaper (November 1998)

Cold newspaper war breaking out (November 2006)

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3 Responses

  1. […] Chase: Hussman-owned newspaper in Chattanooga, Tenn., has snazzy and accessible website, making Hussman’s terrible web strategy in Arkansas all the more puzzling. (Lance […]

  2. […] The Chattanooga Times Free Press, a sister newspaper to the Wehco-owned Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, already has more open Web site than its Arkansas relative. And now we’ve discovered the Chattanooga newspaper is an outright Twitterer as […]

  3. […] Web strategy (with the exception of the all-free NWANews.com site, of course, as well as his more progressive Tennessee newspaper the Chattanooga Times Free […]

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