Progress begins offering free subscriptions
From our Feb. 7, 2008 issue:
The Clearwater Progress will embark on a new course this week, perhaps the boldest approach in its colorful 102-year history, when it begins offering free newspaper subscriptions to all residents in the upper Clearwater Valley.
Beginning today, The Clearwater Progress will suspend local subscription sales and begin delivering free weekly newspapers to all box holders in the Kamiah, Kooskia, Stites, Clearwater and Harpster areas.
The decision is in response to modern changes in the way information, advertising and news is delivered, according to Progress owners John and Susan Bennett of Grangeville.
The Bennetts, who have owned the paper since 2001, said technological advances like the Internet and other forms of electronic media have changed the informational landscape across the country.
While these many new choices are good and healthy for consumers, the trend has a way of dissolving the traditional conversations and dialogues that give individual communities their unique identities.
“We think it is very important for the long term health of the community for people to be engaged in the everyday activities of the people who live here,” said John Bennett.
“And one way that our business can help is by distributing our local paper to as many people as possible. We recognize that many people are on fixed incomes and we do not want that to be a barrier to getting news about their town and the people involved in it. A community paper has a unique position of being able to inform the largest audience of what is happening in their community without having to sift through many pages of articles and advertising that does not relate to our town.
“This paper also has the responsibility of presenting all sides of important local issues so that those who live here will be able to make the informed decisions that affect our quality of life and our future generations.”
By saturating the area with local news and advertising, the Bennetts believe a more informed population of residents will make better choices for their community, be it a vote on a local school levy or a buying decision that will support local employment and the tax base.
The distracting din of this new informational age hides an even broader danger, added Progress Editor Ben Jorgensen.
“As we slowly disengage ourselves from our communities, we are beginning to experience a breakdown in volunteerism, be it for the local ambulance service or CVRA,” Jorgensen said. “It is important that we as individuals keep investing in our communities to preserve those qualities most appealing to us.”
Jorgensen said the move to free distribution is also in response to the surge of many new faces arriving in both communities as new residents discover the beautiful Clearwater Valley.
“We want to be welcoming to everyone and let them know they have a lot at stake in preserving what attracted them here in the first place.”
The size of the paper has also changed for greater ease of use by readers.
This change in paper size is also aimed at helping advertisers’ investment in their own goods and services work even harder for them. “Advertisements stand out in a much greater way on a smaller page because, quite simply, they are easier to see,” said Jorgensen. “Not only will they be more attention grabbing, but more eyes will see them as a result of direct mailing the paper to every active box in the upper Clearwater Valley.”
The Bennetts said the move to a free distribution newspaper would also give hometown businesses a great, new opportunity to compete for local dollars through total-market saturation advertising.
While the area already has free advertising publications, the Bennetts feel offering an additional bonus of free local news content will definitely give The Clearwater Progress a leg up when approaching advertisers.
“Every household in the valley can now rely on our paper to provide them with information relating to their very own surroundings. The advertising is an important component; our local businesses will appreciate being able to reach all people within our community,” Susan Bennett added.
The move will effectively triple The Clearwater Progress circulation to 4,325.
Current newsstand sales and out of area subscriptions will not be affected by the change.