The Woodinville Weekly turned 45 years old last week. The candles were lit, and a party was planned until an uninvited guest turned up. The novel coronavirus blew out our candles on its way to devastating lives and businesses worldwide.
This birthday signals two important things. First, the paper is still publishing in the midst of severe economic uncertainty. While several local newspapers have closed their doors, The Weekly now stands as one of the last surviving weekly print newspapers in the region.
Second, hitting 45 officially means we're about to turn the corner in age. We're still young enough to make some mistakes, but just old enough to have learned from decades of successes and challenges.
The year 2020 has been the worst: Hundreds of thousands are dead, millions are unemployed, and thousands of small businesses have closed their doors. But some silver in the COVID lining is our resilience and ability to pivot and innovate as small businesses.
Since we acquired The Weekly last July, we have zigged, zagged and even crawled our way through an uncertain future. We changed staff, converted the paper from free to paid and reinvested in local journalism. By January 2020, we had grown revenue by over 30%, streamlined workflow and created better efficiency in publishing local content.
Then came the coronavirus, followed by the hysteria, the lockdown and then, tragically, the deaths. By March, we lost over 50% of our advertising revenue overnight. As most businesses did, we furloughed staff to a minimal level and pivoted. Reporter hours were cut, and we tried to maintain as much local coverage as possible on a half-time budget.
But we kept reporting. We kept publishing, and we kept our focus on our vision of transparency, trust and news. We received a small loan from the Small Business Administration, a few bucks from the Payment Protection Program and a couple small grants from Google and Facebook.
In July, we completed the migration to our new website. From the very beginning, our intention was to create a better news experience for readers who preferred their news on a desktop, tablet or mobile device.
Our business model has completely changed, for the right reasons. Had we not converted to a paid subscription model in December 2019, The Weekly would have stopped printing long ago with the Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue and Bothell-Kenmore Reporters.
We've remained dedicated, transparent and focused on the right things: local content. Local elections are next year, and no one else will comprehensively cover local races.
As the holiday season approaches, so does the renewal season. Thankfully, you supported us before and believed in our path forward. I believe — with all things considered — we have held up our commitment, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Over the next few months, as you receive your renewal letters and emails, please re-subscribe. Your continued support means 52 additional weeks of local news, unlimited digital access and a weekly email newsletter.