🔦 Update about The Spotlight

The latest from your local newsroom

Today is Nov. 11, 2022.

  • Good morning! This weekend will be cold and wet, courtesy of Tropical Rainstorm Nicole. High of 62 today, followed by 45 degrees Saturday and 38 on Sunday. If it's not raining, it'll be snowing, as on Sunday. Bundle up!

Publisher's note

An update on The Spotlight and options for the future

Hey, everybody! I gave Tom the night off because I wanted to share a bit about where we stand with this project.

I believe in transparency in local journalism. When you're a community-supported news outlet, you need to be accountable to the people who invest in and enable your work. With this article, I want to give you some insight into how things are going so far.

Key stats

First, I want to share some "key performance indicators," to borrow a horrifying phrase from my brief corporate confinement.

  • Since June 28, we've published 93 articles and newsletters, including coverage of high school sports, elections, city and village council, and local businesses and nonprofits.

  • As of this writing, 1,488 people receive The Spotlight every Tuesday and Friday morning, and 54% of them open it on a given day. That open rate is significantly higher than most newsletters, which tells me people are looking forward to this email and enjoying it.

  • Feedback is positive. Over 77% of people tell us they "loved" that day's issue.

  • So far, 38 people have upgraded to a paid subscription, which is a conversion rate of 2.55%.


Makes the world go 'round, right? I don't believe that, actually. I think the desire for purpose is a more fundamental motivation of human activity than money. But my journalists can't pay rent with "purpose tokens," so here we are.

I want to give you a little context about our company more broadly before I tell you about The Spotlight. Over at our other publication, The Portager, we're bringing in well over $10,000 per month and sometimes over $20,000 per month. Over 12% of Portage County readers pay for their Portager even though they don't have to. Just like The Spotlight, access is free if you can't afford it or just don't feel like paying. But the support of those who do pay has enabled us to launch major investigations into everything from workplace harassment in government offices to racism in schools to government spending. The Portager has become an important source of local knowledge, filling a need abandoned by the Record-Courier's parent company, Gannett.

Over here in Summit County, Gannett also owns the Stow Sentry and the Beacon Journal. The decimation of local newsrooms is happening here, too, but more slowly. My ambition is to be a locally owned alternative for Northeast Ohio communities as national chains abandon them.

With The Spotlight, we need to earn at least $6,000 per month within the next two years. Eighty percent of that revenue should come from subscribers, with advertisers making up the remaining 20%. That revenue mix allows us to keep our focus on serving readers rather than businesses.

Obviously, I never expected to hit that number instantly. But it was important to see signs that we were moving at pace toward the goal. Twenty-five new subscribers per month would provide enough cashflow to support operations, which currently cost about $3,000 per month, plus donated time by me and by Tom and our freelancers, who are all currently underpaid in the hope that one day they won't be. 

Unfortunately, we have not had many new subscribers since our initial launch of paid subscriptions. (And it's difficult to sell ads against only 1,500 readers, which is another reason it's important to have most of our revenue come from the people we serve.)

Decisions, decisions

We've now reached a point where we need to either start seeing 25 new paid subscribers per month, or significantly reduce the level of coverage we're able to give you.

Moreover, to achieve sustainability as a business, we will eventually need to see 495 more people sign up for paid subscriptions. If it takes two years to get there, that's OK. But we need to grow consistently over that time, relying on each of you to come to the individual decision that locally owned local news is worth $10/month.

I believe it is worth at least that much. Research shows communities with strong local news sources have more efficient governments (i.e. lower taxes), are less politically polarized, have more civic engagement (such as higher voter turnout), and have stronger local economies (because local businesses can promote themselves).

I put that paragraph in bold because that's the crux of this whole project. I created this company because I believe local journalism is the most effective catalyst for ideas and action that help communities thrive.

It's happening in Portage County. More people are attending events, shopping local, holding their government accountable and learning about the place they call home. It can happen in Stow, Munroe Falls and Silver Lake, too.

