Readers, we need you more than ever.
It’s the last few days of our annual subscription drive and we can’t stress enough how important you are to this local paper, as everything continues to shift in the news industry landscape.
This summer we ran a series of full-page ads meant to shed some light on the economic realities of the community newspaper business. It included a pie chart that illustrates how the per-copy-price of the previous subscription rate did not even cover the costs to print and mail a single edition. That’s not to say that we can’t actually pay our print and mailing bills, but what many people may not understand is that the newspaper you hold in your hand is largely subsidized by the advertising that comes in from local and regional businesses. In a typical paper, including ours, advertising represents about 75 per cent of the overall revenue.
Even before the pandemic, this revenue stream was becoming increasingly precarious. For the last decade, the corporate mega giants Facebook and Google have been bleeding media of all sizes dry with their unfair monopoly of online advertising and unpaid use (another word is stealing) of our editorial content. (By the way, on the topic of content and copyright, News Media Canada is urging the federal government to follow Australia’s lead by adopting a similar policy to tackle the “monopolistic dominance” of web giants. Stay tuned.)
But that’s old news, which most of you already know. What it means for media of all sizes is that we have no choice but to rework the revenue model; now that COVID-19 has hit, counting on local businesses, who are already struggling to stay afloat or shutting down, is even more precarious.
Which is why this subscription drive is so important. Media of all sizes across the world are making the shift from a reliance on advertising to revenue brought in from readers. The New York Times is the big success story — subscription revenue to various products finally surpassed advertising a couple of years back. In the U.K., The Guardian’s landing page features two big buttons: Subscribe and Contribute, with a blatant and unapologetic request, that includes: “Every contribution, however big or small, makes our work possible — in times of crisis and beyond.” Many smaller news organizations across North America, one example is the CANADALAND podcast, rely on crowdfunding campaigns to pay for the creation of their content. The Low Down eventually needs to make the shift to more reader-generated revenue too.
You don’t have to like everything The Low Down does. In fact, it was Joseph Pulitzer who said: “A newspaper should have no friends.” But if you like having a local newspaper in your community or you think it’s important that the Gatineau Hills has an organized body of professionals trained to gather the facts about issues in your backyard and hold local powers-that-be accountable, please support The Low Down with a subscription. Our annual subscription sale ends Nov. 1 — tell your friends.