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Leading the way

Posted March 2, 2007

Yep, we did it. Went right off the deep end and into the great unknown. Will it be worth it? Are we foolish? Only time will tell.

After intense discussions with staff, advertisers, investors, and readers, we have concluded that it makes good business, and environmental, sense to move away from printing a newspaper and becoming a completely online news organization.

Since its founding, the Vermont Guardian has been at the forefront in Vermont of what newspapers could, and should, do on the Internet. We were the first newspaper to offer breaking news and web exclusive content, and have been evolving to add special features to help other small Vermont businesses connect to each other, and to our readers.

The community we sought to write about and connect with more than two years ago — you — has been incredibly encouraging whether through criticism or praise.
We have built a strong reputation in the past two-and-a-half years as a credible, award-winning publication with the ability to break news ahead of much larger, and well-financed and staffed, competitors.

We blended the best of a weekly print publication with that of a modern, online news organization. Now, we embark on a new adventure and hope you’ll let us know what you think.

We had been contemplating this move for months as we struggled to figure out how to manage a statewide newspaper when newspaper advertising is on the decline and younger readers are getting their information from the Internet. In fact, discussions had been underway to transition to becoming an online-only publication late last year and into this year.

These were not easy discussions, but the reality is that independent news organizations are hard to get off the ground, and struggle financially in their early years. The Guardian was not immune to this standard, and we have sought new ways to keep the ship afloat.

Then, the recent blizzard knocked us out of commission for the week and we couldn’t distribute the paper. (And, by the way, The New York Times and Burlington Free Press were among those who didn’t deliver a paper that week either to many places in Vermont so we were in good company.) So, we had to come up with an alternate format of getting the news out, and making folks happy.

We did, it worked, and because it was a success we quickly began to talk to key advertisers about going entirely paperless. In those early talks, some advertisers and readers wondered what took us so long to make the move.

In the past six months, especially so much of our attention, and resources, were spent each week on publishing a print edition — but the demand from readers and advertisers was for us to put more time, and money, into the website.

We’ve seen more than 1 million readers in the past year, with more than 4 million page views.

As an organization with finite resources, and being on a planet with dwindling resources, we decided it just made good business, and ecological, sense to discontinue the weekly print edition.

Still, it was not an easy decision to make, but to keep providing you with the quality reporting you’ve come to rely on from the Guardian, we had little choice. We know that some of you will miss the print edition. We will too.

For the time being, the Guardian will provide a dual delivery method — HTML-based stories and downloadable PDFs — each week. And, in between our weekly offerings we will bring more news and information, along with audio and video, to our readers.

The reason for doing both versions right now is simple: Some people, and advertisers, want to see a “printed” version. So, for those with good Internet connections, they can download a PDF. Or, those who don’t care, or can’t download large files, we have the HTML version.

It’s terrifying, and exciting, at the same time, and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

We couldn’t have made it this far without our dedicated readers, advertisers, contributors, and all the friends and family who helped us get off the ground and this far. We look forward to hearing from you, as we want you to help us write the new history of media in Vermont together.

Always feel free to drop us a line on what you’d like to see more, or less, of in terms of news coverage, topics, and what special features you’d like to see us provide. E-mail us at info@vermontguardian.com.