Thanks to our reader community
We’ve done our best over the past several weeks to let you know that a big change was coming for the Martha’s Vineyard Times, or at least for our circulation model: Starting with this week’s newspaper, readers will need to subscribe in order to get the The Times delivered to their mailing address, including Post Office boxes, and to be fully accessible online. There are many thank-yous to deliver.
First, we want to thank the entire Times community for your enthusiastic response to this big change. Subscription requests have been great, and we really appreciate it. And a great number of you have dropped in at MV Times International Headquarters, and we’ve enjoyed the chance to meet you in person. It’s so rewarding to put faces to readers and subscribers, and we’re already at work thinking up ideas to make these meetings a more regular event.
Also, we want to thank you for your patience while we deploy our new software to collect your addresses and fulfill your subscriptions. And we need to thank the many community members — readers, advertisers, retailers, and newspaper pros — who met with us individually and shared reactions and advice.
As a reminder, there are several reasons we’ve made the change. For one thing, it’s about the revenue. Virtually all but the best-heeled newspapers, and those with the largest markets to financially insulate them, have been been mercilessly pummeled by social media, which uses free entertainment and communications channels (in other words, your posts and the traffic they generate) to amass audiences, and your personal data, which they then aggregate and sell to advertisers. And social media’s business model doesn’t pay to provide real news, or support real journalism. The sticking power of the advertising in a medium with intentionally ephemeral readership and content is uncertain, but the short-term appeal to advertisers and the destructive effect on community newspapers are clear all around the country. So, there’s no denying that after +/- 30 years as a free newspaper, the revenue matters to The Times.
At the same time, another reason for the change is to acknowledge the challenge to community newspapers like ours to engage readers sufficiently so they’ll see the value proposition for themselves. In exchange for your subscription dollars, we need to continue to produce the best products and push for innovation — the best possible journalism — that we can turn out. We’re grateful to see support for the notion that readers will pay for good content. Real newspapers will always be expensive to publish. And limited markets such as ours, which can’t be expanded or broadened, can’t spread costs out very widely. So newspapers need advertising along with reader revenue, and will need community, or philanthropic support as well. Strong, healthy communities need strong, healthy community newspapers.
Thanks, and a challenge, to our advertisers
The Times functioned for many years by making this deal with advertisers: You pay The Times for use of parts of our pages and digital presence, and we in turn will provide you with access to every Islander and Island friend interested in Vineyard life. We built a best-in-class community newspaper around that model, financially sustained solely by our advertiser-partners. Needless to say, we are very grateful for that support. As we make the transition to add reader and then community support for The Times, we will redouble our efforts to amplify our voice and yours, and our reader impact. And we hope everyone will remember, shop local also means advertise local (at best, reader revenue will constitute a small fraction of the revenue needed to sustain The Times). If you spend money on social media advertising, not a penny of it goes to support local news coverage, event listings, spelling bees, or school sports.
Thanks to our staff
There is a common cliché about newspapers to the effect that each edition, weekly or daily, is a miracle. Calling it a miracle suggests that it’s somehow an accident, and that’s not so. Each week our remarkable staff starts anew to make a full three-section newspaper, regardless of season. They depend on dozens of systems involving hundreds of steps, almost all critical to the integrity of our print and digital products.
Getting it right week after week rests on the shoulders of a very small staff, and each of our colleagues has a remarkable work ethic, sense of responsibility, and sense of humor — toward readers and each other, and of course toward the dogs, and now with the baby, seemingly filling every nook and cranny. So when the decision was made to change the circulation model and help design and integrate new software, the collective response was: Sure boss, no problem. And even the folks who had no direct role in the changeover had to pick up the slack from those who did. All in all, yet another miracle. So as we stare into the dark, flinty eyes of community newspapering 2020, a big thanks from the owners of this space to each of you:
Alisun Armstrong, Connie Berry, George Brennan, Brittany Bowker, Samantha Church, Jennifer Crawford, Geoff Currier, Barbara Dudley Davis, Brian Dowd, Kate Feiffer, Jim Hickey, Jamie Kageleiry, Tara Kenny, Teresa Kruszewski, Jenna Lambert, Tina Miller, Jim Osborn, Lexi Pline, Mark Plummer, Kristofer Rabasca, Rich Saltzberg, Jack Shea, Chris Silva, Ralph Stewart, Lucas Thors, Irene Ziebarth.
–Peter and Barbara Oberfest