On Jan. 8, the Newsleaders team received humbling results of our annual audit. Bottom line: our performance is well above national averages, and that bodes well for the communities we serve.
The audit, which we’ve been doing since 1999, looks at our circulation, print and digital reach, readership, audience profile, advertising impact and opportunities to be better. It’s funded through Midwest Free Community Papers, an organization with the mission to improve publications through education, exchanging of ideas and information.
As you know, the Newsleaders are mailed free to every mailbox and P.O. Box in Sartell, St. Joseph and St. Stephen. We also distribute them to local businesses. Our circulation is just shy of 13,000 every other week.
While that is a lot of papers, what really matters is how many people actually read those papers. That’s where numbers get impressive.
More than 7 out of 10 households that receive the paper read it. That compares to the national average of daily newspapers, which is 2 or 3 households out of 10, and weekly newspapers, with a national average of 1 or 2 households reading out of 10. In a competitive market such as ours – with larger daily papers and the Twin Cities metro media market reach – people are reading our paper.
This strong readership has held true every year since we started measuring in 1999.
In addition to print, the Newsleaders has an average 5,917 unique web visitors monthly and an average of 1,355 monthly Facebook likes. As people find new ways to get news and stories, they are seeking out all of our platforms.
How do we sustain such high readership? We believe we have several things in our favor. First, we’re local and focused on the communities we serve. Second, we have a nice balance of news, local happenings and inspiring stories about our neighbors. Finally, we think it’s because each issue is 8 to 16 pages. Think of our paper like a short story about our community rather than an epic novel. It’s easily enjoyed in one sitting with a nice cup of coffee.
Finally, if you are a local business, we have even more great news. The research shows 69 percent of our readers have purchased products based on ads in our paper. Nationally, 50 percent is considered solid. Again, the Newsleader performs well above the average which means our local businesses can realize a strong return on advertising investment.
Like so many businesses, ours was hit hard in 2020. We are entirely funded through advertising dollars. When our local businesses are hurting, we hurt too.
As we come out of COVID-related closures and start to reopen and re-energize our communities, the Newsleaders is here to help. We have a trusted, affordable community resource that is widely distributed and well read.
In fact, we started a GoFundMe campaign to help get through the pandemic and are grateful to the 45 individuals who reached out with financial support. That helped us hold on. When larger media companies are struggling, free community papers are stable and growing. They are valued in the communities they serve.
And, we are stewards of the precious dollars we receive from donors and advertisers.
Our audit showed we do not have wasteful spending. Our freelance reporters and columnists? They earn 10 cents a word. Our four staffers are part-time, making the paper happen in addition to working their full-time jobs.
All of us at the Newsleaders are in this business because we love it. We love bringing you the local news. We love telling local stories. And, we love having local readers who appreciate the Newsleaders as much as we do.