Letter From the Editor: Shift in Business Model Brings Free Newsletter, Local Sponsorships

Starting this week, most of our stories will be freely accessible. Sign up on our homepage to get our newsletter free.

Dear Reader:

Today we announce a shift in The Roanoke Rambler’s business model that will provide greater access to our journalism for more readers while also diversifying our revenue streams.

Starting this week, most of our stories will be freely accessible. Please encourage your friends, family and neighbors to subscribe to our now-free weekly newsletter!

Our current subscribers — whom we now call members, at the $10 per month or $100 per year level — can rest assured that they won’t miss out on a single story; we will continue to paywall some of our main stories, including our exclusive, investigative and in-depth stories.

Since our launch in September 2021, it’s been the support from hundreds of paying subscribers that has allowed us to bring the community news from Roanoke City Council meetings, developments in the business community, coverage of social issues, and more.

But to sustain ourselves, and grow, we must adapt.

Simply put, not enough people are willing to pay for what we offer. Through various digital and analogue experiments over the last year to boost subscriptions, we’ve discovered that this lack is not a matter of reach, of not enough people knowing about The Rambler. Since our launch, nearly 50,000 individuals have visited the website. Yet, to date, 300 have become paying subscribers.

We hope that by opening up access to our journalism, we will become more inclusive, exposing thousands more people in the Roanoke Valley to The Rambler. Additionally, this increase in newsletter subscriptions will help us attract support from quality local businesses in the form of sponsorships and advertisements.

This is a pivotal moment for us. While from the beginning we accepted sponsorships at the top of our newsletter, we did not make a concerted effort to seek these. Now these will take the form of messages at the top of our weekly newsletter, clearly labeled sponsored posts, or dedicated emails. We made the conscious choice not to overhaul our website to accommodate advertisements; as we said from the beginning, you'll never find any pop-up ads, clickbait, moving pictures or other unfortunate advertising gimmicks.

A recent report from Project Oasis, which tracks local online news sites, noted that, “In addition to improving profitability, having multiple revenue streams is desirable because it enhances the stability of the enterprise. A publication with three revenue streams is more likely to survive if one stream collapses than an organization that loses its sole revenue source.” Of more than 700 digital news sites, six in 10 cited local advertising as a major revenue source.

Our hope is that this business model adaptation will keep us alive. Our long-term success relies upon our ability to attract both advertisers as well as new free subscribers who become paying members. We believe that through the support of readers and local businesses, we can achieve self-sufficiency and eventually even expand our staff.

We still cannot do this without you. We are grateful to our members, longtime and new, for your support as we embark on The Rambler’s next chapter!

Sincerely yours,

Henri Gendreau

The Roanoke Rambler
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