Midway Como Frogtown Monitor staff attended the Minnesota Newspaper Association Convention (MNA) back in February from the comfort of our respective homes. As many events these days, it ended up being a virtual convention, with Wisconsin and Iowa also participating given the unique set of obstacles that COVID-19 presents for in-person events. I have fond memories of attending my first MNA Convention back I was a junior at Hamline University and editing the Hamline Oracle. Our college paper had entered the Better Newspaper Contest that the MNA sponsors each year and we were lucky to win in several categories. It was heady stuff for a young journalist and provided enough memories to last a lifetime.
This year’s event was far different from the one I attended while in college, of course, but the convention did provide a lot of insights into how newspapers in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin are coping with the challenges of publishing a newspaper during the pandemic. At one of the online sessions called “Publishing Through a Pandemic: Newspaper Leaders Share Solutions,” newspaper leaders talked extensively about how their newspapers had invested heavily in their websites over the past 10 years and had created digital pay walls where readers had to subscribe to gain access to the content.
The model is not a new one, of course, and comes right from the playbook of the New York Times and the Washington Post. Likewise, the Star Tribune, which was represented in the seminar by its publisher, Michael J. Klingensmith, modeled their own strategy on the Times and Post: Build up the newspaper’s website with content and then eventually set up a pay wall so that readers have to pay to see the content. Over the course of that time period media outlets across the country have increased their digital revenue streams by doing just that. Some media outlets have been successful at it and some are still trying to cover the costs for their additional website investments.
Not all newspapers have embraced that model, however. The Monitor, for example, has done something far different. Unlike its big city rivals, the Monitor’s print edition and its website are still free to all readers. Many outsiders marvel at our ability to do that, but newspapers like the Monitor make our living based solely on advertising revenue. We know that our advertisers want to reach a local audience like the Midway, Como, and Frogtown neighborhoods of St. Paul. And our advertisers know that residents and business owners in our community rely on the Monitor to keep them current on news in the community, events going on at their local church, and insights into their neighbors in St. Paul. Our advertisers also know that our readers will reciprocate by supporting those same advertisers when they need to buy goods and services.
With the departure of some newspapers from our market area and the shrinking footprint of other newspapers in an effort to save costs, the Monitor remains one of the few newspapers that continues to be home delivered, door-to-door in the Midway, Como, and Frogtown neighborhoods. And in addition, our newly re-released website gives you access to an archive of current and past issues of the Monitor as well as other news and features. All of that with no charge to you, dear reader.
But as part of that commitment to you, we would make this one important request: Please let our advertisers know that you are avid readers of the Monitor. Yes, in addition to reading the Monitor, sending in letters to the editor and liking our posts on social media, we hope you’ll also seek engagement with our advertisers by letting them know that you are supporters of the Monitor, and when you have products or services that you need that you are highly likely to patronize those same Monitor advertisers. That engagement is so important, and it goes a long way in validating those advertisers investing their marketing dollars in the Monitor. And it also ensures that the Monitor will continue to keep coming to your doorstep on a monthly basis free of charge.
Engagement is really what the Monitor is all about. Our primary mission is to facilitate our readers’ ability to get engaged with their community. But for that mission to occur, we also facilitate our advertisers gaining important new customers, allowing them to engage with those customers via the Monitor, and finally giving advertisers the opportunity to thank their customers with their advertising messages in the Monitor.
As the supply of the vaccines for COVID-19 increases and more Americans are vaccinated, I would hope that next year we’ll be able to return to an in-person Minnesota Newspaper Association. I would also imagine that in the months ahead we’ll also see more and more of our local businesses reopen their doors and return to full capacity as restrictions lessen and our population approaches herd immunity. As you are out and about in the months ahead, I would encourage Monitor readers to be sure to let business owners know that you value their presence in Midway, Como, and Frogtown, and you also value their presence in the Monitor. As always, thanks for your support of the Midway Como Frogtown Monitor and happy reading!