From the Publisher’s Desk: Anyone want to buy a website?

TeresaWhile this title is a bit sensational, it is in part, true. My Edmonds News and sister sites MLTnews and Lynnwood Today, are “for sale.” Let me explain.

This October, I will mark my seventh anniversary publishing My Edmonds News. (I acquired MLTnews and Lynnwood Today a few years later after the founders of those websites could no longer keep them going.) I am proud of what I have built and I am particularly proud of staying “in business” despite ongoing revenue challenges that small-town journalism entities — both print and online — face.

As I was driving home from last night’s City Council meeting, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. The reason was not exhaustion or frustration, although I have certainly felt that following some council meetings. It was because I had received a compliment from a reader regarding an obituary I wrote last week for local solar power advocate Chris Herman, who passed away at the age of 58 after a year-long battle with cancer. “It moved me to tears,” she told me.

For the past few days, I have been in a slump, questioning why I continue to do this work that I passionately love but requires an extraordinary level of commitment — to those small business owners who trust us with their precious advertising dollars, to those who read every day and have come to rely on the information we provide, and to those who regularly contribute photos and articles or design graphics or sell advertising or troubleshoot technical issues and deserve to be compensated.

Receiving that praise after telling the story of a community member who died too soon — but left behind a legacy that will live on — reminded me that this type of story telling is incredibly important. And the point was driven home further when I realized that no one else — no other local or regional print or online media — had written about Chris’s passing.

I want to be clear that I have never loved a job more passionately than online community news publishing. But there are brutal challenges that eat away at the edges of that passion, and those are not going away. So today, I am going to be brutally honest with all of you.

Challenge number 1: Ad revenue is not enough to fund what we do. We have wonderful advertisers, and a number of them have been with us for several years. I am grateful for their support, and I am also grateful that they are seeing results from their advertising. But, the truth is, just a small percentage of locally-owned small businesses spend money on any advertising, anywhere. In the glory days of newspapers, classified and display advertising generated lots of dollars that funded robust journalism efforts. But that was before the Internet in general and Craigslist in particular forever changed the way we access news and advertising.

Challenge number 2: Readers expect news to be free. You follow a link from Facebook to a story and are angry because the site requires a subscription and you have already used up your allocated number of “free” articles. You have canceled your newspaper subscription because you get your news on your phone or your iPad. For most of us — especially those who grew up with the Internet and smart phones — there is no commitment or loyalty to any one news source. We rely on what we come across on social media, what our friends are sharing or what we happen to catch on television or the radio.

While I have not implemented a subscription-based system for content, I have stepped up my efforts to ask readers for voluntary donations. And I thank all of you who have responded with monthly, annual or one-time donations. But the absolute truth is, it’s not enough. Across all three web sites, we average 9,000 unique visitors a day, yet have approximately 100 regular subscribers TOTAL, who give an average of $10 a month or $100 a year.

Challenge number 3: Facebook is not our friend. Like most publishers, I post everything we write about to our Facebook page. If it’s a hot topic, the post goes viral and is shared far and wide. If it’s more mundane — like a meeting report — it is likely to be ignored. While Facebook posts can be helpful in generating traffic back to our websites, many of you know that Facebook is constantly changing its algorithms and it’s a moving target as to what you will see in your feed. Today, Facebook announced it’s changing its News Feed to prioritize friends and family over news organizations. The bottom line: this shift that will cause referral traffic to publishers to decrease. Why does this matter to me? Site traffic is key metric for advertisers, to ensure that their messages are seen.

So let’s get back to my announcement that our websites are “for sale.” Many of you likely followed the saga of local public radio station KPLU, which was going to be sold to KUOW until listeners raised $7 million to save it. That campaign involved more than 24,000 individual donations by people who valued what the station provided.

I am asking all of you to make a similar investment in community journalism through a voluntary subscription. Do it now, while you are thinking of it, at this link — online or by check (address is provided). You’ll be supporting people like Larry Vogel, who energetically covers Edmonds with stories and photos; Natalie Covate, who not only writes about Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace issues but faithfully attends every Edmonds School Board meeting; Emily Hill, who chronicles the arts and entertainment scene; Kathy Passage, who writes about our local restaurants; along with all our other wonderful writers, photographers, ad sales people and graphic designers — too numerous to list but all sincerely appreciated!

And I am asking every one of you: Business owners who can’t afford to advertise but may be able to afford $3 a month; civic leaders who tell me how much they appreciate what I do; readers who stop me on the street. You know who you are — and I need you.

I can’t say it any more strongly that this: There is no “magic bullet” for saving local news. If there was, all those news organizations that have gone out of business — or significantly downsized — would be thriving. I literally cannot do this work without you.

Until next time.

Teresa Wippel, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 Replies to “From the Publisher’s Desk: Anyone want to buy a website?”

