Nearly nine years ago, four other journalists and I got together and planned a hyper-local website that has transformed to what is now TownSquareBuzz.com. It’s been an interesting journey in so many ways. I’ve learned a number of things through the years, namely the fact that no one else in the news business has figured out the solution to deal with what has become part of our existence — shrinking of revenue.
I’m proud to share that in 2013, our news site had more than 1.1 million page views, and we continue to grow. We weathered a major recession and TSB continues to provide employment for some eight to twelve people at any given time.
As we enter 2014, the time has come for TSB to become a subscription-based news publication. Although this has been a difficult decision, the reality is that If we are to survive and continue to be a community watchdog, we have no choice.
Here is why:
- Ad revenues continue to decline. We have tried a variety of options, including sponsorships for businesses, but the reality is that there is more competition for local advertising dollars. Competition for ad dollars has increased as McKinney has gained notoriety for being the second best place to live and one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.
- More small and medium businesses are utilizing social media to do business. These include Facebook, Twitter for Business, LinkedIn and Google +. It’s difficult for hyper-local news to compete with these technology giants.
- Digital news sites can command a fraction of the revenue that our print predecessors did.
- We are now competing with Groupon, loyalty management systems, local radio and more. None of these existed in McKinney when I started my online news business.
- Small business owners rarely market themselves because they are cash poor. Small business is a large part of our local marketplace.
- To bring you comprehensive news coverage that you can’t get anywhere else, TSB must employ a skilled staff. This means that costs are rising just as revenue is declining.
As a result, changing times require change as more online news organizations are charging readers to access their content. Many other online news sites have set up paywalls in order to survive.
This morning I happened to see an article entitled “Will Print and Privacy Be Relegated to History in 2014?” In the article the author Naomi Simson makes these comments: “Print media is being surely (and not at all slowly) replaced by the instant world of online media and social media – where everyone is a publisher. 2014 will bring a certain continuation of this – and with it, job losses, a likely continued decline in the quantity and quality of journalism, and the diminishing role of the “fourth estate”.
The “fourth estate,” meaning the public press, supports public interest and holds government accountable. The press brings transparency to the public to ensure a fair and democratic process. It helps preserves our liberty, the voice of the people, that we hold so dear.
Simson’s comment saddens me and if we value liberty, we as citizens must value the role of the press. I am once again reminded of a quote from Thomas Jefferson.
“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” Thomas Jefferson
Simson goes on to say, “More news organizations are driven to be platforms for entertainment journalism as opposed to investigative journalism, thus truly diminishing the role of the `fourth estate.’ ”
It is my goal to continue to improve TSB, to hire more qualified journalists, to undertake more investigative journalism. It’s my desire to continue to be the community watchdog that is so much a part of the world of journalism. It’s important to me, and to my staff, to continue to develop that role within the McKinney community. It’s our job, and one that we all take seriously.
With your support, we will continue to be the number one independent voice, providing the most in-depth coverage of news, sports, events and happenings in McKinney. We are located right here in McKinney and are engaged in our city. Just in the past year, our in-depth coverage of events such as the David Russell trial, the city manager turmoil, updates to the Gateway project, local elections, school and club sports, went unrivaled.
Please consider supporting TSB for the cost of only 16 cents a day, or less than one glass of wine a month. Get started today with our introductory rates. Subscribe to TSB content for $5/month or join for a year at $40. The introductory rate of $40 applies to those who subscribe during the month of January. (Access to McKinney Marketplace stories, the business directory and community events calendar will remain free to the public.)
During the years I’ve been in business, I’ve met many a journalist who cares deeply about preserving the journalism code of ethics and maintaining the “fourth estate.” I get it. It’s my passion as well, and a freedom I value greatly. I believe McKinney is big enough to deserve its own news site. Won’t you help us preserve our liberty?
TSB Owner / Publisher