Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

No matter what the device of choice, Three Rivers news will be on it regularly.

Of weekly newspapers and an online audience

By: 
John Elliott

 

By now, the reality of where we must go from here has begun to sink in as we plan for what’s next and do double duty to finish three more print issues while developing the online platform. Many readers have expressed to us how much they will miss reading the print version in their weekly routine. 
 
Some like to read it at the local coffee shop, or each Friday evening when they look forward to any given weekend. 
 
“What’ll we use for fire-starter?” asked one reader.  
 
We’ve heard from several readers that The Kaweah Commonwealth “is the only one I still read in print.” We’ve been told, “I read the New York Times, or San Francisco Chronicle, or Los Angeles Times, or Orange County Register, or Washington Post, or <insert name of newspaper
here> on my phone / tablet.” Because we are interested in how weekly newspapers serve their communities, one that Sarah and I have followed online for many years is the Carmel Pine Cone.
 
Carmel Pine Cone
 
The Carmel Pine Cone is a weekly newspaper serving the city of Carmel-by-the Sea and the surrounding Monterey Peninsula. Despite not having a website, a PDF of the print newspaper is available online each week.
 
The Pine Cone’s circulation is 21,000 copies in print and 16,000 copies distributed via email. Founded in 1915, Sarah and I have always marveled at how the current publisher, Paul Miller, can take so many hard-hitting editorial stances for or against one group or another. Open ad
rate is $17.20 per column inch (ours averages about $8.50). They have more categories of ads than we have ads.
 
The Pine Cone carries several special sections devoted to various local topics and events: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Carmel Bach Festival, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Golden Pine Cones, Holiday Guides, In Your Dreams, etc. Six times a year, the Pine Cone
publishes a full-color glossy magazine, Healthy Lifestyles. 
 
A single-sheet insert costs $100 per thousand; that’s $2,100 to place your group’s flyer. In Carmel, they call a fundraiser a benefit. It’s a veritable publishing micro-niche that is driven by the wealthy community it serves.
 
Vacation rentals: News you can use
 
We recently noted how the Pine Cone reported on the controversy of short-term rentals disturbing the peace in Carmel. If you’re planning on booking a short-term rental anywhere in the Monterey Peninsula, be prepared to consult a zoning map that dictates where you can rent or not.  
 
Some areas ban short-term rentals altogether while Carmel-by-the-Sea has minimums of a week in some parts and a month in others. Some jurisdictions permit only owner-occupied vacation rentals. 
 
Every area in the unincorporated areas of Monterey County is governed by a strictly enforced county ordinance. We expect that Tulare County will follow suit someday and have a short-term rental ordinance of its own. 
 
When that day comes, hopefully, you will already be in the habit of logging onto 3R News because we will have the skinny on that breaking news. Like the Carmel Pine Cone, notwithstanding that they have untold capital that ensures they will preserve a printed newspaper awhile longer, both have a critical ingredient in common: we own the local and others don’t. 
 
Simply stated: Locals do it better
 
Of course, the exact meaning of “local” can vary widely from market to market. They have the scenic 17-Mile Drive and its lone cypress. 
 
We have a scenic 17-mile drive too: It’s called the Generals Highway. We also have a tree — General Sherman — and our tree is bigger than their tree.
 
They have the first all-organic winery in California that guarantees you can drink all their wine you want without getting a headache.  We have Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and unparalleled access to hundreds of miles of the great outdoors. 
 
Customer loyalty
 
One of the biggest challenges we’re finding in developing a digital news site is replicating a print-newspaper level of customer loyalty by getting more visitors to adopt the daily digital habit. The traffic to 3R News right out of the gate will come from a core group of members — the key is to expand that core group (current subscribers and followers) to include those who love this place — visiting now and in the future or who have lived here or visited in the past. 
 
On Sunday, March 17, and keep in mind this is not even close to the busy season yet, the River View had a waiting list of 29 parties while serving every filled table. That is unprecedented demand so the potential for growth is both exciting and scary at the same time. 
 
We’ll be in touch
 
Google data shows that email blasts offer an effective way to get more readers into the daily habit. 3R News will email information with everything from breaking news to the weekly specials at Sierra Subs and Salads and the entertainment line-up at River View. We will have event flyers from  the indispensable nonprofits, can’t-miss happenings, and more, all in your inbox.
 
The email list is already approaching what the print circulation currently is, and it’s growing daily. 
 
Do we have your email? If not, share it with us (3rnews@kaweahcommonwealth.com)  so you don’t miss the launch of 3R News.
 
One sad print fan expressed this week that she wouldn’t be joining us in the online leap. 
 
“I have loved the Commonwealth for many years, especially all the beautiful pictures you have shared, but we don’t own a computer,” she said.
 
Handheld devices
 
As for those “beautiful pictures,” they won’t be going anywhere. They will migrate to 3R News where the resolution is better and the color registration will always be spot-on. Consider the younger generation, say all those who were born in 1985 and after. They were raised looking at screens, compact ones that were about the size of today’s smartphone.
 
The Gameboy was first released by Nintendo in 1989 for a price of $89. On its first day in the U.S., 40,000 units were sold. 
 
Do you know even one kid growing up in the 1990s who did not play a Gameboy? As parents, we held out on our kids for quite awhile until Grandma overruled us and came through with a couple for Christmas one year.
 
There were several generations of the handheld consoles that followed the original; a color version was released in 1998. 
 
Sales surpassed 118 million units of Gameboy Color; its bestselling game was Tetris, which sold 30.2 million units. Before it was discontinued in 2003, the display was LCD 160-by-144 pixels. Also, in the year 1998, the flip phones were all the buzz for grownups; Nokia and
Motorola were out front of this huge surge in mobile phone usage.
 
The Apple iPhone 3G was introduced in 2008 and changed the face of mobile space forever. We actually published an article about the first iPhone-owning family in Three Rivers and their long wait in a line to purchase the original smartphone. 
 
And that generation of Gameboy users, now in college or embarking upon a career, were primed and ready to adopt the new iPhone, and so were their parents, under the guise of keeping in touch. 
 
Kids who do communicate with their home base today can do it via phone call, but more often than not, it’s probably via text message. There is also Skype and, now, Facetime built right in for those important job interviews or checking in on an event that couldn’t be attended in person.
 
In barely more than a decade, technology has changed so fast that it’s hard to know the opportunities that are available. That is what we are finding during the decision-making phase of Three Rivers online news. We have an expert guiding us who we will introduce along with the website reveal (send in your email!); what he doesn’t know, he will quickly learn and teach himself.
 
Whether someone grew up with a handheld screen or has only come recently and under protest to this world of technology, chances are that’s how you will choose to look at your 3R News. Large screen? Small screen? Or somewhere in between?
 
Another reader who recently renewed a subscription and reluctantly yet devotedly converted to online follower wrote, “With faith, hope, and charity we venture into the 21st century. Will it be ouch? Or will it be hooray? Or a bit of both? We shall find out. Good Luck!”  
 
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