  1. Thanks for the article Teresa. Can you elaborate on what the expenditures of this online magazine are? For instance are there salaried employees keeping this up or is it all volunteer & expenses merely web hosting costs etc? Would be curious to know. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Lori — everyone who gets assigned a story or column or photo is paid for their work. Our ad sales people are paid. We also pay for graphic design, web technical support, security upgrades, copying and printing (marketing materials, business cards and other related materials), web hosting, third party ad serving, photo and video equipment and related office expenses. And we make donations to a variety of worthwhile causes in the community. Hope that helps.

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      1. it might be rather personal, but . . .

        other than your time and energy and commitment, you might include in the expenses, how much hard $$$ comes out of your pocket… based on your figures you must have a negative income!

        for the many of us that know you personally, it’s always great to see you out and about

        as i write this i’m thinking . . . how many people see you and don’t know who you are? i don’t know how many city council meetings i attended before i knew who that lady was in the back taking notes – always!

        perhaps something that announces loudly who you are when your and crew are out and about?

        there’s a very different feeling to contribute when it’s personal!

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  2. I think it’s all too easy for people to take the nature of instant-gratification news for granted; the process isn’t like it was when we used to pay for print news. I remember having a paper route with the old Edmonds Enterprise when I was younger (which was a voluntary subscription), and remember almost everyone who received a newspaper paying $3-$5 per month with little hesitation. There have already been 500 views of this article; if each person donated just a couple of bucks each month, I know it would give MyEdmondsNews more than enough revenue to keep up and even invest more effort in bringing us better/more interesting content. The alternative is getting our news from people who don’t care about and invest in our local community, something in which I have no interest. I just signed up for a monthly contribution and I hope you all will join me.

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  3. My Edmonds News is my favorite source of LOCAL news and commentary. This article raises an interesting question, how much is online news worth? Since My Edmonds News is hyper-local, especially with its coverage of our city council and school board, it is far more valuable to me than other newspapers.
    The HeraldNet in Everett is $8.95 per month for digital access, with 10 free articles per month … too much for the worth I would receive, so I am careful to reserve my 10 articles in order to read those that might have a significant impact on where we live, e.g. Paine Field or Boeing news, or environmental and political issues, etc. While the news is rarely local on the websites of the bigger news stations, KIRO, KOMO, and KING, they provides necessary coverage of issues at the state level. If I had to pay one of them to stay abreast of state politics, I likely would, but again, I probably wouldn’t like to be paying $9 per month.
    So what’s the magic number? I know for sure I would pay $5 per month to get my local news and commentary from My Edmonds News, but a friend of mine said it was only worth about $3 for her since she only visits it when she sees a headline that catches her eyes. I am now supporting My Edmonds News with a monthly donation. I challenge readers to consider what it is worth to them and join us in supporting My Edmonds News.

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  4. I rely on, and appreciate, My Edmonds News – so sorry I have not subscribed before now. I now have taken care of establishing a monthly donation. Thank you to you and your staff for a job well done!!

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  5. Thank you for explaining the challenges you face on a daily basis to keep our community informed and connected with one another. I really appreciate all the effort it takes to keep it going and value the integrity of your work. A subscription to My Edmonds News is worth every penny! Done.

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  6. The “new” web version is no longer easily read on my husband’s iPhone or my Samsung S5. I scan the daily email and if it’s important or interesting I try to remember to check my laptop later. What interests me more than anything are the comments, which is now completely obscured by ads on the mobile version. I also liked the twitter feed during an “emergency” I can’t find that anymore either. My viewing is down about 98%. I only saw this today because I was reading the July 4th chair comments.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. We know that some people like the old layout, which is why we also offer a Classic version that shows the stories in order posted. You can access that here: https://myedmondsnews.com/home-classic/ I just revisited the site on my phone and the comments are at the very end of the scroll, but they are there, and not covered by ads. As for the Twitter feed, if folks find that valuable we could certainly add it back on the home page.

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  7. I appreciate the coverage of local organizations.
    Put me down for a subscription.
    Let me know the best way to pay and I will do it.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara. I will send you an email about your options — but you can either pay online or mail a check. Your choice.

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  8. I have ben a subscriber for about a year. It is well worth it. I have know people who read My Edmonds News all the time but say they don’t “subscribe”. Well, MEN is not FREE news, any more than a newspaper subscription is free. Theresa, you provide a great service to the community. I hope everyone who reads MEN will subscribe so your commitment will be able to continue.

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  9. Question: for most of my annual contributions to worthy charities and other non-profits, I/we make an annual contribution at the end of each year. We do this for MyEdmondsNews. The manner is which you meet your financial obligations, is it better to receive donations monthly or annually? Or does it matter?

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  10. Judy, I can see why you were led to believe I was making a charitable (tax deductible) contribution to MEN. I meant to say that I consider my contribution to MEN a worthy use of my assets, not unlike those that are. I wish there were some way to make it a non-profit, but probably not in the cards. Nevertheless, folks who read it and depend on it like us should all contribute to keep it going. It’s too valuable to lose.

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