Behind the Scenes ~ What it Takes to Keep The Bedford Citizen on Track

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The Bedford Citizen doesn’t just materialize at 9 pm every weekday, or at 7:30 every Sunday morning when a compilation of the week’s stories goes to its email subscribers.

Besides a core of editors and writers, there is an organizational infrastructure that for nine years has ensured the Citizen’s solvency, integrity, and growth.

The 18-member Board of Directors meets quarterly, overseen by President Teri Morrow. At a more micro level, six members of the Board comprise an Executive Committee, which convenes monthly.

The Board, at its October 1 meeting, addressed not only its standard agenda but also a discussion question that will help define upcoming Citizen content: “What is the next big topic for the town?”

Some participants’ answers were pragmatic: contingency planning for the continuing impact of the pandemic; local unemployment; the impact of state financial challenges on allocations to the town.

Others were long-range, even philosophical: continuing conversations about race; changes taking place in Bedford’s faith communities; the virus-induced changes to familiar processes and institutions.

Besides those discussions, other agenda highlights included:

Fundraising: The emphasis was on NewsMatch, a feature of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), designed to help non-profit journalism at the end of the calendar year with matching grants. A year ago, a qualifying organization could realize up to $20,000 as a base in matching funds. Although the 2020 matching grant numbers are not yet announced, Citizen fundraisers are working hard to secure the local match as they did in 2019. Significant success was acknowledged at the meeting: two major employers and generous Board members have committed to match up to $15,000. Additional local gifts will be sought during November and December, as NewsMatch requires.

The Board also learned that a recent campaign netted an additional 16 sustaining (monthly) donors. Directors also discussed ways to show appreciation to donors, as well as other fundraising ideas. (Later in the meeting, Morrow emphasized that its INN membership is an invaluable resource for The Citizen.)

The upcoming Bedford Guide: Gene Kalb reported that advertising sales are about the same as they were for the initial guide a year ago, with new participation by some major employers. The publication, with a theme “Bedford Being Bedford,” is targeted for completion before the end of October.

Upgrading the website and logo: A subcommittee is continuing its evaluation and reviewing software options. A new logo would be appropriate to help mark The Citizen’s 10th anniversary next year. A recent survey structured to identify the qualities readers most commonly associate with The Citizen produced three leaders: “informative,” “local,” and “relevant.”

Strategic plan: A marketing subcommittee recommended the following goals: expand readership by 5 percent annually and the donor list by 3 percent a year. The point was made that it is important to find out why people occasionally stop subscribing or reading The Citizen. Also continuing in development is a staffing plan, focusing mostly on volunteer leadership and including a three-year plan of succession.

Readers’ preferences: Using reports from Google Analytics and other social media metrics, Managing Editor Julie Turner reported on the most popular articles for the past quarter. The number of stories in The Citizen during that period increased by 54 percent over a year earlier, she noted. The board also considered reader engagement data, presented through a new dashboard that separates readers into three categories, defined by the frequency of their visits to the website. The analysis also shows which articles were accessed by the three categories. Board members discussed various ways to interpret the data.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763
Click this link to learn more about The Bedford Citizen’s first community reporter.

 


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