State of the newspaper
A message from Editor-in-chief Emily C. Skaftun
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Another year, another set of unexpected wins and losses for this paper.
We started the year embarking on our second Indiegogo campaign. The first one, in 2015, was a smashing success, earning more money than I’d dreamed. It was a critical endeavor, as without that infusion of cash we might have closed, and people knew it. The second time around, even though we had better perks on offer, a better video, and the obvious proof that we use money wisely (just look how much better this paper is now than it was two years ago!), we made a lot less money. Perhaps our readers had started taking it for granted that we’d stay in business? Whatever the reason, that was the first unexpected loss of the year.
However, it was also kind of a win. The generosity of some of the businesses we partnered with stopped my heart. Lexi from Old Ballard donated booze and even a swanky dinner, while Ingvill from Hovden Formal Farm Wear proposed a design of a waffle bandana and then ended up donating their production to the cause. We’d also been offering sets of postcards we found in the office, provenance unknown—but advertising them caused the maker of the postcards to come forward. That not only shed some light on how cool they really were (see “Postcard mystery solved: Antique works of postal art get new life,” May 19, 2017: www.norwegianamerican.com/heritage/postcard-mystery-solved-antique-works-of-postal-art-get-new-life) but also opened up a lot more copies of the postcards for sale, which Esther was kind enough to also donate. Learning how awesome our friends are was the first unexpected win of the year.
(We still have sets of the postcards, as well as very limited numbers of shot glasses and notepads, also from the Indiegogo campaign, available for sale at www.norwegianamerican.com/shop.)
But the biggest win from the Indiegogo campaign turned out to be our cookbook, A Taste of Norway: Flavors from The Norwegian American. Taste of Norway Editor Daytona Strong was the hero of this project, and the only reason such a thing—which readers had been suggesting for some time—was remotely possible. She went to great lengths to make it beautiful, planning her family’s meals around making and photographing recipes for the book. We took orders for 170 during the campaign period, ordered a few extra, and quickly sold out. A second small printing (of 50) was run off before Christmas and immediately disappeared.
But don’t fret! I’ve just ordered a third printing. You can pre-order at www.norwegianamerican.com/shop (books will ship in late January) or by calling us at (206) 784-4617 (we will eventually return all messages), or by mailing a check to: PO Box 30863, Seattle WA 98113. The cost is $34 plus $6 shipping to the United States or $10 to Canada.
I think the after-the-fact response to this book has to do with how unexpectedly amazing it looks. We’ll call that the second win of the year.
The financial failure of the campaign also spurred us on in another way. We realized that we have to do something different if we’re to make it, so we hired two marketing professionals to help us reach new audiences. One, who put together a mailing for us, didn’t net us a gain over what we paid out. Loss #2.
But the other, who’s working on increasing our Google rankings and therefore web traffic, has shown some impressive results. It’s probably too early to label this Win #3, given that it hasn’t yielded any concrete financial help… but I’m doing it anyway.
Loss #3 hit near the end of the year, and it was a doozy: the loss of Molly, who’d been my right-hand woman for almost my whole time as editor. The fear of this exact thing happening had kept me up nights more than once; I knew it was only a matter of time before some other job tempted her away. You see, even though I’ve done my best to increase pay for staff—and I’m still clinging to the dream of 100 percent paid contributors, impossible as it seems—no one is making what they’re worth. The financial constraints on the paper are just too great. Who could blame someone as brilliant and talented and hardworking as Molly for wanting more?
Which, by the way, is Loss #4, though by no means an unexpected one—the slow trickle of money out of our account. Friends, I’ve done everything I can do to cut costs. We need to raise revenue. Subscriptions are… maddeningly stable, at an unsustainably low number. Ad revenue is way down.
But let’s not end on a down note. The loss of Molly led to what I hope are Wins #3, 4, 5 & 6—in the four new people brought on board to replace her. That’s right; it took one part-timer and three freelancers to do what she did. And while we’re still in the learning phase of that transition, I’m hopeful that, like stock-shares splitting, this will give us room for new growth. Many hands make light work.
On a personal note, after four years, this has now become my longest-held job! It’s remarkable to me that we keep coming up with more and better things to publish about Norway and Norwegian America, when—I confess—I’d been initially skeptical that such a thing would be possible. It’s this impressive community of readers and contributors that brings The Norwegian American to life. I salute you!
The opinions expressed by opinion writers featured in “On the Edge” are not necessarily those of The Norwegian American, and our publication of those views is not an endorsement of them.
Comments, suggestions, and complaints about the opinions expressed by the paper’s editorials should be directed to the editor.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.