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An Open Letter To Our Readers

An Open Letter To Our Readers

It has become apparent to the publisher of ABQ Free Press that advertising support for our news product does not exist and will not exist in the foreseeable future.

What Will It Take For ABQ Free Press To Survive?

If you think you can help, write us at dennis@freeabq.com

BY DAN VUKELICH

ABQ Free Press needs your input as we prepare to make a decision on whether this independent local news outlet can survive.

It has become apparent to the publisher of ABQ Free Press that advertising support for our news product does not exist and will not exist in the foreseeable future.

In the three-plus years since the first issue of ABQ Free Press rolled off the presses on April 23, 2014, we’ve had six advertising sales managers none of whom could move the needle to bring us anywhere near profitability.

Some of them said we were “too edgy” and that potential advertisers wanted us to be less confrontational or that we were too “negative”.

(For the record, Mayor Richard Berry’s administration long ago stopped informing us of news conferences, significant announcements or availabilities by top city officials all of which has hindered our access to news and sources.)

At the recommendation of our last advertising manager, we tweaked the newspaper’s layout and boosted our entertainment coverage to make the paper more saleable, although we resisted her entreaties to emulate the Weekly Alibi because, in our opinion, one Alibi is more than enough.

In the end we were forced to stop publishing a printed newspaper. The end to ABQ Free Press as a free weekly came last March 15.

We were and are being read. During its life, the print run of the newspaper varied from 20,000 and 60,000. For most issues, we printed 25,000 to 35,000 copies. Returns more or less held steady at a little less than 10 percent at our 400-plus locations from Belen to Santa Fe.

Through data we gathered during periodic online reader polls, we saw our reader demographic get younger and better, with a majority of our readers falling into the 25 to 54 age group sought by advertisers.

Not that it helped pay the bills, but we’re proud to note that the newspaper won dozens of journalism awards, including top honors in statewide and multi-state newspaper contests for investigative reporting, news reporting, analysis, columns, editorial writing and page design.

If we had to pick a label, we’d call ourselves progressive. Readers continue to tell us that we fill a void in the political spectrum between the conservative and establishmentarian Albuquerque Journal and the liberal but often-vapid Alibi which, despite periodically laying off its staff en masse, somehow manages to survive.

Over our life, we have focused on several core issues we believe are our raison d’etre: pointing out the incompetence of the leadership of the Albuquerque Police Department; understanding the causes of APD violence, which is not unrelated to the previous point; understanding the causes of our city’s crime wave (also related); interpreting the upheaval of health care; understanding the causes of our poor economy; demanding government transparency and accountability, especially at City Hall; and exposing the remarkable short-sightedness of the Richard J. Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

Now, it’s clear that despite the cost reductions realized in March following our transition to an online-only news product, and despite this site’s growing visitation and mushrooming social media following, advertising revenue remains maddeningly elusive.

Which brings us to the point of this letter:

If you are among the thousands of people who have told us over the years that you value what we do, we need your guidance on whether a shift from ABQ Free Press away from an advertising revenue model to a voluntary subscription revenue model is possible.

What would you be willing to pay to support this news outlet? How often would you be willing to pay for it? How many of you are out there? If we’re missing something in our slimmed-down online coverage that might sway you, what would that be?

What we’re asking is: Tell us whether you see a path to survival for us. The times are that dire. Time is short.

Dan Vukelich is the senior editor of ABQ Free Press. He began the groundwork for publishing ABQ Free Press in the summer of 2013. Save for tweeting about the latest outrage from President Donald Trump, he stepped back from a daily role in the organization last April.

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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.

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27 Comments

  • Ann Thibodeaux
    September 5, 2017, 11:14 am

    I would be willing to pay for an online subscription. I think 10 a month is fair.

    REPLY
  • Monica
    September 5, 2017, 11:25 am

    I would be willing to pay for the online subscription.

    REPLY
  • Janis White
    September 5, 2017, 11:27 am

    Count me in as a subscriber. Wiiling to pay $10 per month.

    REPLY
  • Liz Bustamante
    September 5, 2017, 12:18 pm

    I would pay for an online subscription, $10/mo as others have said.

    REPLY
  • Janice Hart
    September 5, 2017, 12:28 pm

    I would read it online if the site were easier to maneuver,. if it could be set up by "latest issue"
    instead of e.g. all the opinion pieces from all dates listed

    REPLY
    • N. Hendrickson@Janice Hart
      September 5, 2017, 1:24 pm

      I have no grounds for comparison. What are others comparable doing. I am old as dirt, but I prefer ‘edgy’. I like that you narrow your attention. I dislike my reading controlled by advertizers. I long ago cancelled our local R voice. Do what you must to keep free thi nking alive.

      REPLY
      • Mary Ann Hatchitt@N. Hendrickson
        September 5, 2017, 1:44 pm

        Journalism and journalists are an endangered species. In my humble opinion as a student of journalism, history and government, it has it been more vital that We The People have and support thorough, truthful, tenacious, and yes, when necessary, aggressive watchdogs on government and politicians. Your funding paradigm was doomed from the beginning though because government and politicians and the patrons who support them are not going to buy ads or support a publication that highlights their failures, inconsistencies, malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance. That said, like others, I would glady subscribe online for $10 per month.

        REPLY
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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