11-01-20 | Printable Version

Modernizing Public Notices

Column is a software company offering the first collaborative public notice platform for local newspapers and their customers. Registered as a public benefit corporation, the company provides easy to use tools that simplify the public notice process from start to finish for everyone involved.

Jake Seaton, Column’s CEO and founder, is part of the fifth generation of a newspaper family. The Seaton newspaper chain was launched with the purchase of The Manhattan (KS) Mercury in 1915. Today the family operates newspapers spread across six states.

Growing up as a paperboy and high school reporter, Jake watched technological transformations disrupt the local news industry. Determined to develop skills he needed to save the family business, Jake pursued a degree in Computer Science & Journalism at Harvard. Jake met with David Chavern to share his story and passion for solving hard problems facing the industry. Chavern directed his attention to the issue of public notice, saying it was an area in need of innovation if local newspapers were to stay afloat. Jake realized that his combination of skills and story meant he had a rare opportunity to solve a hard problem facing his family’s business.

Jake returned to school on a mission to learn as much as he could about public notice. He developed a strong relationship with many of the media leaders in and around Harvard's Shorenstein Center as he researched and wrote about public notice for journalism courses. During this time, Jake also wrote the first lines of code and incubated the business plan for what would go on to become Column. We took some time to sit down with Jake to learn more about the company.

 

What does Column aim to do?
Column is the first collaborative public notice platform for newspapers and their clients to improve and simplify the placement and publishing process.

Local governments, legal services, businesses and newspapers waste time and money administering this process with varying degrees of consistency and satisfaction.
We aim to reduce the operational costs involved in public notice and deliver a modern user experience.

We equip publishers with order entry tools, task automation, simplified online billing and payment, and a digital affidavit system to deliver a modern customer experience for their public notice clients.

Why and when did you start building Column?
I started Column because the future of public notice will determine whether or not local newspapers will exist in communities across the country.

We incorporated in early 2019. Previously, I spent a couple of years researching public notice at the Harvard Shorenstein Center while finishing my degree. Our team spent 2019 in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas working out of the back room of my family’s newspaper. We traveled around the state meeting with publishers, law firms, local governments, and the Kansas Press Association to develop a solution that would address the challenge and inefficiencies of the public notice process.

Who are your customers so far?
Column has over a thousand users placing notices with hundreds of newspapers registered on our platform. Our user base includes local governments, law firms, private parties, and newspapers across nine states including the District of Columbia. Over the summer, we brought on The Washington Post as our first major enterprise publisher.

Can any size newspaper partner with Column?
Yes! We work with newspapers of all shapes and sizes, from mom and pop shops to major metros.

Does your platform prepare notices to only be disseminated in print, or online as well?
Our platform helps facilitate the placement of notices in print as required by law. In addition to our collaborative platform, we offer our publishing partners access to our modern notice display pages like the one utilized by The Washington Post at publicnotices.washingtonpost.com.