Digital racks: Seeing the news while reading it

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PITTSFIELD — The sturdy, durable newspaper display rack has been used to sell papers in stores for generations.

But this traditional device has been modernized to mirror the media's shift toward digital technology.

Last month, Lipton Mart began offering items in four of its Pittsfield stores on digital display racks that had been purchased by The Berkshire Eagle.

These racks, manufactured by Steel City Corp. of Ashland, Ohio, which has been serving the newspaper industry for 80 years, are topped by a 16-by-9-inch digital display area. The digital screen can be used by both media and advertisers to provide up-to-the-minute updates such as news briefs and promotions.

The messages on the digital screens can be uploaded on the cloud via email, with a USB flash drive, or an SD card. Up to five monitors can be managed on a single account.

"In my opinion, newspapers have struggled with this digital conversion," said Jim Smith, the national sales manager for Steel City Corp. "We thought this would be a great way to give a digital impression to the marketplace. Here's the print product, but we have a digital look above the rack."

The new setup has given customers a different way to access a traditional product.

"It's another platform; another way to expose businesses or advertisers," Smith said. "I've used the term before — it's made newspapers relevant again in the retail place because they don't have the same old rack."

The digital display racks have been installed in Lipton Marts at 460 South St., 320 West Housatonic St., 188 Elm St., and 580 North St., and at two other stores in Brattleboro, Vt. The Brattleboro Reformer is also a member of New England Newspapers Inc., parent company of The Eagle.

Another digital display rack has been installed at the Elm Street Market in Stockbridge, which is owned by Main Street Hospitality Group. The group manages several Berkshire lodging establishments, including the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and Hotel on North in Pittsfield.

Michael Lipton, the president of Pittsfield-based Liptonmart Stores, said feedback from customers and personnel has been positive so far.

"I'm not there all the time, obviously, but from the times I've been in the stores and from what I've heard from managers, the customers really like it and get a kick out of it," Lipton said. "It seems that newspaper sales are up. It looks really clean, high tech."

The new display racks have gone over so well that Lipton said he's considering putting them in other company outlets in Great Barrington and Lenox, which are set up differently than those four Pittsfield stores.

"Those are definitely potentials," he said. "It might take a little finagling to get them in there."

The Eagle has four additional digital display racks that it hopes to deploy by the end of the year, said circulation assistant/marketing manager Gary Lavariere.


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