February 2, 2016
Karl Johnston, Publisher
A few weeks ago the local newspaper ran a front page headline stating there was no news worth reporting in the Battlefords. Well, we thought if they couldn’t find some we would make some!
Welcome to battlefordsNOW.com!
It seems all we hear from the media these days is stories of newspaper closures and downsizing. Last week two community newspapers closed in Canada. A week before, Postmedia and Rogers slashed hundreds of jobs. One only has to remember the sudden closure of newspapers in La Ronge and Meadow Lake to realize we’re not immune from a shifting media landscape.
Some argue these cuts and closures are an ominous sign for the future of journalism and even democracy itself. We would suggest they’re nothing more than the result of the public’s changing media consumption habits. Canadians still want to know what’s going on in their community; they just don’t want to wait to “read all about it” next week. It’s the same reason we order movies on our TV versus trudging down to the video store. There was a time when you could deliver the news once a week (or expect people to come down to a video store) and consumers were okay with that – largely because there was no alternative. Today’s consumers have a choice and most want it now. More accurately, they want to consume media on their schedule not the media company’s production schedule.
Unfortunately, traditional newspapers are tied to a cumbersome business model that revolves around the printed paper: deadlines and printing presses, trucks and paper carriers. Everything must run on a schedule or nothing happens at all. While they often have the right content, they are married to the print business model. It’s a catch-22: if they abandon the printed paper to cut costs and serve readers better online and on demand they abandon the revenue model which is still almost entirely tied to the printed paper. If they do more than dabble online they’re killing their own business. I suppose shrinking readership and revenue is still better than no business model at all.
BattlefordsNOW.com turns that business model upside down. We’re not beholden to the printed paper. The result is a much lower cost structure. We can be 100 per cent online, on demand and be totally free for readers. More importantly, battlefordsNOW.com is a 24/7 news and community information product, so that means we’re there when something’s (always) happening in the Battlefords. Our site is mobile friendly so it looks great on a phone and iPad to suit on-the-go readers. Free classifieds help local businesses looking for an employee, realtors or car dealers looking to sell a home or car, a family wanting to publish a funeral notice or someone simply looking to buy or sell something. Readers will be able to do it all here, and it won’t cost you fifty cents a word to get published!
Our business model is simple: build it and they will come. We’ve added three reporters to beef up our local news and sports content, and by making everything free we’re confident we’ll attract more than a few “eyes”. With the addition of battlefordsNOW, we now have the biggest news and sports team in the area. Yes, we believe there is a lot happening in and around the Battlefords and we plan to share your stories and with your neighbours and with the larger community.
Telling people there’s no news to report (so why buy/read the paper) doesn’t help struggling newspapers survive. As readership declines, advertisers turn away. As advertisers turn away revenue drops and content is cut. It’s a vicious circle. Now we don’t profess to have a solution for ills of an entire industry but we’re confident we’ve figured out a way to ensure the Battlefords keeps a local newspaper, and advertiser confidence in the ability of newspapers to reach a wide audience is restored.
battlefordsNOW is not a “test” project. The model for the site you see was developed 5 years ago in Prince Albert for a site called paNOW.com. Since launch, paNOW has steadily grown readership. In a matter of months it overtook readership at the daily newspaper (and the paper had a 100 year head start!) Here’s how paNOW measures up: in the most recent 30 days more than 257,000 unique users visited the site 1,016,560 times. These visitors consumed 3.5 million pages of information. At the same time paNOW delivered local businesses nearly 18 million advertising impressions. Meantime, circulation at the daily paper has continued to slide to a few thousand a day. paNOW has proven that advertisers will stick with newspapers. You can lose the paper but you can’t lose the results.
So, that’s our story. I know the community has seen some online ventures come and go in recent years. We won’t be one of them. The Jim Pattison Broadcast Group is here to stay. We own three radio stations in the Battlefords and with the launch of this new product we’ve just grown from 30 to 34 employees. We’re not going anywhere; in fact we’re growing just like the communities we serve. Welcome to your new, newspaper. Built for the Battlefords. Built for 2016.
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