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Behind the Scenes

November 19, 2021

One Newspaper Expert Helps Another Turn a New Page

With a mission of bringing fresh ideas to Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s (MSR) overall media strategy, Deluxe and the Small Business Revolution called on Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper, publisher, CEO and the fourth generation to run AFRO-American news in Baltimore, Maryland.  Toni understands the challenges unique to the MSR and her strategic moves in social media and creative resourcing have led to Afro.com’s doubling their online following and sales.

After visiting the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s newsroom, Toni offered Tracey Williams-Dillard several pieces of advice to help her creatively source funding and attract younger subscribers.

  • Build your team.

Toni recognizes the blessing and challenge of being a long-standing newspaper organization. She stressed that the AFRO’s success has been attributed to “everyone having a part.” As a small business owner, it’s impossible to do everything on your own. Building a strong small business team is an investment and a commitment to finding greater success.

  • Think about what you can do differently.

Things change fast, especially in an ever-evolving industry. The newspaper business model has changed into a “digital first” mindset. Toni encouraged Tracey to evaluate how the MSR monetizes their website traffic and to even consider hiring an employee solely for social media management.

  • Get creative about funding.

As a for-profit business, Tracey had not previously considered raising funds through philanthropy. also shared that organizations such as Report for America place emerging journalists into local newsrooms such as The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, providing an economical way to bring on additional staff.

  • Reevaluate your strategy.

The mindset of the print writer may not be the same as a digital writer. As the MSR shifts to a “digital-first” reader mindset, Toni suggested that a dedicated digital staff can be instrumental in increasing website traffic.

With expert guidance from Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper —along with Tracey’s passion for continuing the legacy of her grandfather and uplifting her community —MSR is attracting more subscribers than ever.




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