Crowdfunding and the way forward

Emily C. Skaftun
The Norwegian American

In a surprise turn of events, with contributions that have come in over the phone, by mail, and of course through our Indiegogo campaign, some two weeks after the campaign ended we’ve juuuuust reached our goal!

I didn’t see that coming.

Or rather, I didn’t see the failure of the campaign coming. See, I set the goal low, hoping we could quickly surpass the $20K and hopefully get somewhere close to the amount we actually needed, which is…

I don’t know. What’s the magic number, in a lump sum, that would solve our problems?

Friends, I’ll confess I had a pretty rough week or so in there, when it became evident that this fundraising campaign wasn’t going to get us there. Even though this campaign didn’t have the intensity of the first one, which was bluntly titled “Save the Norwegian American Weekly,” I was still looking at it through that lens—if we succeeded we’d be “saved” and if we failed, well.

Nevermind that that wasn’t even the case last time!

The campaign may have “succeeded” now, but we at The Norwegian American already grappled with its failure, and here is what I, personally, have taken away from it: I need help.

I was hired on to be this paper’s “Managing Editor” (which was never really the right title for the scope of the job), responsible for sourcing and laying out content, rightfully a full-time job. I had more support than the previous two editors: selling ads was someone else’s problem, as was sourcing the Norwegian content (I read no norsk at the time). I had a boss who controlled the budget and held ultimate responsibility for the fate of the paper, and while I didn’t always agree with his directives, there is something to be said for passing the buck!

Since our near-death experience, the inmates have been running the asylum. We have a terrific owner, who I have saddled with the title of Publisher, but he isn’t interested in the day-to-day operation of a newspaper. He has bigger business to manage! So decisions fell to me. Marketing fell to me. Responsibility for this paper’s future fell to me.

(And all I can say is thank goodness I never became a doctor or a judge or an air traffic controller, because there’s no way I could handle that kind of pressure!)

This newspaper is not now and has not in recent memory been profitable. That’s not a problem that can be fixed by a crowdfunding campaign, even if it exceeds its goals by a wide margin. That is at best a temporary solution, and we need to do better than that. Failing to achieve a temporary solution was the wake-up call I needed to reach out for help in doing just that.

I’ve talked to the Publisher and we are working with an honest-to-Odin marketing professional on ideas to increase subscription levels to something we can live on. I’ve tried everything I know how to do, and while I’m proud of much of it, and while I know that without it we’d be in worse shape than we are, it hasn’t really “worked.” It’s time to bring in someone who knows more than I do.

The next months will be important ones for this paper. We’re closer than ever to breaking even, and with a little help I’m cautiously optimistic we can get subscription levels up into the black. After all, there are five million people of Norwegian descent in this country! We’d be happy if just 0.1% of them signed up.

This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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