Welcome to the economics of local news

I'm Worth Robbins, part owner of The Harvard Press LLC, which publishes The Harvard Press, the locally owned independent newspaper of the town of Harvard, MA. My partners and I intend to blog about the economics of delivering local news to Harvard, population about 6,000, 35 miles west of Boston.

Launched in November 2006, the Press has circulation in excess of 60 percent of Harvard households, more than twice that of its nearest competitor, and five times that of a third Harvard paper. Both of the other Harvard papers are owned by regional newspaper chains.

Newspapers everywhere are struggling to survive, and despite enthusiastic acceptance, the Harvard Press is no exception. Now in its third year of publication, the Press has lost money in each of its first two years, and will do so again this year. We continue to operate thanks to the generosity of a small number of Harvard residents who believed in the importance of a locally owned, independent newspaper, and who made substantial contributions to underwrite start-up costs and operating deficits. Owners, staff, and freelance contributors have helped keep deficits low by accepting token compensation for their efforts. Starting the Press was a "labor of love," and keeping it going continues to be one.

My next post will describe our early days—start-up through the beginning of subscription-based circulation. After that, we'll describe the first full year, including our move to the center of town, and our first organizational change. Then we'll talk about year two, which began on a growth path toward financial stability and ended with the spectre of economic Armageddon, a devastating ice storm, and a decision to merge with the owner of the General Store.

With the history behind us, we'll then focus on here and now, and the future. What can we do to put the Press on solid financial footing, ensuring its continuing role in the life of Harvard?

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