By Dan Cotter, Vermont Standard publisher
Like at most newspapers, times have been tough at the Standard.
But unlike most newspapers, our situation doesn’t appear to be hopeless. In fact, it’s quite hopeful.
As I’ve chronicled in these pages in the past, the Standard now only generates about half as much revenue from the sale of advertising as it used to. In large part, that’s due to changes in the way people buy and sell things. Big box retailers and chain stores that don’t advertise in community newspapers attract most of the customers, which comes at the expense of smaller independent stores that tend to be the most loyal newspaper advertisers. And the rapid consumer shift today towards purchasing from Amazon and other online retailers has negatively impacted many local stores, and therefore local newspapers. When businesses struggle or cease to exist, they no longer advertise in the paper.
In addition, much of the classified advertising that used to be found in newspapers has now moved instead to online help-wanted, real estate and auto sales platforms. Plus, many local businesses now spend more of their marketing budgets on digital ads with giants like Google, Facebook and others.
The bottom line is that the math no longer adds up for the Standard to count on local advertising dollars alone to fund a quality news operation.
The hopeful part is that the Standard still has a very loyal, highly engaged audience that truly values the journalism we provide for the communities we serve. The Standard has not experienced the dramatic circulation decline that so many other newspapers around the country have endured, and our complementary audience on our news update website is substantial.
It’s gratifying, and no surprise then, that in the past few weeks so many of our readers have stepped up to offer well wishes and make a contribution to our 2021 Annual Appeal. Please accept our heartfelt thanks and our pledge to use your gifts wisely to fund the local journalism you deserve!
Today we enter the final week of our fundraising campaign. We promised that this would be an annual appeal, and by definition that means just once a year – so we won’t continue to bother you with articles about this after today’s edition, until next summer’s appeal rolls around.
We are especially hopeful because we are also making progress towards positioning the Standard for long-term sustainability. When you make a gift to our Annual Appeal, you are not throwing good money after bad. In fact, you’re helping to fund our path forward in pursuit of new revenue streams that can help support our journalism in the future.
In the past couple of years, we’ve worked to continually improve the Standard’s print edition and we introduced our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website, which also includes our comprehensive community calendar. Both are now officially recognized as best in class among all weekly newspapers in New England.
We are aggressively pursuing a number of new ways to generate revenue — beyond our traditional print advertising – that respond to the evolving needs of our audience and local businesses. We’ve recently enhanced and expanded the advertising options in the Standard, on our website, and in our tourist publication, Destination Vermont. We also now offer a full range of inexpensive digital marketing services to help local businesses and organizations laser-target their customer prospects with direct email and digital ads, complete with engaging and interactive creative opportunities.
And in a few weeks, we will roll out our exciting new e-commerce program. Every local business will be entitled to participate in this for free so that they can gain valuable exposure and easily sell their products online.
This is all part of our ongoing effort to make sure that the Standard remains in place to serve the community with local journalism for many years to come.
If you haven’t had a chance to make a gift yet, please consider doing so, as our need is quite urgent. Simply send us a check at PO Box 88, Woodstock, VT 05091 or go on our Vermont Standard THIS WEEK website at www.thevermontstandard.com to make an Annual Appeal contribution with your credit card. We gratefully welcome any and all contributions from individuals, families, businesses and organizations, but please note that we are not classified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so you don’t get a tax deduction for your gift.
Your willingness to invest in your hometown newspaper is laudable, and it makes us extremely proud. It also sustains and invigorates us as we pledge to try our very best to live up to the trust you’re placing in us.
We humbly thank you, friends.