February 2, 2016
Karl Johnston, Publisher
We have some good news to share with you, our valued readers and advertisers! Today, the paNOW family launched sister sites in the Battlefords and Meadow Lake. These community information portals have taken a page out of the paNOW playbook and can be found online at battlefordsNOW.com and meadowlakeNOW.com. We invite you to share the news with your friends and family on social media. The good news doesn’t stop there. Having noted the success of paNOW, our new owner, The Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, is taking the format to selected cities across western Canada. Today you will find similar sites in Kamloops and Lethbridge.
All this is happening against a backdrop of bad news for the media industry. Last week, two daily community newspapers closed in Canada. The week before that, Postmedia and Rogers slashed hundreds of jobs nationwide. We’re not immune from this trend here at home. Only a few months ago the newspaper in La Ronge suddenly closed. The local CTV station has quietly eliminated more jobs and moved production of the noon news cast from Prince Albert to Saskatoon. PA’s daily print paper hangs on - a shell of its former self, with fewer staff and even fewer pages. If that wasn’t bad enough, the community newspaper in North Battleford recently ran a front page headline stating there was no news worth reporting that week, so ran nothing!
The expansion of the NOW brand across western Canada, is one example why we shouldn’t give up hope for the survival of local journalism. Over the past five years paNOW has proven an audience still exists for local reporting and community information. We’ve also demonstrated that local advertisers are more than willing to join us and follow readers from the printed paper to a new platform. The fact is, readers don’t care any less now than they did before about what’s happening in their community. What has changed is the way readers choose to consume that information. We still want to know what’s going on, we just don’t want to wait to read all about it ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’. It’s the same reason we now watch recent release movies on our TV versus trudging down to the local video store on a winter night (remember that?). We’re not watching fewer movies (we may be watching more), we’re just watching them differently. Today’s consumers have a choice and most want it now. More accurately, they want to consume information on their schedule and when they need it, not on 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 and go online and on-demand, they abandon the revenue model which is still almost entirely tied to the printed paper and the weekly flyer bundle. If they do more than dabble online they’re killing their own business. The fact is that wad of printed flyers stuffed in your mailbox is largely what’s paying for what’s left of the printed paper and without that we probably wouldn’t still have a daily paper. Shrinking readership and revenue is bad. Losing the flyer revenue would be a disaster.
Our business model is simple: focus on local content, deliver it online and the audience will come. With the launch of battlefordsNOW and meadowlakeNOW we’ve added three reporters to beef up our local news and sports content. When you combine our newsrooms in Prince Albert, North Battleford and Meadow Lake we now have 17 journalists making the NOW newsroom in central and northwest Saskatchewan the region’s largest, several times over.
Telling people there’s no news to report (so why buy/read the paper) doesn’t give people a reason to read the paper. The same goes for slashing pages and eliminating service to the community. Even charging people for something readily available for free elsewhere seems outdated and off-putting. When readership and audience declines, advertisers turn away. As advertisers turn away revenue drops and content is cut further. 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 North Battleford, Meadow Lake and Prince Albert keep a local newspaper, while restoring advertiser confidence in the ability of the media to reach a large local audience.
Since its launch, paNOW has steadily grown its 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 advertisers nearly 18 million advertising impressions. paNOW has proven that advertisers will stick with newspapers. Advertisers are okay with losing the printed paper, just not the results.
So, that’s our good news story. Local journalism is alive and well, at least in our little corner of the world. We’re very optimistic about the future of local online journalism. Watch us grow!
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