COURIER transformation begins for long-term success
by Peter Weinberger
Last week the COURIER unveiled a long list of changes based on feedback from readers and advertisers. I talked about the local news changes occurring in small communities all around the US. It’s obvious that local news is on life support.
My last column focused on our financial challenges by giving specific examples what’s happening with local news around the nation. Revenue has hit a ceiling, while costs continue to rise in many already expensive areas, such as newsprint and employee healthcare.
Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register, for example, have had numerous ownership changes, who, in the end, simply cut expenses to turn a profit. With a reduced print edition and less digital information, readers sometimes feel it’s not worth paying more for less. Thus, the cycle begins.
Our approach will not be to cut people and budgets to survive. Our goal is to make the COURIER even more valuable to readers by creating must-see scenarios with stronger content. By focusing on this mission, we can work together to better promote the city and businesses that turn Claremont’s economic engine.
This approach will take an enormous amount of work and creative thinking. There is no roadmap to success. I’m also confident these first steps are keys to long term success. But we will need Claremont’s support. And judging from what I’ve already experienced, I believe that’s already happening.
After answering questions from my presentation with Claremont Rotarians, I wanted to mention specific ideas that will be happening in the upcoming months.
• Redesign of the print edition with an easier-to-read format.
• A complete overhaul of our popular mobile (smartphone) website. More than 50 percent of our online readers currently read the COURIER on their phones.
• More partnerships with businesses and organizations, including the Claremont Chamber on a variety of fronts, for example.
• Regular subscription rates have been raised $7 per year. This is still an amazing value given it includes a complete website, video access and social media posts. All for just $6 a month.
• A greater focus on Claremont businesses from a number of fronts, including more profiles and an Advertiser of the Week—the first recipient was Xerxes owner Arman Arian—to show readers the wonderful business owners in our community. This is a $10,000 a year commitment to show the impact of COURIER advertising.
• Continuing to tackle the tough stories readers deserve and expect from our reporters. We believe in transparency at city hall and will continue to hold city government accountable through objective and fair reporting practices.
• Two new regular features—one about neighbors to get to know one another better, headed by staffer Steven Felschundneff, and a second called “Encounters,” where Mick Rhodes will share the personal life stories of visiting lecturers and performers.
• We will continue to visually show Claremont in new, exciting ways through video. Believe it or not, COURIER videos are seen by more people than just about anything we publish. Starting today, we will continue our popular park series and roll out an in-depth architecture video with the help of Claremont Heritage and Matt Weinberger.
How you can help
One of our key initiatives is to roll out a premium subscription plan for $159 a year, or $14 a month. If 20 percent of our subscribers were on this plan, our revenue issues would be solved. I’m also aware the COURIER must add value to entice readers to sign up.
This premium subscription includes a free COURIER pooch t-shirt, VIP access to our events and celebrations, lunch with the staff, and most importantly, discounts for Claremont shopping and entertainment (Individual plan) or 20 percent of all COURIER advertising (Business plan). This is real money savings for readers that also supports local businesses and the COURIER.
Our new online subscription page also includes an option to support local journalism with a donation. Any amount is appreciated, although we offer a free t-shirt for contributions over $150.
It’s my hope that our 10,000 social media followers will select this option to help offset the costs of generating news content and video on a regular basis. To be transparent, the COURIER is a for profit company, owned by the Weinberger family since 1955.
The COURIER staff takes their responsibility to inform the public very seriously. We answer dozens of questions and inquires from Claremonters every day. These changes are designed to help the COURIER for our next generation of readers. I want to thank once again all the people who have supported us over the years.
Our best is yet to come.