DeBuse: Strong community journalism starts with a subscription
Last week the News-Times and the rest of the Pamplin Media Group doubled down on you, our readers, launching a new subscription blitz. The idea is to get more readers to pay for all the journalism produced in our newsroom and those of our sister publications across the region, from the Estacada News and Columbia County Spotlight, to the Madras Pioneer and Newberg Graphic.
We've always understood the importance of readers. Because, without you, we don't have an audience for our work, or a business model to pay for it.
However, what the Pamplin Media Group historically charged for our papers was priced only to recoup, or at least off-set, press and distribution costs. Some of our papers, such as the Portland Tribune, are even available at certain locations for free. We could do that because advertising dollars more than covered the biggest cost: payroll.
Over the past 20 years, with the growth of the Internet and the gut-punch of the Great Recession, print advertising has declined. According to the Newspaper Association of America and Pew Research Center, print advertising plummeted from its nationwide peak of $67 billion to less than $13 billion last year.
Our company has done much better than most in maintaining its print advertising revenue — in part because of the trust and loyalty of our readers. But we can't rely on that funding stream to keep up with rising costs and our goals of expanding our coverage.
Digital advertising has grown dramatically in the past decade, but two-thirds of that money is going to Facebook, Google and Amazon. And, last time we checked, none of those three tech giants were sending reporters to the local city council meetings, Banks High School Friday night games or telling you about your neighbors, like Lily Dizon, who was featured in our Amazing Kids special section in spring, or Jim Morris, profiled in our companywide Salute to Veterans last month.
Doing that costs money.
The process of taking a single news or feature story through the reporting, editing and design process, then getting it printed and posted, costs us about $200. Pamplin Media produces more than 4,400 stories each month, which comes to more than $10 million a year. Historically, readers have paid only a small fraction of that.
Now, we're asking you to do more, either by subscribing if you haven't before or by expanding your subscription to include online access to all Pamplin websites or by buying a subscription for a neighbor, friend or family member. (Go to savinglocalnews.com for details.)
No other media outlet covers Forest Grove and Hillsboro with the depth that you get from the News-Times. We know you value that, so we're betting that you will step up and pay a bit more — and encourage others to do the same — to ensure that strong, accurate, independent community journalism will continue in western Washington County and throughout the region.
Nikki DeBuse is publisher of the News-Times and a 32-year veteran of the newspaper industry.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.