Passing the hat

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

Back in the day we used to have a darkroom next to the newsroom, and we assembled our paper manually, cutting stories with X-Acto knives and slapping them up on the flats with hot wax. I was in my twenties before I ever emailed a story to an editor. And I was in my thirties when the social-media explosion changed the way people consumed news.

Fully half of our traffic, often more of it, comes via social media, much of it from Facebook but I suspect as more years roll by that something else will supplant the behemoth.

Another change that came about in the last couple years is even more sweeping: Most of our web visitors are hitting the site through their mobile devices, mostly iPhones.

Being able to access information on the go is an amazing thing, something I could never have foreseen when I was just a stupid kid pounding out sentences on an old Macintosh desktop that wasn’t connected to anything but a printer.

But it’s also a devastating blow to the altweekly business model.

Our papers are free. So is our site. The only way we pay for it is by selling ads. And you can’t serve up ads on an iPhone. I mean that literally. The newest ones will have ad-blocking software as part of their operating system. Most desktop browsers are implementing the same technology.

This leaves the modern free newspaper publisher in something of a quandary. But we’re figuring it out.

Being able to access information on the go is an amazing thing, something I could never have foreseen when I was just a stupid kid pounding out sentences on an old Macintosh desktop that wasn’t connected to anything but a printer.

New streams of revenue have been forged in this ancient business model — we’ll be rolling some of them out in the weeks to come. And we’ve got some other ideas, too.

We’ll never charge for our newspaper, or our website. Information, as we used to say, wants to be free.

But it still costs money to put it out there.

So we’ve added a donation button to our website, an unobtrusive little thing near the top of the home page. It’s there for our regular readers who appreciate what we do and want to support our work.

Like all of them, our business runs on money — passion, smarts, hustle… all of that, too, but we can’t pay our printer with heart.

So please don’t be offended by our meager ask. The donate button can easily be tuned out. But if you read something you like, learn something new, discover something that changes the way you see our cities, go ahead and give it a click.