Letter From the Editor: Our 'Thirdly' Financial Report and a Preview of Website Changes

My letter today focuses on our first “thirdly” financial report, and previews some forthcoming website changes

Dear Reader:

We are thrilled to welcome you into a new year and to our first issue of 2022.

We launched The Roanoke Rambler on Sept. 1, 2021 with humble aims and budgets. We have since been overwhelmed by the support from community members who care about having an independent source of local news, nonfiction essays and original literature.

My letter today focuses on our first “thirdly” financial report, and previews some forthcoming website changes that will be detailed in a future letter. As promised, our unaudited thirdly report — which every four months explains where our money is going to and coming from — is driven by our strong belief that you should know how your journalism is being funded, and by whom.

The Roanoke Rambler is published by Big Blue Press, a sole proprietorship limited liability company (LLC). Like a nonprofit organization, however, any sort of “profit” we may be fortunate enough to see will go directly toward our mission — bringing you in-depth, local journalism and vibrant literature. In keeping with our commitment to transparency, we are also divulging information about our financial situation to a degree that not even many nonprofits reveal.

In our first four months, we attracted nearly 200 paying subscribers — outpacing our goal of 400 in the first 12 months. We calculated that goal based on what similar local news startups have seen in a city the size of Roanoke.

About half of our subscribers have annual subscriptions, which are paid up front, while the other half have a month-to-month subscription. In our first triannual, we raised nearly $16,700 from subscription revenue. With seed funding from our founding donors, we ended the year with $37,700 in total revenue. You can find a list of our major supporters here.

Now to expenditures: Where did your subscription dollars go? Like many businesses, the bulk of our costs go toward labor.

About 70 percent of our spending — $12,300 — went toward my wages ($600 per week) and to freelance journalists. We pay no less than $200 per article and $50 per brief photo assignment and, often, quite a bit more.

Our next highest pool of expenditures ($3,200) went toward advertising (including print and digital ads upon our launch) and marketing (including reader swag like tote bags). That is followed by about $1,500 toward technology and office equipment. Finally, we wanted to highlight that about $340 in our first few months went to obtain public records under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act that informed our reporting.

As we embark on our first full year of operation, we are looking forward to introducing new sources of revenue, technological enhancements and reportorial and literary voices.

Among the most recent changes will be updates to how readers interact with our website. We will streamline the sign-up process to make it easier for potential subscribers to engage with our reporting. And we will categorize our stories in a way that will make it easier for people to find our coverage by topic, such as on the environment or politics.

I’ll close with a version of how we end our newsletters — which you can find archived here — Questions or comments? As always, just email us, and we'll look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely yours,

Henri Gendreau

The Roanoke Rambler
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