GREAT IDEAS

Upgrades that save money

What are you paying for fluorescent lights, antiquated phones and color copies?

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Cost cutting at media companies doesn't have to involve the news product. Several participants in an SNPA video conference in April presented ideas that saved money on everyday business operations.

Keeping the lights on costs a lot less than it used to cost at The Jonesboro Sun in Arkansas. Publisher David Mosesso said the switch from fluorescent light bulbs to LED lights has cut the utility bill by 28 percent, or $1,000 month, and the lighting part of the bill by 68 percent. "It's strictly math," he said.

Mosesso credits his production manager, Roger Brumley, with taking the initiative and being skillful enough to do much of the work in-house. It turned out that in the office building, the four 32-watt antiquated fluorescent bulbs in each of 189 retrofitted fixtures could be replaced with two 20-watt LED bulbs that would last for 10 years.

The Sun also replaced the fixtures in its production area to accommodate LED lights, even though the cost of new fixtures and their installation in the high ceiling increased the initial expense. The expense was offset because the production lights were on 24 hours a day, Mosesso said.

Return on investment for the whole project took about a year.

"That's just the low-hanging fruit," Mosesso said of how other publishing companies can save money. Not only was the electricity bill cut, so was the time spent changing out light bulbs daily, which had become the equivalent of a part-time job.

Now, he said, "We don't have to change light bulbs. It's brighter in here and we're saving money."

He advises checking to see if the local utility company offers a cost-sharing program that may help defray the initial expense. And he notes that the two ballasts per fixture required for the old lighting system aren't needed now. Air conditioning costs, which also tended to increase with the old bulbs, have come down, too.

Reviewing the office phone system may also prove to save money. Two papers, The Herald in Sharon, Penn., and the Enid News and Eagle in Oklahoma, submitted information on that idea to the group participating in the video conference, part of SNPA's Publisher-to-Publisher (P2P) initiative.

Publisher Sharon Sorg at The Herald noted that it's easy to forget about the phone system as long as it's working. But when the number of employees decreases, an office needs fewer lines. And the paper had individual lines for old-style dial-up modems that were no longer being used.

The Herald changed providers and reduced the number of lines, saving $15,600 annually.

The Enid News and Eagle realized it was still being charged for long distance service and per call fees, as well as a flat fee per phone line.

Out went the old system; in came a VoIP phone system, which transmits calls over an IP network such as the internet instead of a traditional telephone network. Cost savings: about $2,000 a month. The new system charges only a flat fee per phone station, and there are no more long distance costs.

Office copiers and printer equipment are other business essentials that are forgettable until they break down. Paul Heidbreder, publisher of the Traverse City Eagle-Record in Michigan, reviews those contracts for hidden costs attached in areas such as the number of copies and especially color.

He notes that new equipment is set to default to color even though many people making copies or printouts only need black-and-white. The difference is significant; for example, a black-and-white copy may cost .009 cents per page while full-color may be .06 cents per page.

In Traverse City, all copiers and printers are set to default to black-and-white, and the paper takes bids when contracts are up for renewal. The most recent contract is saving $300 a month.

Publishers: Register now to take part in the next P2P video conference call.  The July 19 call will focus on how news coverage affects revenue.  The price of admission: submit an example by July 13. LEARN MORE


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes is a veteran journalist based in coastal Alabama and is a regular contributor to SNPA. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net.

Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

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