Help us build your newspaper

This may come as a bit of a shock to those of you who've heard nothing but doom and gloom about newspapers.
Over the past couple of months, publisher Robert Dickson and I have been talking about how we can expand The Carrboro Citizen.
With a healthy, growing local ad base, incredible encouragement from readers and a pickup rate that now leaves us with very few returns and a lot of empty boxes at the end of the week, we sense that we can grow and should.
As regular readers may have noticed, we've started to cover more news out of Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Chatham County. We've also expanded distribution into these areas.
Following are a couple of things we're looking at to make our decisions. We've decided to share them in the interest of gathering feedback and suggestions.

1. Distribution
Right now, we distribute 5,000 papers each week, mainly through on-street boxes and inside racks. We're studying how to get that number to 10,000.
At the very outset we opted not to throw a paper in everyone's driveway. We don't think that's sustainable, especially given gas prices and paper costs. It's also a burden on our recycling system and our landfill.
Some advertisers, however, tend to look at the big numbers being tossed around by our competitors and equate that with readership. (We try to make the point that everyone who picks up our paper does so to read it.)
We have also looked into expanding our paid subscription delivery zone. We offer it right now more as a courtesy for people in Carrboro who cannot pick up a copy otherwise. That works out fine in Carrboro where things are pretty compact, but may be more costly and harder to do in Chapel Hill. We think we need roughly 200 subscriptions from Chapel Hill to make home deliver work there.
We can also mail out copies, but we need to hit several hundred before decent bulk rates kick in and we're not sure we can guarantee delivery in a timely manner.
Given all that:
A. Are you or your neighbors interested in subscribing?
B. Where should we add more papers or a new rack or outside box?
C. Should we just say the heck with it and started throwing one in every driveway?

2. Content
I'll leave this open ended since we are pretty evolutionary in this area already. Please let us know what suggestions you might have for improving coverage and for expanding.
Right now, we're trying to get more business, sports and community news in the paper, along with expanding our coverage to include Chapel Hill and UNC (with an emphasis on the confluence of the two).

3. Advertising
Please remember that we have to grow our advertising in order to expand coverage. We sense that bigger circulation numbers will help with that as will the continued enthusiasm of our readers. We've made great strides in convincing dozens of local businesses that a well read local paper is a great ad vehicle, but we still have a ways to go to make us sustainable in the long term. That means attracting the larger businesses and institutions — like the university, the hospital and real estate community — as well.

I'll try to keep y'all up-to-date on plans as we go forward. I know it always sounds cheesy to say so, but The Citizen is your paper. It is owned, operated and put together by your neighbors right here in Orange County. Let us know what you think.

If you don't want to comment here, but have a suggestion, feel free to contact me via editor at carrborocitizen dot com


Kirk Ross, Editor

The Carrboro Citizen




So glad to hear that the Citizen is thriving!  My first thought is that a good way to grow without incurring too much expense is to use the website more.  (Which is consistent with how you launched the paper as well.)  Personally, I read your content online more often than in print, but I understand that I may not be typical.

I would like to see more investigation and analysis, more Chapel Hill and Orange County coverage, and maybe an extra day of publication?

I'm all for the online expansion too Kirk. Plus I think more audio and video at the Citizen is a good idea. Especially if its made by citizen partners. Collaborate/partner with groups like The Peoples' Channel and WCOM. Content is still king!

The big thing is ya'll must continue to innovate and experiment. Try cheap new tech before anyone else. See if it sticks. Without innovation you won't be able to compete.

To do this I think you'll may have to invent a time machine first to get it all done. :)

The vanishing act in progress at the CHNews does seem to offer an opportunity for the CC to expand. But am I right in assuming a name-change would involve too much right now? At the risk of stating the obvious (which I'm usually very good at), the appeal to readers and advertisers outside Carrboro might be greater with a more inclusive name.

We don't think that's sustainable, especially given gas prices and paper costs

Gasoline prices become irrelevant when you deliver by bicycle, foot and electric vehicle.  Raleigh Rickshaw drivers operate on a 100% tips basis.  The owner gets the advertising money, the drivers get the tips. I don't know how Greenways Pedicabs works, but I think they were giving free rides at the music festival on Sunday.  I bet you could work something out with local cyclists that would be sustainable and beneficial to all.

My (albeit minor) newspaper pet peeve is having to turn to an inside page to continue a front page story, then turn back to read the next.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Why not just include the entire article on the front page?  If that means there are only two stories on the front, no problem.  We will turn the page to see what else is in there.


Can you put a CC box at the bus stop in front of the Nursing School or across the street in front of Public Health?

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