Almost 12 years after we put the first issue of a 20-page newspaper, with a name few could spell or pronounce (including us) out onto the streets of Mobile and the avenues of Baldwin County, we are taking another huge plunge. Yes, the Lag-nap/ Long-nap/Lag-nuh-pipe/Lag-uh-nappie/Lag-na-doodle/Lamb-yak or whatever is you like to call it — though we prefer Lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap for you newbies) — is going weekly.
A lot has changed since those first few years. Our circulation has increased from 5,000 to 25,000, our advertising and editorial staffs are much larger and our content has expanded from being heavily focused on arts and entertainment to include more news and investigative reporting. In short, we’ve grown up — into a newspaper from a “bar pamphlet,” as local talk radio host Uncle Henry used to call us (out of love, I hope).
Now, when I look back at those first few issues of Lagniappe, I get an eerily similar feeling to looking at my kids’ newborn pictures. At the time, I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen, but now I realize they just looked like squishy little old men.
And let’s just say those freshly birthed Lagniappes of 2002 were pretty squishy themselves — primarily because we couldn’t afford to hire a graphic designer at the time, and Rob and I did that work ourselves. (Um, there’s a reason we’re not graphic designers — we kind of suck at it.)
But the heart and soul of Lagniappe was there from the very beginning — even in the poorly packaged “bar pamphlet” early years — and it has not changed. We have always just wanted to provide interesting news and commentary to the citizens of the community we deeply love and to also capture and promote the infectious “sweet lunacy” of Mobile.
Luckily, we found, I think, some of the most talented writers, photographers and graphic artists along the way who have helped us grow and continue to Keep Mobile Funky. Some came in very early and helped us when we were just drooling and trying to learn to roll over. Others brought their experience in later and took us from crawling to walking. And a few have been there the entire time — from drooling newborn to the pimply preteen we are today — maybe we should blame the decision to go weekly on raging hormones. Whatever the case, we are forever grateful to you all.
The number one question we have gotten as we have told people we are going to actually print more frequently, rather than less is — are you crazy? Don’t you know newspapers are dying? And then we are reminded even our daily is now not even a daily anymore, but a thrice weekly.
To that we say, not all newspapers are dying, some are actually thriving – just ask Warren Buffett. And al.com is doing what al.com is doing; we are doing what we are doing. And there is room for all of us.
Their parent company is based out of New Jersey and has many papers in many markets in many states. They have decided a “Digital First” strategy works best for their entire company; that’s quite literally their business. It makes me uncomfortable when people constantly want us to comment on them when talking about our changes. They have some great folks doing some great work here, who have absolutely no control over the people who are making decisions in Jersey or Birmingham. So if you don’t like some of their “exciting changes,” don’t hate on the local folks, hate on the of out-of-towners/staters.
Lagniappe has one newspaper in one market – this one. Our world headquarters are located on Dauphin Street and all of our decisions are made in 36604 (or some times ’02 if we need a cocktail while planning). Our “strategy” has always been and will continue to be “Content First,” hyperlocal content, that is.
Our heads are not buried in newsprint though, we understand the importance of a digital strategy. That’s why our website contains everything you can find in the print version and is updated almost daily with breaking news stories.
But I think there too is something almost irreplaceable about the print versions of altweeklies, not just in ours, but in every market. It would be hard to replace the feeling of intimacy (RRRROOOOWWW!!!) you get while sitting at a café and going through your paper – fingers turning page after page, getting dirty with ink (Double RRRRRROWWWW!!!), not just for the content but also to “read the ads” to find out what’s going on in that particular community.
Sure, one day someone really smart will figure out how to re-create a digital version of that marketplace of ideas and happenings and we’ll go along with what the market dictates, but I haven’t seen a suitable replacement yet. But even when that new digital “container” is created, what we fill it with will still be paramount to anything else. Content First. Container Second.
The second question we get is with twice as many papers, I guess you will need twice as much content?
The answer is yes… but it will also evolve over time. You will immediately see more news coverage. We have more full time reporters than we have ever had at Lagniappe right now, and we still feel overwhelmed. You will still see the same great folks covering the arts, music, cuisine, business and sports scenes each week, they’ll just be able to include even more local events on a weekly basis, rather than having to pick and choose. Most of our opinion writers will be writing a weekly column now, but we hope to add new folks to the mix over time.
We also hope to add new sections and features we have never had at Lagniappe, but we have to have the advertising revenue to support adding more spaces for new faces. We feel confident that will happen – it may just take a little while. But in the mean time, you can fill out our fancy new crossword puzzle. Oh yeah, baby! Check out page 52, you crazy puzzling fiends!
I know Rob and I would both like to thank our staff, advertisers, friends and family for helping us jump off this new cliff. Many of those same people were holding our hands when we jumped off the first one over a decade ago. We’re hoping with their continued support we will continue to fly, rather than hitting our heads on the rocks all the way to the bottom.
But if we do, at least we will have plenty of new super-absorbent Lagniappes to soak up all the blood. (Yikes! That’s really disturbing.) But we really don’t think that is going to happen. The support so far has been overwhelming, and we’re so grateful for that.
We are genuinely thrilled about these changes for our readers, staff and advertisers. And we can’t wait to GET FUNKY EVERY WEEK with all of you.