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The Digital Skeptic: The Newspaper Gets Its Revenge

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sherwood Olin has apparently cracked the code for building a news business in this crumbling digital age.

"If the Pope crashes one foot outside Lincoln County, it's not news," Olin, the editor of Newcastle, Maine's hometown paper told me a month or so back.


His Lincoln County News is one of the most fascinating media entities I have encountered in some time. It's been the news source for this rocky nook of mid-coastal Maine for the past 138 years, pretty much once a week, and somehow over that century and a third this traditional printed paper has escaped the dogs of the digital age.

First off, big is beautiful when it comes to The Lincoln County News. Yes. There's a website and Facebook (FB) page, but the foundation of this brand is a full-color, 36-page, seven-column-wide printed edition.

This stretch of news real estate -- just under 36 inches wide when open fully -- creates a dramatic frame for content. Sure, the coverage is about damage-free blizzards, citizens stressed about fireworks legislation and the kid who won the spelling bee. But the message is clear: Information has value. It's a commitment to news that comes straight from the owners of this privately held operation.

"I tried to push for bigger photos," Olin told me of a conversation he had with Chris Roberts, publisher for Lincoln County Publishing -- who runs the printing press by himself, according to Olin. Olin wanted more layout options with larger images.

Roberts "looked at me long and hard," Olin said. "And then politely said, 'But that would cut down on the news.'"


By all accounts, The Lincoln County News -- with two editors, four staff reporters, about three dozen stringers and support staff and advertising personnel -- is a pretty darn good business. Olin said he prints 9,000 copies per week and revenues are solid.

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