February 2, 2016
Karl Johnston, Publisher
Welcome to meadowlakeNOW.com!
It seems all we hear from the media these days is stories of newspaper closures and downsizing. Last week two community newspapers closed in Canada. A week before, Postmedia and Rogers slashed hundreds of jobs. One only has to remember the sudden closure of newspaper in La Ronge and Meadow Lake to realize we’re not immune from a shifting media landscape.
Some argue these cuts and closures are an ominous sign for the future of journalism and even democracy itself. We would suggest they’re nothing more than the result of the public’s changing media consumption habits. Canadians still want to know what’s going on their community; they just don’t want to wait to “read all about it” next week. It’s the same reason we order movies on our TV versus trudge down to the video store. There was a time when you could deliver the news once a week, or expect people to visit a video story on a cold winter night only to find out the movie they came for was checked out – largely because there was no alternative. Today’s consumers want it now. More accurately, they want to consume media on their schedule, not the media company’s production schedule.
Unfortunately, traditional newspapers are tied to a cumbersome business model that revolves printing presses, trucks and paper carriers. Everything must run on a schedule or nothing happens at all. While they often have the right content, they are married to the print business model. It’s a catch-22: if they abandon the printed paper to cut costs and serve readers better online they abandon the revenue model which is still entirely tied to the printed paper: do more than dabble online and your risk killing the core business. I suppose shrinking readership and revenue is still better than no business model at all.
meadowlakeNOW.com turns that business model upside down. We’re not beholden to the printed paper. The result is a much lower cost structure. We can be 100 per cent online, on demand, and be totally free for readers. More importantly, meadowlakeNOW.com is a 24/7 news and community information product so that means we’re there when something’s (always) happening in Meadow Lake and area. Our site is mobile friendly so it looks great on a phone and iPad to suit on the go readers. Free classifieds help local businesses looking for an employee, realtors or car dealers looking to sell a home or car, a family wanting to publish a funeral notice or someone simply looking to buy or sell something. Readers will be able to do it all here, and it won’t cost you fifty cents a word to get published!
Our business model is simple: build it and they will come. We’ve added three reporters to beef up our news and sports content in Meadow Lake and the Battlefords and by making everything free we’re confident we’ll attract more than a few “eyes”. With the addition of meadowlakeNOW, we now have the biggest news and sports team in the area. Thanks to more staff we were able to join the Prime Minister on Friday when he visited the community of La Loche to comfort the community in the wake of that recent mass shooting. More reporters means more coverage. Yes, we believe there is a lot happening in and around Meadow Lake and we plan to share your stories and with your neighbours and with the larger community.
The traditional newspaper model isn’t working. As readership declines, advertisers turn away. As advertisers turn away revenue drops and content is cut. It’s a vicious circle. Now we don’t profess to have a solution for the ills of an entire industry but we’re confident we’ve figured out a way to ensure Meadow Lake keeps a paper and advertiser confidence in the ability of newspapers to reach a wide audience is restored.
meadowlakeNOW is not a “test” project. The model for the site you see was developed 5 years ago in Prince Albert for a site called paNOW.com. Since launch, paNOW has steadily grown readership. In a matter of months it overtook readership at the daily newspaper (and the paper had a 100 year head start!). Here’s how paNOW measures up: in the most recent 30 days more than 257,000 unique users visited the site 1,016,560 times. These visitors consumed 3.5 million pages of information. At the same time paNOW delivered local businesses nearly 18 million advertising impressions. Meantime, circulation at the daily paper has continued to slide to a few thousand a day. paNOW has proven that advertisers will stick with newspapers. You can lose the paper but you can’t lose the results.
So, that’s our story. I know the community lost a newspaper. You won’t lose us. The Jim Pattison Broadcast Group is here to stay. We own the local radio station CJNS and three radio stations in the Battlefords and with the launch of this new product we’ve just grown our staff from 30 to 34 employees, including 4 in Meadow Lake. We’re not going anywhere; in fact, we’re growing just like the communities we serve. Welcome to your new newspaper. Built for Meadow Lake. Built for 2016.
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