THE MANCHESTER JOURNAL
Hyper-local news publishing in southern Vermont
By Bob Sillick
Manchester, Vermont is like many other charming New England villages — steeped in centuries of history and serving as a gateway to the Green Mountains.
It’s also a hotbed of news publishing innovations at the Manchester Journal, covering the small local population and the hundreds of thousands of annual tourists and visitors.
With the acquisition of the paper in 2021, it was the mission of Jordan Brechenser, publisher and president, and Noah Hoffenberg, executive editor, to expand coverage with more reporters, establish stronger relationships with local businesses and increase coverage of the region surrounding Manchester.
“We recognized the Northshire was an untapped area primed for growth. It attracts most of the tourists to the mountain resorts with its vibrant arts and cultural scene and outstanding dining and shopping,” Hoffenberg said. “We wanted to become the primary source of information about the Northshire.”
The new owner of the Journal also acquired Upcountry Magazine, which has received numerous awards for its coverage of the Vermont lifestyle. It was renamed Vermont Country Magazine, with more content about Southern Vermont, the Green Mountains and the Northshire.
Almost immediately, the Journal hired Tory Rich as community news editor and general manager and partnered him with Greg Sukiennik, a longtime Journal reporter and Northshire editor, at the Northshire office. They’ve doubled the coverage and content.
Ahmad Yassir was also hired as the digital sales and marketing specialist. Not only is he innovating the Journal’s digital look and operations, but he also serves as a digital marketing consultant to local businesses and advertisers.
With the additional content for Manchester proper and the Northshire, the paper expanded its e-edition from Friday only to five days a week in October. In addition, it publishes a weekly print edition on Fridays.
Since then, paid views have increased 40.8 percent year-over-year, and 30-40% of the paper’s website traffic is from outside Vermont. The goal is to generate subscriptions from one to three percent of the region’s 300,000 annual visitors.
As a longtime resident of Manchester and vice president of the Journal
before its 2021 acquisition, Brechenser knew renewing and improving relationships with local businesses was critical to the paper’s expansion plans.
“During the first year of new ownership, much of our focus was meeting with local businesses and explaining that the Journal was now independent for the first time in 60 years. Ownership, management and editorial operations were all local,” Brechenser said.
“To show our support for the local business community, we launched a robust weekly business section. Our community’s business is business, and the business of our paper is business. The inaugural section was four pages of content from our best reporters and photographers, which generated a fantastic response.”
Three of the largest local businesses and major employers became sponsors of the Journal’s new specialty pages: Stratton Mountain Resort, the “Mountaintop News” page; TPW Real Estate Sales & Rentals, the “Breaking News Alerts and Business” page; and VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region, the “Stayin’ Alive” page, with content for older adults.
Recently, the Brattleboro Reformer, a sister publication of the Journal, partnered with a local radio station group and public television station to open a podcast/videocast studio and produce a weekly program. An average of 3,400 people listen to each program. The Journal has similar plans to launch a podcast.
“The Journal certainly has an advantage over many other small, local newspapers because of our unique combination of a classic Vermont village and the upscale attractions in the Northshire. I like to think our expansion would only work in a place like Manchester,” Brechenser said.
Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients during his 47 years in marketing and advertising. He has been a freelance/contract content researcher, writer, editor and manager since 2010. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor and Publisher