A letter to readers, September 2011

September 1, 2011

More than seventeen years ago, I started out on something new: reporting on the latest programming, engineering and business news from the worlds of radio and TV in a new venue – online – and with a uniquely regional focus: first New England, and then expanding to include New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and eastern Canada in what became NorthEast Radio Watch.

It began as a hobby, something to keep me busy when I wasn’t actually doing radio (or later TV). But in 2001, it became a business in its own right, spinning off additional content that included Tower Site of the Week and the Tower Site Calendar.

From the beginning, I hoped to make things work through a hybrid model: voluntary subscriptions from loyal readers, advertising on the website and in the calendar, sales of the calendar and other products, and a revenue stream from consulting work generated in part by the visibility provided by the website.

For a few years, it worked. For the last year or two, it hasn’t been working as well as we’d hoped. For the last few months, it has, quite frankly, become unsustainable. Without getting overly detailed about your editor’s personal life, suffice it to say that with two small children now under the roof, continuing to run a “mom and pop” business under fybush.com’s current financial model is an impossible task. As anyone trying to sell online advertising knows, that market has dried up (and in some cases has disappeared from us very abruptly); the consulting business has likewise dried up, and while we’re touched indeed by the kind words from our loyal readers, they simply haven’t been accompanied by enough actual subscription money to keep the wolf from the door.

A few months ago, we began planning some changes to the site in an attempt to reverse that decline. The design of the site dates back to 2000, and looks it, and so we’ve been working on freshening the design to make it more compatible with modern browsers, mobile devices and social media. That’s the easy part.

The harder part is this: it has become impossible to keep offering the site’s entire content for free. While we’re deeply appreciative of the site’s wide reach and deep loyalty from readers, it has proven impossible to monetize that readership. So we’re faced with a choice: do we continue producing NERW and Tower Site of the Week (and maybe some additional new content) under a new model requiring subscribers to pay for the content, or is it time to hang up the keyboard after almost two decades and try something new?

(This is not an issue unique to fybush.com and NERW; fans of our west coast colleague Don Barrett know that he’s pulling the plug on his magnificent daily LARadio.com site later this month after many years of service as the tribal drum of the southern California radio community, and the void he’ll leave behind is a big one. Don has been very open over the years in sharing the difficulties he’s experienced in making his subscription-based model work; I’ve never been as comfortable about being so open about private business matters, but circumstances have forced my hand this time.)

I’m deeply conscious that many of you are in similar financial binds right now. The radio industry has never been known for high pay, and I know all too well that many of you are out of work, underemployed or retired and living on a fixed income. If you’re in one of those groups, I don’t want to lose you as a reader; that’s why I introduced a “student/unemployed/underemployed/retired” membership level a few years back. If even that $15 bargain level is truly still unattainable for you, drop me a line and we’ll work something out.

But for the rest of NERW’s tens of thousands of readers, decision time is now here. Within a few weeks, we’ll be transitioning over to our new site design, and if you don’t have a password, most of the site’s content will no longer be available to you. I’m sure there will be complaints and message-board griping; so be it. After seventeen years of giving a weekly column away for free, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying to those complainers, quite bluntly, “I owe you nothing.” (And conversely, to the many of you who have supported us through voluntary subscriptions, I am deeply grateful; your ongoing support is one big reason I’m not just pulling the plug on the site completely.)

As for the rest of you: thanks for doing the right thing. NERW and Tower Site of the Week are, first and foremost, labors of love. I wouldn’t have been doing this week in and week out for seventeen years if I didn’t care passionately about sharing the stories of radio and TV in the northeast, and about preserving the quickly fading history of broadcast technology all over the country. Those of you who know me personally know that I’m never going to get rich doing this. That’s not the goal – but neither can I continue staring down financial disaster just for the sake of keeping the column alive.

So here’s what happens now: if you want NERW to continue, it’s time to support it. You can subscribe below at any of our suggested rates – $15 a year for students/retired/unemployed/underemployed; $35 for an individual, or $75 for the professional-level subscription that includes a free Tower Site Calendar. If you’re a station owner or manager and you’d like to make NERW available to your entire office or your entire company, we can make that very affordable for you – just contact Lisa Fybush and she’ll help you.

If you’re a business seeking to reach NERW’s readership, please consider advertising with us as well. There’s no more economical way to reach a concentrated, motivated audience of radio and TV owners, managers, programmers and engineers in the northeast – and if you’re looking to reach radio engineers in particular, there’s no better place than Tower Site of the Week to catch them when they’re receptive to your message. Contact Lisa at lisa at fybush dot com or 585-442-5411 and she’ll walk you through our advertising packages to find one that works.

Have a question or comment about the future of the column? Contact me. I want to hear from you.

Thank you again for your support over the years,

Scott Fybush, Editor

Click here to subscribe!