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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

To charge or not to charge: that is the question

Joseph Nusse jnusse@therockymountaingoat.com In a magical utopian world where money is not an issue and individuals happily go about their daily tasks with no need for reward, it seems like a free newspaper would make a lot of sense. So when a person looks at Jasper and wonders how in the world anybody can give away a great 20-page colour newspaper for free, one could easily make the assumption that journalists can live on nothing, and stories all but print themselves. But wait, let’s sit down with a ruler and analyze just how much print space is filled with little square boxes that seem to be trying to sell something. Daydream over. Looks like newspapers are bound within the money circle after all. So the question is, how do they do it? We know how they pay for it, but how do the staff at The Fitzhugh manage to convince local businesses that those little square boxes are worth money? The formula is simple. Free equals more readers. More readers equals more ad exposure, which translates into sales. So, is the Robson Valley ready to take this step? Of course the readers are. Truth be told, pay-

ing pocket change for a weekly paper is more of an annoyance than a financial burden. Twenty years ago a coffee cost about a dollar, as did a newspaper. Today a newspaper still costs a dollar and some spend up to four dollars every morning on a coffee. So, why don’t I charge four dollars for a newspaper? It would make a newspaper’s finances much easier. The content would be great and instead of fitting articles around ads, we could lay out each article based on photos and what we are covering. This seems like a journalist’s dream. As long as the content was good, I doubt many people would hesitate to pay four dollars for a paper either. But what about the businesses? If I want to find the hours of a business, I turn to... the business directory. If I want to buy or sell a dirt bike, I turn to the classified ads. So my question is what do the businesses want? In a tourist town like Jasper a free paper makes sense. Tourists are not engaged in local affairs nearly enough to pay four dollars, or even bother to find one dollar. But if it’s free, the newsstand will be empty by the end of the week. In the modern market where news is available online for free, a free print makes sense too. In a world where individuals are on the move more than ever, a subscription to a local paper doesn’t seem as important. But it’s important to have a paper to figure out the best place to eat, where to buy building supplies, and to learn who your neighbours are. Printing does cost money, but the real costs are elsewhere. Any guesses on how much soft-

Embedded journalism in the Robson Valley

entertaining weekly features. I think the web has untold potential most papers - even big ones don’t harness, due to lack of staff, training or initiative. As co-owner of this paper, I plan to make our site more than just print on a screen by having videos, audio, slideshows and galleries. My great-uncle Erwin worked in Valemount as a logger in the 1950s. The village was a very difLaura Keil ferent place back then. It is amazing how much lkeil@therockymountaingoat.com it has evolved since the first settlers arrived more Hi, I’m Laura. I may have knocked on your than 100 years ago. door this week. If I didn’t, I likely will in the I’m still guessing my way around, but I’m coming months. Don’t worry. I won’t try to sell hoping that if I end up knocking on your door, you anything. I may ask your opinion though, on maybe we could chat for a while. A journalist anything from forests to trains to prisons – tophas to be embedded for journalism to be relics that have Robson Valley residents talking. evant. Much like reporters embed themselves I’m looking for guides. I just moved to Valein the military, I am embedding myself in the mount in May, after finishing my Masters in village – minus the camouflage and tactical vest. Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. I Instead, I’m making good use of my flannel. grew up in Saskatoon where I did my first degree There are so many stories here, I can hardly in English, Economics and German. Last month, believe it. Joe and I feel so lucky to be where we I moved here to start this newspaper with my are. I’m optimistic about Valemount as a superb business partner, Joe Nusse. We’d never met, but place to work, live and chat on doorsteps. we decided to collaborate. I’m a young journalist What are you talking about these days? Let us – he’s a young entrepreneur. Out of many discus- know. In any case, hope to talk to you soon. sions and hard work The Goat was born. Laura Keil, Editor Our goal is to cover local news in the Robson The Rocky Mountain Goat Valley and area, with a multimedia website and

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ware for one computer costs a newspaper? Thousands per machine. There is no way around these costs because the printers are set up to the industry standard and the standard is high. Commercial real estate is not free, even if it’s your own house, and then there is gas for running around. Add to this a journalist’s time. How much is a journalist worth? All I will say is, like anything in life, you get what you pay for. But before I boldly raise my youthful voice and yell ‘turn and face the change,’ I will give a moment’s consideration to local businesses. In a recession is it fair to ask business to pay big bucks for ad space? Surprisingly marketers will say that businesses should spend more on advertising when times are hard. When times are good, people do not bother shopping around because they are too busy trying to capitalize on the boom. When times are hard, people take more time to maximize their spending. As long as the ad space is booked, our paper will accommodate. So why not do some targeted marketing? I think there is a market for a free paper in the Valley. The final question will be, are local businesses ready to market aggressively like businesses in larger centers? If not, I know that locals will have no problem paying for a good paper – many will even buy two a week. After all, this has worked before. Let the printing presses role. There is a new paper in town. Joseph Nusse, Publisher/Sales The Rocky Mountain Goat

Yellowhead Buzz Cont’ Foreman says the company donates to local community efforts such as meals on wheels, minor hockey and other sports in contrast to larger companies that tend to support nation-wide charities like the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “If at the same time it enhances the quality of life for our employees and ourselves, it is an extra benefit.” He says if a community is better-off, employees are happier. “We compete with the larger centers for good skilled employees so we need to support local things like minor hockey and speed skating. Some people do need more than just the backcountry type experience. They do like to have a nice dinner, or maybe see a nice show. If they have families the kids need something to do.” When asked if the company feels that their community investments have brought returns, Foreman says “most definitely!” As of 2010, Yellowhead Helicopters employs approximately 40 people at seven permanent bases and several seasonal bases mainly in British Columbia. The head office and largest base is still located about five kilometres north of Valemount.


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