‘So how is that monthly Splash thing treating you?’
Splash Staff Column
Since moving to a monthly format with our March issue, that headline above is a question our team hears quite a bit.
I've enjoyed having dozens of individual conversations on the topic, but now that we have a few months under our belt, I figured it was probably worth providing an update in print for those who I haven't run into in the grocery store line yet.
The short answer: Really well, thanks.*
* The asterisk is provided for the simple fact there are several aspects about the weekly format I miss terribly, of course. For one thing, there is no dancing around the fact that the traditional weekly format provided a wider, more reliable net for timely disbursement of information. While we have actually been more timely with many of our stories through publishing them online and sending out e-alerts (such as City Council stories and a few key calendar reminders), we simply haven't built the reach through this electronic means to make it comparable ... yet.
That's the asterisk. The "really well, thanks" is born out of the fact we have been able to tackle stories and devote space to items that we just weren't resourced to get to before. This month's devotion of approximately six pages of content surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District is just the most recent example. When we were running 16-page weekly issues, that simply wasn't possible space-wise, not to mention the fact we didn't have the time or resources to pursue it. Indeed, we've found our monthly word counts haven't changed all that significantly - we've just put all that verbiage into one issue instead of four.
As I wrote when we made this change, we were already finding that the vast majority of advertisers The Splash was attracting were seeking to advertise with us once a month. Indeed, we only had one regular weekly advertiser remaining when we made the change, but more advertisers looking for larger, once-a-month placements. This has certainly made the monthly a good business decision for us and most advertisers, as we have been able to provide more issues - our circulation increased from 6,000 to 7,000 with the change, and we are still running out of copies by month's end - and a longer shelf-life for our partnering businesses.
Now, when I tell people this, many still wonder why we didn't pursue a subscription model. That's a great question, as many people have often told me that they would pay for The Splash if we didn't mail it to them already for free. There are actually several aspects to this answer, but the ultimate dealbreaker is this: It doesn't pencil out financially. Say 50 percent of the community decided it could afford and desired to subscribe. That's a healthy base for a traditional, subscription-model community newspaper. This would cut our circulation in half, which would impact the rates we charge advertisers, which would result in a break-even proposition at best.
This is not to say we wouldn't ever go back, as I get asked that question a lot, too.However, we have the advantage in 2013 to look at how delivering information to our community will look moving into the future, as our world continues to shift away from mailboxes to things like inboxes and iPads and the-next-big-thing.
Our commitment to this community hasn't changed, and I would personally like to invite you once again to sign up for our e-alerts and newsletters (head to www.libertylakesplash.com/contact for the link - and thanks to all of you who already have). The January story announcing our format change called the concept "monthly in your mailbox, timely in your inbox." Don't miss out on the breaking news and information that, like the ink-on-paper Splash, is completely free.
Meanwhile, it continues to be a pleasure to "live, work and play" in our unparalleled community, my hometown of Liberty Lake. Keep the story ideas, submissions and questions coming our way. Thanks, as always, for reading The Splash, and I look forward to the next time we bump into each other at the grocery store.
Josh Johnson is editor and publisher of The Splash. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.