Dear Lagniappe readers:
Rob and I started Lagniappe in July 2002 “with $5,000 and a dream,” as we like to joke. Of course, it was a little more complicated than that, but technically true.
Along with a dedicated staff of freelancers — some still with us today — we started off as a bi-weekly newspaper with the philosophy that we would always put quality content ahead of everything else. That still holds true today.
Our reporters have been providing comprehensive coverage of the COVID-19 crisis on an almost daily basis. And in a much more in-depth “Lagniappe way” than most media outlets are able to do. Our columnists have been covering how this has affected the communities they cover from business to arts and music and cuisine.
Chronicling how everyone has been so drastically and negatively affected by this crisis has been gut wrenching but important work. And it has also been nice and equally important to shine a light on people and businesses making the best of this terrible situation, too.
It’s what a newspaper should do.
But we are also a small, locally owned business and this crisis has hit us hard like everyone else. The vast majority of our advertisers are deemed “non-essential” and have been forced to shut down, causing them to cancel contracts with us. We totally understand and have not tried to hold any of them to a contract. I can assure you they are very “essential” to us.
We have always been proud to be the place small, locally owned businesses (just like us) chose to advertise to help “Keep Mobile Funky!” But when they hurt, we hurt.
And we are all hurting right now.
Like many other small business owners we have spent the past few weeks navigating SBA portals, pestering our banker and spitting out mouthfuls of letters that are supposed to get us all through this, like PPP and EIDL. I have probably sang, “You down with PPP? Yeah you know me!” a thousand times over the last 14 days.
But now that the applications have been completed, we are just sitting here waiting for answers and wondering, hoping, praying the alphabet stew of government saviors will be deposited into our account quickly enough to save us and our employees — some of whom were planning on getting married or having babies or buying houses. And they are waiting on us to give them answers to questions we don’t even know to ask yet.
It’s all changing so quickly, but somehow every day seems like an eternity.
As Tom Petty said, “the waiting is the hardest part.” And it truly is.
In addition to the grueling process of “waiting” while watching Congress argue over re-funding programs that are already out of money, we have been proactive.
We set up a paywall on our website a little over a year ago much to the chagrin of many of our readers. But it was a necessary step. Print revenues have been dependable, but every business needs new growth streams. And while we were focused on covering our community, giants like Facebook and Google gobbled up all of the digital advertising. Those dollars will never return.
The only future we saw was to really go back to the “olden days” when no one thought twice about sticking a quarter in a newspaper box to grab the daily paper. So we started asking everyone to digitally stick 21 cents a day into our online paper “box” (which sounds kind of dirty but we truly don’t mean it that way) to access the content our reporters and columnists work so hard on.
I think a lot of people often think about newspapers like they do a utility — like they should just always be there, no matter what. But we all have mouths to feed and mortgages to pay, too. And we knew we had to consider other revenue streams in addition to our print advertising to make sure we have a strong, viable operation for years to come.
Boy, are we glad we did that now.
The digital subscription revenue has helped us tremendously during this difficult time and we have seen many, many more of you sign up since this crisis started. Words really cannot express how much this means to both Rob and I personally and to this newspaper and our employees.
For those of you who haven’t signed up yet, I ask you to please consider doing so. It is absolutely vital for us to have a strong subscription base to keep things afloat while we wait to see how long it takes for things to get back to “normal.”
You can do so by going to my.lagniappemobile.com. (I am not opposed to begging at this point.)
I also wanted to take this space to announce another change we are making while we “wait.”
Effective immediately, we will start publishing bi-weekly. The next issue of Lagniappe after this one will hit the streets on April 29 and continue to do so until this crisis has ended. We will continue to publish stories on our website on an almost daily basis. So, wouldn’t it be a perfect time to sign up for a digital subscription? Did I mention it is just 21 cents a day?
This move will give us the time and resources to “wait” this out for much longer. And it is necessary to make sure we will have Lagniappe for years to come.
For those of you who have signed up for an annual print subscription or are planning to, we will be adding any “missed” issues to the end of your subscription. For example, if we do not print weekly again until June and we “miss” four issues, we would extend your current subscription by one month. Of course, if that is not an acceptable remedy to you, we have other options. You can just email me at email@example.com.
Almost 18 years ago, the very first issue of Lagniappe hit the streets of Mobile to provide “a little something extra for Mobile.” It was 20 pages and had probably five or 10 advertisers. In some ways we are returning back to where we started. And we are just as committed to providing this community with the news it needs now as we were back then. That will never change.
It took us a very long time to build Lagniappe into the paper it was just a month ago. We have weathered hurricanes and economic downturns before and we will make it through this, too — that is the one thing we are certain of in this time of great uncertainty.
We thank you all for your continued support.
Stay safe and well,
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