Oct. 24, Cap Times Editor and Publisher Paul Fanlund announced the newspaper would formally leave Madison.com on which the Cap Times and the Wisconsin State Journal have operated since 1996. Staff cited branding issues, growth as a news organization and a difference in coverage as reasons for leaving Madison.com.
“On Monday, the Cap Times will step away from Madison.com and appear on a standalone website as captimes.com,” Fanlund said. “We in the Cap Times initiated this change, believing it will both eliminate confusion over the two intermingled newspaper titles on Madison.com and also better reflect the Cap Times’ mission.”
According to the Cap Times, the newspaper was founded in 1917 by William T. Evjue who previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal. Evjue actually intended the Times would be a more progressive counterpart to the Journal.
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Despite their competitive relationship, the Times and the Journal decided to start a joint corporation to reduce their equipment costs. The new company, Madison Newspapers Inc., became the first instance of close cooperation between the two papers.
In an interview with The Badger Herald, Fanlund explained how he transitioned from working in the Wisconsin State Journal to working for the Cap Times.
“I spent 22 years in the Wisconsin State Journal newsroom in eight different jobs, where I finished as an assistant managing editor,” Fanlund said. “I was asked to come lead the Capital Times into the future, which I’ve done for the past 15 years or so.”
He also said his responsibilities as editor and publisher included writing a weekly column, overseeing the newsroom and managing some business activities.
Fanlund said during the mid-90s, the Wisconsin State Journal acquired the Madison.com URL. Both the Journal and the Times began to publish through this site. But, Fanlund said, the Wisconsin State Journal and its parent company Lee Enterprises began to add a greater variety of content to the site, making Madison.com a less locally focused website.
“One of our slogans is, ‘The Cap Times is as Madison as it gets,’” Fanlund said.
In his column, Fanlund specified that Madison.com began to feature far more sports and crime coverage than the Cap Times ever did.
Cap Times’ Director of Marketing and Social Media Chelsey Dequaine-Jerabek said she worked for various companies in the Madison area, including local papers like The Isthmus and Cheese Market News.
“All the while I was kind of doing social media, at an early stage when companies weren’t prioritizing social media,” Dequaine-Jerabek said. She explained she fully embarked on an advertising and marketing-related path when she became the director of social media for designCraft Advertising.
With her new skills, Dequaine-Jerabek went on to become an audience strategist for the Cap Times. She said she noticed widespread confusion among readers about the relationship between the Cap Times, the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison.com.
“That’s a huge branding issue — people are going to a website and consuming news and saying, ‘Is this the Cap Times? Is this the Journal? What is the difference?’” Dequaine-Jerabek said.
She said she saw this brand confusion firsthand as people on Reddit were discussing whether the two papers were the same thing or not. Dequaine-Jerabek also said this was one of the primary reasons the different organizations decided to part ways this past week.
Dequaine-Jerabek also said the Wisconsin State Journal and Cap Times sharing a URL made the analytics side of her job more complicated. It became difficult for her to see how readers were accessing Cap Times articles and whether they were directly searching for the publication or simply looking through Madison.com.
Dequaine-Jerabek said both papers saw the benefits in splitting the websites up. She said this decision was not caused by tension or conflict between the two papers but instead was a mutual agreement.
Both Fanlund and Dequaine-Jerabek emphasized the ways in which the Cap Times has expanded its operations. Fanlund said in the past several years, the paper has started events like the Cap Times Idea Fest and Cooking with the Cap Times. The paper has also contributed more than $70 million to charity through the Evjue Foundation and The Capital Times Kids Fund.
Dequaine-Jerabek said the variety of ways the Cap Times has transformed itself in recent years will provide a more promising future for the paper.