In a historic and challenging year, Volume One moves forward to rethink, redesign, & relaunch our flagship publication with invigorated community support.
We all know it – and I’m sorry, Mom, but there’s no other appropriate way to say it – this is a shit year.
For so many of us, 2020 is testing our careers, our businesses, our relationships, our children, our schools, our biases, our sanity, and our very understanding of society.
But with these tests comes a ripening potential for deep and meaningful change – personally, professionally, culturally – you name it. The events of this year have further unmasked the instability, inequity, and fragility present within many of the most important societal systems we all count on every day. Healthcare, education, childcare, work, supply chains, food – they’re all experiencing a seismic shaking on an order not seen in quite some time. Sadly, the Chippewa Valley is not immune, and neither is Volume One.
As a small local media organization with roughly two dozen employees and a revenue model based largely on advertising and events, Volume One – like so many media organizations across the country – has seen a frightening last six months. Local businesses were hurting, and that automatically meant we were, too. So while doing everything we could to help – using our resources to tell the stories of (and rally attention for) affected non-profits, businesses, and individuals, as well as offering financial assistance for their marketing efforts – we asked our readers for some help of our own. We launched the Volume One Membership Program. And wow, did this community answer that call.
It didn’t take long for nearly 1,000 Chippewa Valley families to step up and support our efforts in this community with membership purchases ranging from $25 to $500. Meanwhile, thousands more shopped our retail offerings online at TheLocalStore.org (and later in-store, too). Hundreds of loyal business and organizational partners found value in continuing to work with us as much as they could for advertising, marketing, video production, and more. Then, with these winds in our sails, we were able to land substantive (and honestly not-easy-to-get) national-level pandemic grant support from the Google News Initiative and the Facebook Journalism Project. Now we were making lemonade.
It was a wave of mission-based backing – rooted in our own community – that brought into focus the sense of responsibility we have to keep making investments in what we do and how we do it. We couldn’t wither and cut back – we had to lean in and improve. We had to take this opportunity to make our own meaningful changes. So we took our bit of “downtime” and got to work.
It was a wave of mission-based backing that brought into focus the sense of responsibility we have to keep making investments in what Volume One does and how we do it.
So today, while many challenges clearly still lie ahead, and the work doesn’t stop here, we’re ready to unveil a whole new approach to Volume One and what it can mean to this community. Starting with this issue, we’ve made seven major updates building toward a stronger future:
Re-Imagined & Expanded Content Flow
We’ve launched six new themed sections to every issue in print and every day online, which you’ll find across the following pages and on our site at VolumeOne.org – Voice, Community, Arts, Life, Features, and Events+Guides. Each of these themes has new focused editorial leadership to improve the depth and breadth of coverage of the Chippewa Valley in these areas, including more news and opinion than ever before.
Improved Quality & Design for both Print & Digital
We’ve tweaked the size of the publication, overhauled and updated page designs and styles, partnered with a high-tech Wisconsin-based printer, and upgraded our paper quality to make content and ads look better and sharper. At the same time, we’ve revamped the look, functionality, and interactivity of our website for both mobile and desktop devices at VolumeOne.org – go take a look!
Deeper Investment in Local Creatives & Local Content
Contributions from the community have always been at the heart of Volume One, and now we’re digging deeper to make it an even stronger part of our future. This fall we’re introducing new print, digital, and video content featuring local contributors, and increasing pay for key local stuff like feature stories, impactful opinions, photo essays, videos, and more. This publication is by, about, and for the Chippewa Valley with 99.9% locally created content – and it’s going to stay that way.
Further Elevation of Diverse Voices
We’ve made modest strides in recent years with added coverage and inclusion of diverse voices from our community. But the events of this year clearly demonstrated more could be done. To elevate needed discussions across the Chippewa Valley and beyond, we’ve expanded coverage and inclusion of the BIPOC community by launching recurring paid columns and multimedia content featuring diverse voices and faces from across the region.
Enhanced Multimedia Experiences
We’re pushing the best content forward – impactful videos, events, stories, and more – on desktop and mobile, all available with one touch right from your phone’s home screen, and offered to you on social media every day. We’re upgrading the online, interactive experience of our feature stories. We’re taking our sizable video production abilities (thus far mostly utilized by clients) and creating more video content of our own to share. And we’re finally launching Volume One’s first-ever podcast – expect upbeat monthly installments featuring key local topics, engaging and insightful guests, and the varied voices of local writers, talkers, and pontificators.
New Interest-Based Event Listings
Clearly we’re in an odd time for community events, but we’re still publishing the Valley’s best calendar of (virtual and IRL) events in print, and online at VolumeOne.org. It’s core to what we do. You’ll now see a visually condensed calendar of events with quick-hit descriptions, gathered by interest/topic each day (creating faster browsing for what you’re into), as well as more curated local event collections. Online you’ll find even more info with fully searchable topics, in-depth event descriptions, photos, links, and more.
Sophisticated Digital Marketing for Local Brands
In addition to serving readers, we needed to invest in serving our clients and financial supporters. With that in mind we’ve partnered with one of the most sophisticated technology and digital advertising platforms out there, to make impactful digital marketing available to even the smallest local organizations. Now our clients can not only advertise and promote through our publications, web channels, and events, but we can work together to elevate local brands to anyone anywhere on nearly any platform or device including national-level websites, search engines, social media, streaming television and radio, and really much more.
We’re working hard to keep our organization strong and healthy during a difficult time through these efforts and others, building a better Volume One for our readers, our clients, and our community. But it hasn’t been easy. Our normal revenues for issues of the magazine in print and online have been down as much as 50% at times. And that’s scary.
While investments – not cost cutting – has been our main strategy, saving money where we can is prudent. So while the pandemic grinds on, and at least through the end of this year, Volume One will publish in print every three weeks instead of the usual two weeks. That means we can save on printing costs, it means members of our staff can stay home some days to help support their kids and families as schools are partially closed, and it means we can include more content in each issue you pick up. But of course we’ll still be online with the latest every day at VolumeOne.org, and in your social feeds (add us in your settings to “show up first!”). We’ll never be far away.
All in all, we’re thrilled for this new chapter of Volume One, and we hope you are too. If you’d like to be part of our future by becoming a member, visit VolumeOne.org/membership. And thank you for reading, for sticking with us, and for your support in whatever form that may take. If you have any thoughts or feedback, I welcome it directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – we can always hear about how we could do better.
Hang in there this year. Keep your head up. Do what you can, and let go of what you can’t. As they say, this too shall pass. And eventually this community will bounce back in a big way.