By MIKE FOURCHER, founder/publisher The Center Square Journal, Chicago
I think that most of us, when we start a business, we sketch out a basic plan of what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it and then jump right in. We run our businesses, grow them and go along with the bumps, some big, some small.
The big bumps sometimes make us change course, the small ones teach us how we can run our businesses better. But mostly we are generally responding to our environments as we invent something new: a new service, a new product or a new way of business.
Going through the Block By Block conference this past week in Chicago, I kept hearing the above echoed again and again by my fellow local online publishers. After we created our initial launch plan, we small business owners are constantly reacting to our environments.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, in most marketplaces we local news publishers are
like little furry creatures among the print dinosaurs tromping across the land. We know there’s an expiration date on the dinos, but we just can’t read the exact day. So we keep pushing forward, dodging the big feet, gobbling up morsels, slowly growing ourselves. You can stay alive a long time this way, but it sure is exhausting.
But this past week my little media company, Brown Line Media, and I got to participate in three big, proactive, changes:
- The launch of the Chicago Independent Advertising Network, the first major market reserved advertising network;
- The creation of a still-to-be-named trade association of independent online news publishers; and
- An intensive business “super camp” sponsored by the Patterson Foundation that helped me focus and re-envision how I can grow my company.
Alone, one of these things would be a big deal. But together they will change so much about my business and my life, it’s hard for me fathom. Clearly this past week has been an inflection point for me, my business and local, online news.
The ad network is already going gangbusters – we sold our first ad within days of launch.
The trade association will be making a number of important announcements soon, including a name and the members of its steering committee. I fully expect this group to provide a number of significant tools to local digital publishers that will help their businesses grow and help them sustain their businesses over time.
As for Brown Line Media, for the first time in two years, I think I really understand the heights of where we can go and how to get there. After two years of blindly searching for a direction, this week I feel like I was given superpowers. There’s going to be a lot of great new things coming and I’m really going to enjoy being one of those “job creators.”