North Country Now offices move to new location in Potsdam to meet needs of growth
Saturday, September 8, 2018 - 4:57 pm

Tim Aldous Jr., foreman with Fearlbridge Builders, constructs front entry at the new offices of North Country This Week earlier this summer. North Country This Week photo by Cheryl Shumway.

By BILL SHUMWAY

POTSDAM – For the first time in nearly five years, the North Country This Week staff is no longer working elbow-to-elbow or running out to the street in all kinds of weather to unload tractor-trailer deliveries of newspaper inserts.

Over the weekend, the offices of the newspaper and NorthCountryNow.com were moved to a new, larger location at 4 Clarkson Ave. next to the Maple Street Kinney Drugs.

The former home of The Computer Guys was completely renovated during the past six months to provide desperately needed space for office and newsroom employees. It also includes a loading dock and much more room for inserting and processing papers for delivery.

The need for a new location was due to the creation of the Massena-Ogdensburg edition of North Country This Week and an increase in the amount of news posted on NorthCountryNow.com five years ago. The resulting increase in the number of advertising inserts also required us to take steps to more efficiently receive and process inserts.

Today, 21 people work at the paper and website, compared to just eight employees when the offices were moved from the third floor of 38 Market St. to 19 Depot St. in 1994.

Part of the Community

Finding 3,300 square feet of office space with room for 21 parking spaces and tractor-trailer deliveries took several years. As a newspaper, we wanted to locate near the core of the village.

We are glad to have been able to restore a prominent building to productive use instead of constructing a new facility outside the village.

From 1984 when the first edition hit the streets until about 10 years ago, North Country This Week was primarily a guide to “what’s going on” in the greater Potsdam-Canton area.

In the past decade, however, the news staff has grown from just one person to a staff of five-and-a-half and now provides comprehensive coverage of St. Lawrence County.

The news staff includes Jimmy Lawton, Matt Lindsey, Andy Gardner, Adam Atkinson and Craig Freilich, plus part-timers Betsy Gabel, who updates the website on weekends, Kate Olmstead, who takes care of obituaries, and Cheryl Shumway, who recently joined on as a photographer.

To call more attention to the extensive news coverage our staff generates each week we have implemented a number of design changes to headlines and photos in North Country This Week in recent weeks. By mid-fall, we expect the redesign to be complete and include a new logo, page headings and other graphic devices to create a more contemporary look.

Very High Readership

Our compelling news coverage, along with the fact that both the paper and website are free, has resulted in a level of readership far higher than in most other markets elsewhere in the nation.

In the greater Potsdam area where North Country This Week is delivered to virtually every home, the paper is read in more than 80 percent of households. That’s a penetration rate much greater than any other media including social media, broadcast, billboards or other print publications.

In the Canton, Massena and Ogdensburg markets where North Country This Week is distributed at stores, major employers and other high-traffic locations, the paper is read in about 60 percent of homes. That’s still far more than any other media.

Online, NorthCountryNow.com is viewed on more than 200,000 different devices each month. About 100,000 of those are from St. Lawrence County, which has a population of approximately 111,000. To our knowledge, no local news website has a higher rate of viewership anywhere in the United States.

The high rates of readership mean ads in the paper and on the website are surprisingly cost-effective because they are seen by so many people.

And that keeps John Basham, Julie Spadaccini, Sean McNamara and Diane Dockum who handle ad sales, very busy.

They work closely with Cathy Whalen, Miki Crary, Georgia Schiavonne and Debbie Morgan who design the ads.

Nearly 20,000 copies of North Country This Week are printed at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake each week, and once they arrive at our offices, Circulation Supervisor Mike Marino and his crew take over.

Most weeks, more than 100,000 advertising fliers for supermarkets, building supply stores, discounters and fast food restaurants are placed inside copies of the paper. Many of them are zoned for specific locations or communities.

Inserters Tina Smith, Josh Fox, Devin Smith and Gerald Smith help get papers ready for delivery every Tuesday so our ten carriers can deliver to virtually every household in Potsdam, Norwood, West Stockholm and Hannawa Falls. Jim Blair distributes papers to racks and stores in Canton and Potsdam.

Then, our staff repeats the process so that the Massena-Ogdensburg edition is ready for delivery each Friday.

Promising Future

We don’t agree with people who believe printed newspapers will eventually become a relic of the past.

Rather, we think newspapers will evolve, much like radio switched to disc jockeys spinning records in the 1950s from programs such as “The Lone Ranger” when television became commonplace.

It’s true many people are no longer willing to subscribe to have a newspaper delivered to their house every day. They would rather pay for smart phones, internet service and cable TV.

But many people will still gladly read a free paper filled with stories about all segments of their community if it is delivered to their home or they can pick up a copy while shopping.

And unlike online news that disappears quickly off the home page, news in a weekly paper can be read when it is convenient because the weekly is designed to “hang around the house” for several days.

We believe pairing a constantly updated local news website such as NorthCountryNow.com with a once-a-week paper is a perfect combination for a community.

Strong Local Ties

Every employee of North Country This Week is either a St. Lawrence County native or has lived in the county for more than 20 years.

Blair is the longest-serving employee, having begun work in 1986, but Basham and Dockum will be celebrating 30 years with the paper this year. They remember climbing two long flights of stairs several times a day when our office was located on the third floor above the former Town House Restaurant.

During renovation of our newest location, contractors uncovered a big surprise underneath the carpeting in the front portion of the offices – a floor made of historic Potsdam Sandstone. Removal of the carpet and glue took lots of work over many weeks; the floor has been sealed and is now a highlight of the office.

In the 1800s, Potsdam Sandstone was highly regarded for use in building construction and can be seen today in many historic structures throughout the village.