This week, Willamette Week turns 33. We graduated some time ago from the school of hard knocks, stuck with our first job and, after years of renting, settled down in a starter home in Northwest. We've even developed a long-term relationship in New Mexico.
At the same time, if you've been following the gloom-and-doom reports concerning our acquaintances on Southwest Broadway and in cities all over America, you might worry about our health. (Was it all that liquor and cigarette advertising we accepted?) Happily, WW' s story in 2007 is anything but a tale from the crypt. This has been a year of solid accomplishment, detailed below in a quickie chronology of our extracurricular activities, followed by a few numbers and concluding with a word about our role in the life of this remarkable place we love calling home.
Hundreds of you attend
s Longbaugh Film Festival, David Walker's paean to independent cinema. Along the way, we encounter one incredibly memorable film,
, and raise more than $3,000 for Darius' affliction, Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
June. Issue No. 3 of Finder hits the streets. WW' s annual guide to Portland has quickly become sought after by new arrivals and longtime residents alike. Later in the month, WW hosts the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Some 500 ink-stained wretches make the trip here—and are quickly seduced by Portland's great vibe.
August. WW' s annual Best of Portland issue gets us an afternoon at Pioneer Courthouse Square with Trail Blazer Greg Oden (we love him) and a fabulous party in our parking lot, replete with massive tent, local celebs, seemingly endless food and booze, and…Sexy Pants.
September. WW' s MusicfestNW draws thousands to Portland's largest annual celebration of indie music. Thanks to exec director Trevor Solomon's savvy booking—and your keen ears—this city has an amazing weekend, including tremendous free shows (thank you, Nike) and thousands of gratis cold treats from the itinerant Ice Cream Man. MFNW also provides contributions of $5,000 apiece to the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
A couple weeks later, we launch our new look. When we last redesigned the paper in 1996, our operating principle was that readers are grazers who need to be drawn into stories. Eleven years later, we see you as busy multi-taskers for whom we need to make our stories easy to find and read in-depth. The fine, talented—and ever so patient—folks at Leopold Ketel (a special shout goes out here to Andrew Reed) guided us through this process as well as anyone could have.
If 2007 concludes as we expect, this will be the paper's best year ever in display sales (from which we generate over 80 percent of our revenues). Sales will be up 7.6 percent over 2006. Even when adjusted for inflation (does anyone still remember the Roaring Nineties?), this will mark our best year ever. On the other hand, due largely to Craigslist, classified advertising sales have continued their decline, by about $115,000. In recent months, revenue in this area actually has experienced a modest upswing. Also: Effective Nov. 1, Craigslist started charging for employment ads. (Message to Mr. Newmark: Would you be kind enough to do the same for rentals?)
Circulation. While newspapers everywhere, including The Oregonian , continue to lose print audience, we've kept our distribution at 90,000 papers each week. For the year, returns (papers not picked up) have averaged 2.6 percent of the total, though that number has dropped closer to 2 percent since the redesign. More important, for the past year WW has had more 18- to 34-year-old Portland-area readers than The Oregonian 's Monday-Friday editions, including A&E . The count is 146,600 for WW to 125,700 for The O , according to the fall 2006 Media Audit and the daily's August 2006 report to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Look for 100 new blue WW boxes on Portland streets come January.
Web stats. WWire debuted one year ago, providing a regular flow of news, comment, audio and video on wweek.com. According to Google Analytics, over the past month (Oct. 10–Nov. 9) we had 146,465 "absolute unique visitors" who viewed 510,141 pages. That's 36,000 additional visitors and 155,000 more pageviews than at this time last year.
The Bottom Line. This year total revenues for WW should be around $6.25 million, a 4 or 5 percent increase over last year. Pre-tax profit should be in the range of 5 percent. As I've often said in this annual column, if WW were owned by a media conglomerate, co-owner Mark Zusman and I would have been relieved of our responsibilities long ago for unsatisfactory financial performance. Under our brand of management, WW spends well more than the typical weekly on editorial, production and printing. While we certainly could be a little more efficient, we feel it would seriously harm the culture of our operation to try to match national averages calling for profits two to three times greater than ours.
That would be you—all 402,500 print readers each month, plus Web viewers. Of course, I'm enormously proud of—and flat-out love working with—everyone here in our office. But all of us know without you
would lose its reason for being.
Similarly, it's my sense you intuit the value of a local, independent press that is passionate about you and Portland. That's especially crucial at a time when the Bush administration's Federal Communications Commission is busy promoting greater concentration (including cross ownership of newspapers and electronic media) in an industry in which emphasis on return on capital—at the expense of intelligent, helpful journalism—increases in direct proportion to market share.
We view our role as that of catalyst—using tough-minded journalism, stylish writing, strong design, engaging public events and any other tool we can place at our disposal—to help you make Portland a better place in which to live, work and play.
This week's issue, for example, contains the fourth annual edition of WW' s Give!Guide, our effort to facilitate year-end giving. We simply could not make this work without terrific technical assistance and organizational support from dozens of you. On top of that, last year, 1,410 of you visited wweek.com/giveguide and contributed $228,000, as well as countless volunteer hours and much-needed supplies, to 37 worthy local nonprofits. With a little luck, this year even more of you will jump in.
Similarly, we could not perform WW' s core journalistic function at anywhere near our current level without your tips, suggestions, criticisms and encouragement. They come in emails, anonymous letters, casual social conversation, unannounced visits to the office and phone calls. Your continued interest and support keep us charged up and thoroughly engaged in what we do.
Thanks for another good year together,
That's with the
, a paper we bought in Santa Fe a little more than 10 years ago. Publisher Andy Dudzik, Editor Julia Goldberg, and Display Sales Manager Marcia Beverly produce an award-winning weekly and keep it in good financial health. We are incredibly proud of their work and thrilled to have fallen head over heels for them and the