By Barry Gordemer

The Register Citizen can trace its roots back to 1874. The newspaper serves Torrington Conn., an old mill town in the northwestern part of the state. At its peak in the mid-1980s, The Citizen boasted a circulation of 21,000. Today it’s down to 8,000. Like so many other papers across the country, the Internet robbed The Citizen of subscribers. Now it’s taking a “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

The new philosophy is digital first, print second. Turns out The Citizen has six times the readership online than it does in print and the company that owns the paper is trying to take advantage of that audience. The Journal Register Company wants to create a hyper-local website to drive new readers and advertisers to The Citizen.

The New York Times reported this week that The Citizen moved out of its 105-year-old headquarters into a new state-of-the-art facility. Then it held a mini town hall meeting of sorts—inviting residents to attend an editorial meeting to suggest story ideas.

The Citizen will also offer courses on blogging and journalism. The paper says it hopes to get residents to write for the online edition as well as create their own blogs. The idea is that community involvement would drive new readers to the website, attracting advertisers that could potentially offset the print edition’s declining revenue.

If the plan works in this small Connecticut town, then the Journal Register Company, that owns 18 newspapers across the country, will try it on a larger scale—which makes The Register Citizen a digital guinea pig in a high-stakes experiment.

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