There are some anniversaries that are come and go without any real significance. But then there are some that deserve special attention.
Such is the case with an anniversary I celebrated last week when I hit the six year mark of owning the Steele County Times. This one is special to me because of the amazing success we have achieved during that time period.
I can still remember the night I took over what was then the Blooming Prairie Times and basically shaking in fear and standing in the office thinking to myself what did I get myself into. I was close to running out the back door and never returning, but then I remembered I had signed on to be the “owner” and things wouldn’t be quite that easy.
To see where this newspaper has gone over the past six years is nothing short of miraculous. Most notably, we have expanded to become a countywide newspaper, more than doubled our readership, added eight employees and nearly tripled our pages with added news and sports coverage. Oh yeah, did I mention award-winning, as well?
The decision to become a countywide newspaper was made with the best intentions of keeping a viable newspaper in the community for years to come. Even though some initially grumbled about the paper reaching out beyond Blooming Prairie, it has allowed readers to get a paper packed with a punch.
Not only have we been able to bring more news coverage of all areas around the county, the expansion has also allowed us to share more in-depth reporting on stories that matter most to all of our readers.
One thing that drives me nuts is when I hear people talk about the demise of newspapers and that they are dying. We, and I’m including all of our faithful subscribers and advertisers in this statement, have proven them dead wrong. Newspapers are thriving, especially in small town USA. Give yourself a pat on the back for helping to accomplish that feat.
Along with our expansion, we have more than doubled our readership. To put that in a different context, our circulation has skyrocketed more than 125 percent over the past five years while a daily newspaper in this same county has declined 25 percent in circulation. Having stunning circulation gains like ours are nearly unheard of for any newspaper no matter what size they are. Let’s just say it trips the wow, wow, wow factor!
I’d like to take this time to thank our faithful readers that have been with me from the start as well as all the new subscribers we’ve picked up at various stages during that period. It’s invigorating to see that we are constantly picking up new readers in all areas of the county.
Another area that I am proud of is the increase in staff. When I came to town in 2009, I had four employees, including one full-timer. Today we have grown to 11 employees with nine of them being full-time.
I can throw numbers at you all day long pointing to our success over the past few years, but they are only one measure of what we’ve accomplished. In my book, the real measure is hearing what our readers have to say about our product. Whether it’s at the county fair, other community events, phone calls, emails or in person contact on the street, it’s gratifying to hear all the positive, and even sometimes the negative, comments about what we’re doing.
If I’ve proven anything in the past six years, it is that we have become a viable and respectable alternative for local community news in and around Steele County. That’s what I take as being the greatest satisfaction in as I mark this sixth anniversary at the Times. It has been a thrilling adventure for me and I’m confident it will only get better in the years ahead.
Have there been some bumps and bruises along the way? Absolutely. But those hiccups, as I’ll refer to them, have made us stronger and even better positioned to move forward serving our readers with the best possible product.
Time to go in hot pursuit of cranking out yet another award-winning issue of the Times.