Let's take West Hollywood's most popular source of news to another level and a bigger audience. Let's launch WEHOville.com in print.
We love WEHOville. And we're guessing you do too. We have 2,300 plus Facebook likes and way more readers than any website covering West Hollywood. So it's clear that we're the go-to site for information about West Hollywood politics, personalities, nightlife, dining, arts and culture, style, shopping and just plain fun.
But some of you tell us you love WEHOville so much you want to, uh, touch it. You want to hold it in your hands, caress it when you're reading something you like, tear it to shreds when it pisses you off. Maybe even use it to pick up the poop (after reading of course) when you're walking the pooch. Many others of you tell us you want to read your news in print over the breakfast table rather than squint at a laptop screen.
So we want to create a print version of WEHOville. A free weekly newspaper for WEHOville, which we define as West Hollywood and adjacent areas that feel an affinity for our community's creativity, diversity and all around charm.
Why print, you ask? Because we know there are many people who still prefer to get their news that way. So we will reach a bigger audience with both print and online editions. In West Hollywood, with our embarrassingly small voter turnout and so many civic issues, we need to engage as many residents as possible in the discussion.
And because print advertising is still the way that local news organizations make money (ask Warren Buffett, who is buying up local newspapers by the dozens). So a print version of WEHOville will let us generate additional revenue to expand our coverage of local government, commercial and residential development, local business, real estate, tourism and many of the other issues that matter to, and define, West Hollywood.
We will distribute WEHOville in print each Thursday throughout West Hollywood and in adjacent areas to reach those folks who, while they might not live within the boundaries of West Hollywood, consider our community home.
We welcome your contribution, of any size, to help us cover the cost of launching this weekly print newspaper. Our mission is to help foster an informed and engaged community in a place we all love, and to promote its wonders to the world at large. If those goals appeal to you, we hope you'll help us realize them.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The biggest risk this project faces is our inability to generate sufficient advertising revenue to enable it to sustain itself. It likely will take three to four months after launch to get there. Our target goal was selected to cover costs for that period.
That risk is ameliorated by the fact that our publisher, Henry E. (Hank) Scott, has lots of experience at this. He successfully launched a free daily newspaper in New York City (Metro New York, circulation 330,000), turned around a troubled weekly newspaper in Atlanta (Creative Loafing Atlanta, a 120,000 circulation free weekly), launched a Russian-language newspaper in Moscow (The News in Review, published by the New York Times), and rescued Out magazine from impending financial collapse.
With 40 years in the business, and half of that spent as a consultant to newspaper publishers, Hank has the experience to reduce any possible risks. And he never gives up.
First, you should know that while the digital revolution certainly has transformed the newspaper business, it isn’t the case that print is dead. Local newspapers, those that provide detailed coverage of the communities they serve, generally are profitable. That’s why Warren Buffett, the savvy investor, has been buying them up. Large metropolitan daily newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, aren’t doing so well. That’s because they don’t have the resources to give people in individual neighborhoods and communities the news they need. And what national, international and regional news they do provide usually is available online. Second, best I know (and I have been in this field for decades, as a journalist, publisher and media consultant) there are no profitable digital-only local news operations. Any news organization, to sustain itself, must have multiple platforms. Think of a stool with only one leg. Pretty wobbly, huh? That’s a digital-only news business. But when you add two more legs — in our case a print newspaper and an events business — you provide the stability we need to do what you expect of us.
There are several reasons:
One is that West Hollywood is an incredibly vibrant and creative city that has suffered since its inception almost thirty years ago from lack of a professional local news organization. If you’ve read WEHOville in the eight months since we launched, you’ve seen our reporting on what the consequences have been: An ethically challenged political establishment financed by out of town interests who want to make a buck off of WeHo. No forum for the discussion of civic issues (other than the two minutes residents are granted to speak at the twice-monthly city council meetings). A transition from a city founded to preserve the rights of middle-class renters and promote diversity to a city enamored of celebrity and affluence.
The job of a professional news organization, by which we mean one run by experienced journalists committed to objective reporting, is to shine a strong light on what happens behind closed doors in any community, a light that can be a powerful disinfectant in a toxic civic environment. Our job also is to give voice to you, the residents of West Hollywood. Our community leaders may assume they know what you think. But our job is to tell them, giving voice to those of you who may not have ready access to political leaders who, for the most part, aren’t very involved in the community.
Another is that, popular as the Internet may be, there are many people who prefer to get their news in print. A print version of WEHOville allow us to expand our audience, and thus expand the discussion of the issues that matter most to West Hollywood.
Finally, businesses in West Hollywood, which are the lifeblood of our community, need a way to speak directly to their customers. Currently there are no reputable platforms for that. WEHOville.com, in eight months, has become by far the most widely read news medium covering West Hollywood. We provide digitally, and soon in print, a way to present your services and products directly to the people who may be interested in them.
Our overall goal is to subsidize the launch of the print newspaper until it turns profitable. We estimate that will take three to four months. And we estimate that it will cost WEHOville $80,000 to $90,000. The $35,000 we are trying to raise will help us offset that cost. Specific allocations will include a salary for a fulltime local government reporter, for expansion of our network of freelancers to enable us to cover more local sports, local business and commercial and real estate development. We pay our writers a decent wage, the only way to get good reporting and writing.
Donors will have no more say than our readers do now. We invite comments on our stories. We invite contributions from readers to our Let’s Discuss feature. We appreciate it when you alert us to errors we have made or biases in our stories, which we don’t intend but that sometimes happen. But unlike other news organizations in West Hollywood, we don’t slant the news in favor of friends or advertisers — indeed we sometimes upset them. But that is what good journalism is all about.
You aren’t a non-profit. And our donations won’t give us stock in WEHOville. So aren’t we just donating money to help you make a buck?
If only! I firmly believe that WEHOville can become a self-sustaining media organization. But I don’t expect that it will become the next Facebook. I did not launch WEHOville to become rich. I launched it because, as I enter the fifth decade of my life in media, after working for organizations as complex as The New York Times Company and Stockholm-based Metro International S.A., I wanted to return to my roots as a local journalist and publisher. I have invested $269,000 in WEHOville, a measure of my commitment to West Hollywood and to journalism and a measure of my belief that local news media not only is essential to a city’s quality of life but also is a sustainable business.
Other questions? Don’t hesitate to email me (henry@WEHOville.com) or call me (323-454-7707) Help us create a news medium you can get your hands around.