As a part of our goal to operate for the public benefit, Civic Spark Media and the Western Wayne News will provide regular updates to the community on our operations, health and future plans. This is our second such community report, reflecting activities in the first quarter of 2023 for both the Western Wayne News newspaper and the WayneCounty.info news aggregator. See also: 2022Q4.
—Chris Hardie, Owner and Publisher
By the Numbers
2023 Q1 Finances, Jan 1 – Mar 31, 2023
These financial reports are unaudited and unofficial, but we believe them to be complete and accurate as of this publishing. Rounded to the nearest hundred.
- Advertising sales: $85,000
- Newspaper subscriptions & individual sales: $48,500
- Miscellaneous income: $100
- Donations: $0
- Employee payroll & contractors: $78,800
- Newspaper printing: $17,400
- Postage & delivery: $9,500
- Rent, office expenses & utilities: $8,000
- Advertising & marketing: $4,800
- Software and online services: $4,000
- Credit card processing & bank fees: $1,600
- Legal fees: $0
- Insurance: $0
- Other expenses: $0
Other Metrics of Interest
As of April 3, 2023
- Western Wayne News subscriber households
- Print: 3,338
- Online: 511
- Western Wayne News retail location copies distributed weekly: 670
- Western Wayne News advertisers during Q1: 186
- WayneCounty.info daily newsletter subscribers: 400
- WayneCounty.info sources scanned: 80
- Civic Spark Media employees
- Full-Time: 4
- Part-Time: 2
Here are some of the things we’ve tackled in the last few months outside of regular newspaper production:
- In January we celebrated receiving the Achievement in Excellence: Small Business award from the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
- At the beginning of the year we began tracking the details of each individual report we received where a newspaper delivery was late, or where the paper never arrived. We saw 69 such reports in the first quarter. We are passing those reports along to the US Postal Service in an attempt to get to the bottom of what seem to be ongoing (but inconsistent and hard to trace) delivery issues. We also implemented a new system to verify postal addresses in our subscriber database, to further reduce delivery errors.
- We’ve updated some aspects of our branding, shifting from “Wayne County’s weekly newspaper” to “Wayne County’s local newspaper,” to reflect our evolving role as a key and sometimes singular source of reported news for many people in the community, regardless of whether they read articles weekly in print or daily on our website, or both. We’ve dropped the use of some of the visual branding elements used by the paper’s previous owners. At the end of March we launched an updated design for the Western Wayne News website.
- In February we launched an awareness-building marketing campaign that made use of three billboards located around the county as well as online ads.
- In March we launched a set of resources that readers can use to encourage retail locations to carry the Western Wayne News if they don’t already.
- We saw two departures from our part-time staff this quarter: Bob Hansen, who transitioned to a contract role focused on reporting, and Joe Klemann who decided to retire from the paper after 13 years. We certainly wish them both well in these changes! The shifts have also put a renewed focus on increasing our already limited staffing capacity. We have several positions open and will be working to fill them as quickly as we can find great candidates.
At the beginning of April we launched the Western Wayne News Podcast. We’re excited to have this new way to tell the stories of some of the people and organizations in our community who are working in and on Wayne County. We are still working out our production schedule but hope to have at least two episodes per month.
With our updated website design that launched in March, we’re excited to put even more of our articles and content online, including some of Dan Harney’s prolific sports coverage. While we don’t have the resources to serve as a “breaking news” organization on a daily basis, our website saw a huge surge in traffic during our live coverage of the Richmond plastics fire in early April, with thousands of people using it to get accurate, contextualized information about what was happening. We hope to continue providing a balance of the in-depth coverage that is possible on a weekly newspaper production schedule and the more timely updates that we can share online.
USPS postage rates for periodicals are expected to go up around 8% this summer. We have also seen a general increase in newspaper production costs over recent years. We are evaluating what action to take and what those will mean for our retail and subscription rates.
USPS delivery issues and staffing capacity are our biggest challenges, discussed above.
We hope you find this report to the community useful; if you have suggestions about how we can make improvements for future reports, please contact us.