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Friday, January 5, 2018

State of the Voice January 2018


Chris Davis, Publisher

It's been a long time since I published a "State of the Voice".  I've written about ten of them that I chose to delete instead, because the Voice has been in an uncertain state of flux for the last two years and I didn't want to mislead our readers or advertisers.  That state of flux, while never completely gone, has stabilized somewhat, so here we are.  Expect the rest of this editorial to be candor-full.


First of all, I want to thank our many readers and our few advertisers for giving meaning to this venture, which Toni Lucas and I began almost six and a half years ago.  Our catchphrase at the time was "All the news fits",  and I laid out a five-year plan to try to bring a full-on community news service to our community.  I believe in the first five years of this publication we did exactly that.  We took a shoestring budget and a bucket of chutzpah and mixed them with 80 to 100 hour weeks for 52 weeks out of the year during that phase of the Pincher Creek Voice, and were rewarded an astoundingly large audience for the effort.  We were not rewarded anything like an equivalent revenue return for that effort.  At the end of that five year plan we were exhausted physically, spiritually, and economically.  Therefore, in early 2016 I made the difficult decision to cut back on our coverage, to bring it down to doable level.  I had to re-imagine our priorities to do so.  At a rough estimate, for the first five years of the Voice we spent an average of 50 hours a week covering sports, 30 hours a week covering hard news, and 20 hours a week covering community events.  In addition to that we spent another 40 to 60 hours a week on sales, administration, and advertising graphics etc.  Neither of us made anything close to minimum wage for that effort.  A readjustment was necessary and overdue.

As a result, regular readers noticed a definite lull in our output in the spring of 2017.  We decided to produce what our revenue allowed for once, and that was it during that period.  We spent some us time along the ay, and recuperated while contemplating the future of this publication instead of spending money we didn't have.  We took it easy for a little while.  We did other, more profitable things too.  When disaster stuck our community we leaped back into our metaphorical saddles and did our best to help our community get through it.

The Voice received over a million pageviews in 2016.  It received well over a million pageviews in 2017.  It will likely receive well over a million pageviews in 2018.  Approximately a third of those pageviews come from local readers.  Another approximate third of those pageviews come from the southwestern Alberta region.  Approximately 1/6th of the remainder are readers in other parts of Alberta.  Another approximate 1/6th are from all over Canada and the rest of the world.

From a business perspective, it's unlikely that you will see a Voice, or indeed any other publication, go to the lengths we did in our first five years.  This community doesn't appreciate that kind of effort in a monetary way, in a way that sustains it.  That may be blunt, but it's true.  It's a shame really, we did more with two or three people than other publications do with staffs of 8 or 12, but that's the way it is.

Essentially, the test drive is over.  We've shown what we can do.

What regular readers have seen since about July of last year is a good representation of our path forward.  It was successful in terms of maintaining a strong readership, and it was as successful as four times the effort and double the expenses in terms of revenue.

Hard news has become our primary focus.

We still cover sports, and we still cover sports more than anyone else in the southern Alberta rural region, but we spend a lot less time and resources on sports than we used to.  In comparison to ourselves that level of coverage has definitely diminished significantly.  Those of you who have children in sports and who advertise by and large don't advertise with us.  There's no business rationale for continuing to do it the way we used to.  Sports was the single most time and resource expensive thing we did.  It has now been right-sized in our business plan.  It was a painful choice to make.

Likewise, we still cover community events, but not in the manner we used to.  Again, I'm comparing us to us.  The events that tell us they don't need our readers before the event as a rationale for not advertising in our publication have no grounds to complain if we decide we don't need to cover their event, or scale back that coverage to something more akin to what our competition does.  Either we matter or we don't.  Of our approximately 10,000 to 14,000 unique readers a month, approximately 4000 of them live within a half hour drive to downtown Pincher Creek.  Either they matter or they don't.  We're not going to be fighting the perception game any longer.

I did say I was going to be candid.

The bottom line is this: If you want a better Pincher Creek Voice than you've been getting the last six months, someone's going to have to pay for it.

Now for the good news.

Effective January 1, 2018, we're into another five-year plan.  The Pincher Creek Voice isn't going away.  We have right-sized our efforts to a sustainable level, our revenue has stabilized, albeit at a disappointing level, and we've found alternate ways to ensure our own financial future, for what that's worth to anyone else.   We will continue to cover local and area politics. We will continue to offer a forum to those who respect the basic rules of decency and the basic laws of libel and slander.  We will continue to be there for you when disasters strike.  We still encourage you to submit material that may interest our other readers or inspire our youth.  We will continue to pursue this interesting work that I feel is vital to the survival of democracy.  We will still be on the sidelines cheering on our local teams.   We'll still ask you to smile from time to time.  We will still help you celebrate and we will still help you mourn.  We will continue to feature the work of freelance reporters, because we believe that brings more balance to our coverage.

Thank you for reading, dear readers.  Thank you for advertising, dear advertisers.

- Chris Davis

1 comment:

  1. "You don't know what you have until it's gone" is something I sincerely hope does not happen to the Pincher Creek Voice for that would definitely be a shame for then we would all be losers.

    "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never Surrender."

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