The BDN’s website — initially bangornews.com, before eventually transitioning to bangordailynews.com in the 2000s — launched in 1997. At that time, the vast majority of news articles did not appear on the website. In fact, the only content that did initially appear on the website were outdoors columnist Tom Hennessey’s weekly essays and George Danby’s political cartoons. Hennessey, who
died last year, retired in 1996, though he continued to contribute to the BDN as a freelancer. Danby’s cartoons still appear both in print and online.
For the first four years that the BDN’s website existed, it more functionally operated as an Internet Service Provider. The BDN partnered with several small local telecom companies —
InfiNet, and then Prexar — to offer dial-up internet service to several thousand Mainers. By 2001, the BDN had gotten out of the ISP game and had started to offer more content from its print pages online.
2001-2013: Navigating uncertainty
By the early 2000s, print media had begun to irrevocably transform, as the internet started to become the primary way people consumed information. Few editors or publishers of any newspaper of any size foresaw the change that was about to happen — one that would see revenues from print nosedive and require a total realignment of resources away from print and toward digital.
The BDN website underwent its first major redesign in December 2006, when it began offering the majority of stories that appeared in print online as well. A full digital transformation did not begin in earnest until 2008, however, after Todd Benoit, former editorial page editor, became the BDN’s director of new media.
After several years of research and development, in 2011, Benoit, who today is
president and chief operating officer of the BDN, ushered in the “digital first” era, meaning that for reporters and editors, their first priority is writing for the website, with print being secondary. Though print subscribers still make up a large and important part of the BDN’s subscriber base, digital users have made up the majority of BDN readers for nearly a decade.
2013-present: Looking toward the future
Many more changes came rapidly, beginning in 2013, when the BDN
closed its printing plant in Hampden, and began printing at other plants around the state. The nearly 125-year-long era of printing the newspaper in-house had ended.
In May 2014, the Bangor Daily News
sold its 491 Main St. building to Cross Insurance, and in February 2015, it moved its offices to its current home at One Merchants Plaza in downtown Bangor — just the third major address change in BDN history. In October 2015, the BDN sold the Hampden facility to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.
Though several of its physical assets had been sold, in other ways, Bangor Publishing Co. actually expanded with the 2014 purchase of Bangor Metro magazine, the 2015 acquisition of
the St. John Valley Times in Madawaska and the 2016 acquisition of Fort Kent-based news website the Fiddlehead Focus. In 2018, the BDN welcomed Bangor-based marketing firm Pulse into the company, while it closed its Presque Isle printing plant. Also last year, the BDN launched Hello Homestead, a website for a national audience focused on sustainable living and growing your own food.
In September 2017, the site underwent another major redesign, and two months later,
the BDN launched paid digital subscriptions — 20 years after bangordailynews.com first went live. Today, the website boasts millions of page views per month, alongside a robust and growing digital subscriber base.
Amid all this change, one thing has stayed the same for all of the BDN’s 130 years: local, independent, family ownership, with reporters on the ground in towns and cities across Maine. Publisher Richard J. Warren, now in his 35th year at the helm of the BDN, is just the fifth publisher to own the paper in more than 100 years, all of them direct descendents of J. Norman Towle.
Watch: A look back at the Bangor Daily News over 130 years