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It’s time to show how you truly value a community newspaper

It’s time to show how you truly value a community newspaper It’s time to show how you truly value a community newspaper

By Kris O’Leary, General Manager

A few years ago, a newspaper owner friend in South Dakota, reached out to subscribers, family, friends, local businesses and newspaper colleagues, asking for help to keep his top-notch family-owned newspaper going. He did a capital campaign and raised subscription prices substantially, to cover the cost to produce the newspaper.

He offers his print and digital subscriptions for $100 a year, for a basic plan or for those who want to be a bigger supporter of maintaining their weekly newspaper, a $200 a year subscription.

Another newspaper owner friend in Kansas, had a twopage article, explaining the rising costs of producing a print product and calculated his costs of printing, mailing, wages and other business expenses, that the real cost of his $2 an issue paper was over $3 an issue to produce. He will adjust his subscription rates to cover his cost of production.

He stated no other business sells their product at a loss. Few people understand that the price you pay for your newspaper, is less than what it costs to produce and deliver it to you.

Historically, newspaper companies have sold their products at a loss and newspaper advertisers covered the cost, to keep the companies profitable. This business model worked well for over 200 years.

When I was growing up, newspapers had multiple sections and lots of advertising inserts. A lot has changed in the newspaper industry, with new competition from cable TV, direct mail, websites and others that are often free to advertisers, such as Facebook and chamber websites, and newsletters. These should be supplements to a regular marketing plan, not replacing them.

I believe strongly in a local newspaper being part of a thriving community. The newspaper reports on and holds the school boards, city councils and county government accountable to the people. It shares the joys and sorrows of the community.

The coverage of high school sports, club activities, the honor roll, bowling scores, golf outings, library events, new business ribbon cuttings, anniversaries, class reunions, births, graduations, weddings, and celebrations of life and death. It also prints police and court reports.

Yes, there is a place for this in the community to act as a deterrent for disobedience, and keep both citizens and police accountable.

This is the multitude of information our readers currently get each week, for $1.50 and less, as a yearly subscriber Your local newspapers haven’t had the advertising support to make them profitable for several years. Income from our local shoppers (the Central Wisconsin Shopper and Star News Shopper) and advertising inserts in those products, had supported the cost of producing and delivering the newspapers, so we could still cover our local communities.

Newspapers usually run 60-70 percent advertising to news, to generate a profit. The number of newspaper pages we run is determined by the number of ads we have to cover the cost of those pages. To make a profit, our goal has been 35 percent advertising; we usually fall in the 2025 percent range, sometimes more, sometimes less.

The page count in the shoppers is less than half of what it used to be, so it is no longer making up for the paper ad percent being lower.

The post office increased the price of postage in January. Our plan was to increase our subscription price at that time, to cover that additional cost. A couple of months ago, without warning, the post office changed how they processed mail, causing long delivery delays.

At that time, we canceled our plans for a rate increase, as we focused on how we could get the newspapers to subscribers in a timely manner. We had to increase our expenses, by delivering the shoppers and newspapers directly to your local post offices, to bypass the regional sorting center in Green Bay, which could result in many days delaying getting the news to our subscribers.

We are involved in the National Newspaper Association and working with bipartisan legislation, to introduce the Deliver for Democracy Act, to work on reliable postal service and limiting excessive rate increases.

In July, postage is going up again, which will mean a 40 percent increase in our postal cost to mail the newspapers and shoppers since 2021. We need to increase our subscription price to stay profitable.

We still cannot control the delay in papers that have to go through the sorting center in Green Bay. We can only encourage those subscribers to get the online newspaper, so they can get their news the day it is published.

We know many of our readers share their newspapers with friends and family, so, if the price is too much, see if those who enjoy it can help you pay for it, or help us and get their own subscription. Another option, is a donation to your newspaper through the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation, which has set up accounts for donating to local newspapers as a tax-exempt donation.

Advertising revenue has not kept up with production costs. We don’t want to cut coverage or staff. We want to continue to provide a quality product for our readers. Printing costs have increased. Mailing costs are set to increase twice a year, into the foreseeable future, as the newspaper industry lobbies Congress to change its course on postal increases.

As everyone knows, everything costs more, utilities, auto and gas, insurance, wages, repair services… It’s time for us to increase our prices to reflect the increased costs. This is the value that our readers get each week, for less than a cup of coffee: The subscription price will increase to $85, in Chippewa County; $125, out-of-county; and $150, out-of-state, with E-edition access included in all subscriptions. E-edition only will be $70 a year. Single copy price will raise to $2 an issue.

Mailed subscriptions for old prices will not be honored after a June 30 postmark.

Hopefully, our subscribers and advertisers can see the value of a newspaper to the community, and we will continue to provide them with a quality product for many years to come.