After a full year we’re still learning… and growing


Well, it’s been a full year since we’ve started the Pen City Current.

I can say without a doubt, it’s been a really wild ride. Not without it’s hiccups, but the reward has been worth the effort. I talk with people in the journalism field on a regular basis and take their counsel as we plan which direction we’re going with this crazy thing. 2018 should be a fun and exciting second year.

The plan was not to dominate a market, but to be an addition to this market. We wanted to provide a free news option with a totally digital, user-friendly platform.

In just 12 months, we’ve garnered more than 3,600 likes on Facebook and close to 3,800 followers. According to our analytics, we reach approximately 90,000 readers a month through our social platforms and website. The most well read story on the website was the body found at Indian Path Parkway earlier this spring with 22,892 reading that one particular article.

Our Facebook page has reached as many as 27,000 people in a single day and we’ve also published an article that reached close to 63,000 readers. Our mobile app has been downloaded almost 200 times.

In October, Pen City Current had more than 25,000 visitors to our website for an average of 812 people on our site per day that month and that’s only 11 months into our venture. So, needless to say we’re very proud of those numbers and expect them only to grow as we continue to work to expand our market and our coverage.

With the first year coming to an end, we will kick off the second year with a subscription/donation drive where we will be setting a goal for 200 $50 subscriptions in a four-day drive. Beginning Dec. 5 through Dec. 8 we’ll be reaching out to our readership to help up sustain our efforts. We’ve had very good relationships with local businesses and have helped them promote their businesses and events and that advertising revenue has helped us build a strong foundation, but our goals are far-reaching. We want to give more coverage to the Donnellson, West Point, and Denmark areas and eventually reach into Keokuk and provide the same #HyperLocalSuperFresh news we’ve been working to provide in Fort Madison.

To that end, we need to know that our subscribers see that value as well. We are also going to give 15% of our subscription drive back to local high school students in the way of a scholarship fund. If we reach our goal, we would like to offer either $1,500 in scholarships to a local student or students interested in pursuing a career in media or information services.

Here’s the funny part. Our website and its news content are free to anyone. So why a subscription drive when you can get the information for free? We believe a subscription, although it does come with morning email alerts and links to our Sunday through Friday E-editions and random giveaways, quantifies the value of our product to our readers. Subscriptions are easily registered on our website here. Several payment options are available.

Our plans in year two also include increased digital services to our advertisers with innovative approaches to local and regional marketing at rates that reflect the local economy. It is, and always has been, our mission to provide user-friendly advertising and rates that reflect the Fort Madison economy. Our monthly advertising packages have resulted in strong numbers for our advertisers and there is no incremental costs for additional readers. If a story attracts high readership, our advertisers come along for the ride at no additional cost.

Personally, we’re very thankful for the partnerships we’ve cultivated and for those that have reached out to us, we very much appreciate the value you place in our publication. News sources have been very engaging and forthcoming with news and information. School, governmental agencies, groups and organizations look to us as a way to help spread the word of bake sales, fairs, schedules; businesses have contacted us about openings and we continue to seek out those news stories on a daily basis. And, as always, obituaries are published free of charge, as they come to us without changes.

We’ve also given back to the community schools, athletic departments, the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce with sponsorships and volunteer hours. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, I think. We don’t shy away from the competition but welcome them as partners in news gathering. We’ve shared photos with other newspapers and television stations without charge because we are all in this together.

I don’t even think we have any idea what this next year is going to have in store for us. But we’re here, empty nesting… listening to scanners and taking phone calls. I don’t have a twin brother…it really is me. And sometimes, because it is just me, I miss things, but things are going well and I hope to have someone else helping in the very near future to help bring even more news and information to Lee County.

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your readership, support, and patronage.

Here comes year two.

By the way, if you haven’t had a chance to meet with Geoff Shields of Avenue G Productions, make a point to do so. Geoff grew up in Fort Madison, and he and his wife, Lisa, have opened a video production service right here in Fort Madison. Geoff brings more than two decades of broadcast journalism experience to the area and the couple is very excited about the potential of this community and are all in.

But that’s Beside the Point.

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