"There’s got to be a better way” was what Keven Zepezauer and his team kept saying to each other whenever they talked about affidavits. Zepezauer, the president and publisher of Restoration NewsMedia in North Carolina, knew that the public notice process — with all its labor-intensive, manual inefficiencies — was a problem. “It was ugly,” Zepezauer stated. “We had a full-time person dedicated just to affidavits. We knew we needed to do something different.”
“Everyone’s got to be asking: ‘how can we be more efficient?’ You can’t afford not to be thinking that way right now.” Zepezauer assumes other media businesses can relate. “I’m always looking for the best way to run our company,” he explained. That’s why two years ago, Zepezauer decided to switch his papers over to using Column, a public benefit software company that’s dedicated to making public information systems more valuable. At the time, Column had just rolled out its core product — the first software to streamline the public notice process for newspapers and their customers. Restoration NewsMedia was one of Column’s first partners, and Zepezauer said that their transition to the technology happened without a hitch. “Their team made me feel very comfortable,” he reflected. “Right away, we were able to redefine our organization. Column allowed us to move our full-time public notice person into a different position, which saved us a considerable amount of money right off the bat.”
This spring, the public notice process got even easier for Zepezauer’s newspapers when Column’s team asked if he’d be interested in piloting their new full-service affidavit automation. “I was immediately on board,” Zepezauer said. “It was a program we desperately needed, and I knew there was no better company to handle something like it. If the Column team says they’re behind something, they’re going to make it happen.”
Column made it happen. Column’s affidavit automation handles everything related to affidavits within 48 hours. As soon as the publisher uploads the e-edition of the notice, the affidavit automation kicks off without the newspaper staff having to lift another finger. Column verifies that the notice ran, notarizes it with their in-house notaries, organizes a two-way call between notary and signatory, then sends the publisher the final affidavit, all within two days.
“We literally don’t have to touch affidavits at all,” Zepezauer said. “Column handles the entire process, end-to-end. We haven’t looked back.”
The person who had been dedicated to public notice works in the business office now, Zepezauer explained, where she can redirect her time, balance out business responsibilities, address important billing issues, and investigate more revenue-generating opportunities that all five papers can utilize.
Looking back, Zepezauer said, “There was nothing else we could have done back then that would’ve made us as efficient as we are now with Column.”
Zepezauer recognizes the concern in the news industry about Column’s endgame — that their ultimate goal is to take public notices away from newspapers. “That’s not Column’s goal,” Zepezauer affirmed. “That’s not what they’re trying to do. You’ll see proof of their backbone if you talk with Column’s people. They’re a public benefit mission-driven company. They show up for us at state legislative sessions. They’re one of the best partners out there.”
“I’d urge fellow newspapers to look at Column and talk it out. Reach out to me. I’m not getting paid for this. I’d be happy to describe my process to you. Column will save you time. It’ll save you money. There’s nothing better you can ask for.”
Enterprise | Column