Now that we've announced the change in the Weekly's business model, it's apparent (see Letter to the Editor) there's misinformation floating around the community. Since we're in the business of helping define the narrative, let's dive into the economics and see if we can't clear the air.
The Weekly has survived on advertising revenue — and only advertising revenue — over the last 44 years. Between 1976 and 2015, revenue was strong. Staffing levels and pages were adequate. Things were good.
But what happens when revenue begins to decline and large expenses, such as the cost of printing and mailing the paper, begin to rise? Staffing levels are reduced and journalism declines, pages fall and fewer local stories are covered — all leading to the same result, a city without a newspaper.
When a city loses a newspaper, a number of unintended consequences begin to affect the overall health of the community. City governments are able to make decisions without transparency, which may lead to distrust in government and even higher lending rates.
Community events slowly begin to subside as awareness declines, causing the narrative to move online where social media pages drive the conversation through individual posts, comments or shares that all have an inherent bias. There's a reason Google prioritizes the content that's published on newspaper websites. We are trained professionals with a focus on transparency, trust, and news.
Since 2004, over 2,100 newspapers have closed their doors. This has left a huge hole in the transparency of how our communities and cities function and thrive.
Historically, the largest cost for newsrooms is typically staff. In Woodinville, the largest costs are printing and postage, both of which account for over 60 percent of expenses. Factor in staff wages and indirect costs and one can easily see why the Weekly is on life support.
Printing costs have skyrocketed, driven by threats of tariffs. Postage and mailing rates continue to climb with no end in sight. Let's not forget about the 27 percent decline in advertising revenue since 2015. Taken as a whole, you could count the number of months the Weekly has left on one hand. It's that serious.
Did I mention there's a solution?
Our reader-supported model puts the reader first, not the printing press or US Post Office. Our reader-supported model brings jobs back to the community and reinvests in journalism and the future of Woodinville.
As a small, privately-held corporation, our three co-founders all share the belief that we are building a solution for journalism. We are building a model that puts the readers first, rather than profits. It places transparency, trust, and news at the forefront of our path forward.
To counter Mr. Huddleston's misinformed opinion (see Letter to the Editor), our business model will not line the pockets of shareholders. It will line the pockets — all though small pockets — of journalists and reporters who will live, breathe, and buy goods and services, and pay taxes in the city of Woodinville.
Our model will fill the streets of Woodinville and homes with community news and stories that allow the conversation to move forward, not backward. We're not requesting that the USPS grant us reduced and subsidized bulk mailing rates. We're requesting the complete opposite of moving away from bulk mailing rates.
Depending on the business school you attend, business 101 states when you give something away for free, you inherently give it no value. Is there any business in Woodinville that gives its products and services away for free?
Outside of government or nonprofit agencies, the answer is most likely no. It's time we place value in the content we produce and bring jobs back to Woodinville. This is our opportunity to reinvest in journalism.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the dinner train or the 4th of July fireworks at the sod farm, but most of Woodinville may. And why? Because your community newspaper covered it. The Weekly sent staff to take pictures and write stories for decades on these events. These stories would have never been told if Carol Edwards hadn't taken the opportunity to create something special in Woodinville.
It's pretty clear Mr. Huddleston has every intention of making sure the Weekly closes its doors, which I find sad and misinformed. Knowing Mr. Huddleston won't support the community newspaper makes our job a little easier. At least we know where he stands, which is clearly not with us.
Consider this op-ed a formal invitation to Mr. Huddleston to join us on November 14 at Chateau Lil from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for a reader focus group event.
A single voice is seldom heard, but when combined with others, this voice is amplified and able to accomplish the impossible. The industry states that journalism is dying and is impossible to resuscitate. I disagree.
Please join me — and Mr. Huddleston — for an evening of great conversation, catering by Alexa's Cafe, complimentary wine (one glass) and the opportunity to provide the foundation for Woodinville's community newspaper to thrive another 44 years.