On the Beat column artwork

A year ago at this time, I took a chance professionally and financially to launch the Philomath News, an effort to try to continue local news coverage of our community so that it doesn’t fall under the “news desert” label that so many small towns are experiencing around the country. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the launch at midnight on Nov. 30, 2020.

So, how’s it going? Will the Philomath News be around for another year? What plans do you have for Year 2?

Yes, lots of questions roll in and out of my head from day to day as the effort to make this a sustainable venture continues. In general, the response has been positive with a lot of folks thanking me for continuing to write news and sports. Early this summer, I even received recognition on a national scale as a sort of success story when I was featured in a media industry Q-and-A with current and prospective publishers.

The three biggest challenges have not changed much:

• Finding enough time for a one-person news staff to cover everything he wants and then to write a story that folks will want to read.

• Finding enough time to interact with potential advertisers to provide them with information about how they can reach a specific audience while becoming a community partner of local news.

• And third, trying to make the bottom line work through voluntary memberships and advertising revenue.

On the financial front, this is not a business that will ever provide me with much of a personal income. The majority of our household income comes from my wife’s job and she has lovingly supported me with this news site idea of mine since Day 1. About six months ago, I started to take a modest owner’s draw from the business.

So obviously, I’m not in it for the money and I’m not complaining. I see the Philomath News as a sort of community service to inform the readers of what’s going on in town and I’m still doing what I love after getting axed from my print newspaper job in September 2020. Plus, there’s just a huge sense of satisfaction for working so many hours and so hard for myself instead of a large company that doesn’t care to take notice of the sacrifices you had been making for several years in the interest of readers.

Still, there are expenses and the next 30 days will tell me a lot financially as one-year annual membership renewals arrive. In the first month, I received about one-third of my entire annual income. So the question at this time is seeing if current members will want to continue their support with the same enthusiasm that I witnessed following the launch.

No matter how that turns out, I’ve committed to continuing the Philomath News for another year. But I’ve learned a lot over the past 12 months and some internal changes will be upcoming — some of these that readers may not really notice. Here’s a sampling:

• A week ago, I signed on with a new “all-in-one publishing platform” that incorporates the latest industry best-practices with a focus on small news publishers. Migrating the news site into this new system will hopefully eliminate my technology headaches to give me more time to focus on writing, selling and marketing. I built the Philomath News site from scratch last year and the advances in technology can be dizzying. Through this new venture, I hope to stay on top of it (at a cost of $500 per month). The migration and design will go on behind the scenes and you won’t see the upgraded news site probably until February. The result should be an easier site to read (especially on mobile devices) that’s also much faster.

• The newsletter format will also be improved in conjunction with the news site redesign. One of the biggest attractions for me to go with the new platform is the ability for me to design the newsletter inside of that same environment (instead of building it from scratch each time in an external program). This is another piece that will save time.

• You may notice some more creative approaches to advertising as I try to bring in more revenue. I have a lot of ideas on this front and they just need to be developed further. One thing I do know is that you will never see pop-up ads, automatic video-playing ads, etc. I can’t stand them and they ruin the online reading experience in my opinion.

I could write on and on about my ideas but I’ll stop right there. I’ll just finish by saying thank you to all of you who have supported the Philomath News through your memberships and comments about coverage through this first year. I hope the momentum continues into Year 2 and beyond.

More pie? No thanks

The Corvallis Spirits Festival back on Nov. 6 — an eight-hour event hosted by 4 Spirits Distillery — featured a special “Battle of the Bosses” pie-eating showdown. It turns out that Philomath’s chief of police, Ken Rueben, was among those competing while the city’s mayor, Chas Jones, backed up the effort with his involvement in a friendly “wager.”

Rueben was reportedly joined in the contest by police chiefs from Corvallis, OSU and Albany, as well as the Benton County sheriff. Meanwhile, Jones along with the mayor of Corvallis, City Council president of Corvallis, a Benton County commissioner and the OSU president all committed to donating $50 each with the pot going to the winner’s nonprofit of choice.

Corvallis police chief Nick Hurley won the contest and he chose Jackson Street Youth Services to receive the money that had been wagered.

So how did Rueben fare?

“He said he almost vomited three times on coconut cream pie,” Jones said during a City Council meeting earlier this month, “He never wants to eat another coconut cream pie.”

Attention for Dizzy Hen

The food website, Eat This, Not That, earlier this year published a piece about the best brunch spot in the state and the Oregon honor went to our own Dizzy Hen here in Philomath. This recognition is something I only recently became aware of when a radio station’s website posted a reference to it.

Here’s what Eat This, Not That wrote about our local spot:

“One Yelp reviewer called The Dizzy Hen the “best place for breakfast and brunch in the area.” With classic egg-based brunch dishes and fast, friendly service, this is the perfect place to go with family or friends.”

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).