A Q&A with LION member Mike Schoemer, publisher of North Wright County Today in Minnesota.
1. When did your site launch, what geography does it cover and why was it founded?
North Wright County Today was founded in April 2014 and covers the areas of St. Michael, Albertville, Otsego and Hanover, Minnesota. Mainly, we concentrate on St. Michael and Albertville (STMA), which is an area of about 24,000 people.
2. What was your background before becoming an independent local news publisher?
I've worked in community journalism for 17 years, including as a local editor and associate regional editor for Patch from 2010 to 2014.
3. How would you describe your operation and business model?
Mainly, I've been a one-man show. That's changing, as I've brought on freelance help and a (very) part-time sales person. But the site runs much the way any local site would, relying mainly on ad revenue for operations.
4. What do you consider your competition as a local news or information source?
Local competition is one weekly newspaper that covers, frankly, a wider area than we do. We're kind of in a sweet spot when it comes to filling a need for information. There are two daily papers in the Twin Cities, but neither touches our area much.
5. What makes your site unique?
The site is unique in the fact that it's locally owned. Everything else around here is chain-owned, including the weekly paper. People respect that a local entrepreneur is trying to make this work with a local site.
6. What is something you wish you had known when you were starting out or would do differently now that could perhaps serve as advice for others?
I wish I'd known that people don't need all the pretty packaging, bows, bells and whistles. They want the facts, down and dirty, and short and sweet. It sounds cliche, but information is the key, not presentation.
7. What about your operation is your biggest source of pride right now?
My biggest source of pride is the way the community has rallied to support North Wright County Today. We're closing in on 5,000 Facebook "likes," which is a watermark. Our pageviews and daily users are very solid in comparison to other local sites and we've received support from more than two dozen advertisers over the last 18 months.
8. What do you struggle with the most?
My biggest struggle, now, is with time. I'm having to tell myself that I can't make it to everything, and that it's OK to rely on UGC (user-generated content) and other ways. And stuff, flat out, is going to slip through the cracks. That's OK. You get it the second time around.
9. What are some of your future goals for the site?
Future goals: I really hope to just sustain this as a community resource. I'm not going to get rich off of it (I've since taken a "day job" in communications), but I LOVE doing it, and I love the response from people for doing it. So I hope to continue to provide users and advertisers the medium they want for local information. I think it's a matter of staying at goal level, more than attaining new goals.
10. Why are you a member of LION Publishers?
I've joined LION mainly for the collaboration. I knew a lot about the medium and the business from my experience, but hearing others deal with their struggles and learning from leaders in our field is helpful. Look, not everything is going to apply to you. But the resource of other news "mongers" and publishers is beyond compare here, and it's certainly helpful in the long run.
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