Publisher’s column: Focusing on our why as we change
Recently, I penned a column about not panicking as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. So, of course on the day the piece came out, I panicked.
Like many businesses making difficult decisions with declining revenues, I knew our time was coming.
I spent the day in a haze. I went to bed that night with a single goal: For the day to end.
The next morning, I woke up inspired. Instead of focusing on the bottom line — the how and what of what we do, I focused on “our why” — why we do what we do and why it matters.
The reason for this focus: When this ends, we will be battered and bruised. The “how” we do things will be changed, but the “why” will not.
And what is the Post Independent’s why?
“We believe an informed and connected community is important. We inform and connect our community with innovative approaches to storytelling and marketing, with journalism ethics and marketing integrity as our core.”
Inform, innovate and connect.
These are our North Stars as we get through this, and our guide to be in a better position to deliver on “our why” when this is done.
It’s a strange time in that we have never been more read — our digital traffic has more than doubled and we still have high pick-up rates at our racks. But it’s also a time we need to make changes to deliver on our why now and into the future.
Below are changes going into effect this week and why.
My mission is to preserve as many of our great team members as possible for as long as I can, which is why I will make the changes to our business model that allow us to fulfill our commitment to connecting our audiences with the information they want and need through this time of crisis. That said, the PI team will have pay cuts and reduced hours.
How we do business will no doubt look different – as it will for every small business in our community and state. Which leads to …
Two fewer publication days:
We will be moving to publishing five days a week, Monday through Friday effective this week. The plan is to move Sunday inserts into Friday’s paper.
The why: Our Saturday and Sunday publications have long been our lowest performing publications in terms of connecting with our readers or business partners.
When you factor in there are no sports or events going on — major pieces in weekend coverage — it made sense to drop these days.
We also know our locals have a rhythm with the Monday through Friday papers, and didn’t want to disrupt that. In addition, our website will continue to be a 24-7 news resource as it is now.
When this ends, and tourism ramps back up and sports get going, we will look at how to provide that coverage through the lens of innovation, which may include a Saturday edition.
A new approach to opinion:
We will be revamping our opinion page, terminating all national and local columnists contracts, as well as removing the opinion comics from the page.
The why: As we looked at our North Stars, we asked do these pages inform, connect or innovate? Some might argue they inform, but in this day and age with such deep divides in partisan politics and growing but restrictive thought bubbles, we didn’t see how it connects us, especially the national columnists and political cartoons.
We often are accused of being liberal or conservative based on the opinion page, and for most us, the section is not part of our main mission.
Can an opinion page connect? We think so, if it’s used as a form of constructive dialogue. In the short-term, we will run letters to the editor that promote constructive dialogue and perhaps some columns. Or we may not run it on certain days and use that space for news.
In the long-term, we will be looking at how we can innovate and make those pages more informative and connecting.
Our final pages:
We will be removing the comics and horoscopes. However, we will be keeping the weather and puzzles.
The why: By eliminating this, we keep a person employed at the PI. The weather page remains as a public service. We eliminated the weather page a couple months ago as a test, expecting few people would notice. We were wrong. Our phones blew up. Many seniors rely on that page, and even heard stories about how they use it as a conversation piece. Ditto for the puzzles.
I understand that if there was ever a time we needed a laugh, it’s now. We’re using the opportunity to look at options and a chance for innovation.
Last week, after much debate, we printed the Locals’ Choice section as a way to celebrate local businesses. We plan to move forward with the Cycling Guide, as that is one of the few things people can do in this climate. We are reviewing next steps for our summer magazine, Escape to Garfield County, and our weekly publication the Rifle Citizen Telegram.
We don’t make any of these decisions lightly. But as we focus on our why, you will see more innovative ways for us to inform, innovate and connect.
For example, we’ve connected with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Bank of Colorado to create a print and online presence to support our county’s restaurants.
We’re in the process of working with chambers from Aspen to Rifle to create an online e-commerce site for our local retailers.
And we will continue to look at approaches to news that meet our North Star. If you have questions or ideas as we move forward, please let me know.
And please support as many local businesses as possible. We’re in this together. And together, we got this.
Jerry Raehal is the publisher of the Post Independent. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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