But only if you want it.

What's next

We're going to come back on Tuesday with a normal issue, but the future of The Spotlight ends with a question mark right now. One-time donations or an influx of advertising would be a massive help, but the only path to true sustainability runs through you.

Keep in mind also that if you can afford a subscription, you're ensuring access to information for someone who can't. A lot of retired people are on fixed incomes, and I don't believe they should be excluded from this community forum just because of how much money they have. Those who can afford it are giving a very important gift to those who would otherwise be cut off from the rest of us.

I'm still optimistic this project will become something we can all be proud of: a homegrown news startup that's just as invested in this community as you are.

Tom and I are so grateful for the trust and time you've given us. These are valuable and rare treasures that we know we must earn continuously.

What I love most about Northeast Ohio is that when something needs doing, we get it done. I recall, as a kid, strangers helping us with a flat tire and my mom bringing a gallon of Gatorade to some tar roofers in July. That's us. We help each other. She share the load with not a little pride about how much we can bear.

If The Spotlight is a thing worth doing, we'll get it done.

If not, it was an honor to help out for a little while, and I hope you'll permit us a measure of pride about the work we've done so far with your support.

That's my email address and cell number below if you ever need anything. See you next week!

Sponsored by Brandon Heating and Air Conditioning

Community calendar

🎭 Fri., Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 13, 2:30 p.m.: "Dorothy in Wonderland." What: The worlds of Oz and Wonderland collide in this youth production (ages 8-17) presented by the Stow Players. Dorothy, Toto and the characters of Oz get caught in another whirlwind that sweeps them off to Wonderland, where they meet Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, March Hare, the Cheshire Cat and many more. Where: Heritage Barn at Silver Springs Park (5238 Young Rd.) in Stow. Seating begins 30 minutes prior to performance. For ticket information, call 234-206-0128 or email [email protected]

📱 Mon., Nov. 14, 6:30-8 p.m.: Smarter Photos With Your Smartphone. What: Do you want to take photos on your phone or mobile device, but you aren’t quite sure how to do it? Or would you like to become more familiar with your device’s camera features, such as adjusting, editing, or sending photos that you took on your phone? Stop in for a very basic tutorial on mobile photography. Where: Community Room at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library (3512 Darrow Rd.). To register, visit events.smfpl.org or call 330-688-3295 ext. 4.

🚨 Thurs., Nov. 17, 7-8 p.m.: CSI Murder Mystery. What: There's been a murder at the International Crime Scene Investigators Association conference. It's your job to mingle with the other "CSIs" to ask questions, find and reveal clues, and solve the mystery. You'll get to play a character, who may turn out to be the victim, the murderer, or just another disgruntled CSI attendee. Where: Stow Room at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library (3512 Darrow Rd.). Costumes are optional. Event is for detectives ages 12-17. Register here.

🎭 Fri., Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 20, 2:30 p.m.: "Dorothy in Wonderland." What: The worlds of Oz and Wonderland collide in this youth production (ages 8-17) presented by the Stow Players. Dorothy, Toto and the characters of Oz get caught in another whirlwind that sweeps them off to Wonderland, where they meet Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, March Hare, the Cheshire Cat and many more. Where: Heritage Barn at Silver Springs Park (5238 Young Rd.) in Stow. Seating begins 30 minutes prior to performance. For ticket information, call 234-206-0128 or email [email protected].

🍂 Sat., Nov. 19, 2-3 p.m.: We're Going On A Leaf Hunt. What: Learn about fall trees and their changing colors through stories, hands-on activities and a scavenger hunt to find different leaves outside. This is a free program for children ages 4-8 and their families. Where: Leona Farris Lodge at Silver Springs Park (5027 Stow Rd.) in Stow. To register, visit StowOhio.RecDesk.com. Call the City of Stow Parks and Recreation Department at 330-689-5100 for more information.


Reader: Thank you for allowing readers on a limited budget to read Spotlight for free!

Reader: Love it, so much information. Thank you!

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