Vail Daily column: Simple at the core
Our business collects and distributes timely information for our communities.
Not particularly inspiring. But that’s the skeleton once you strip away all the passion and dedication and drive and such, the flesh and muscle and heart of this calling.
We collect interesting stuff, and then we distribute it. Simple. Works so well other businesses pay us to add their interesting stuff, too. They know pretty much everyone will see it.
“Communities,” though? Yes, I know, our valley is one community. Everyone here has so much in common politically, economically, educationally, by interest and by occupation — even more than people might think. There’s a small-town feel to the place all along the 50-mile stretch between Vail and Dotsero, where around 45,000 people call home. That’s how it’s been for me, anyway.
But I say communities because we see three distinct ones in this valley (locals, second-home owners and visitors), along with a myriad of what we call communities of interest and of course geography. Skiers make up a rather large and enthusiastic community, for example, every bit as much as Eagle or Edwards or Red Cliff.
In these communities, we see audiences with different interests and tastes. Some care more about what’s going on in, say, their kids’ classrooms. Others are more interested in decisions or trends affecting their million-dollar investments in the valley, generally in the form of homes. Half of these are second homes, incidentally.
At the height of ski season and summer, our biggest audience is mainly interested in the skiing, good trails, what’s going on, where to eat.
I suppose we overthink this. We slice and dice, segment and fragment our distinctions of communities and try to figure out how to best reach each of them. Maybe we forget sometimes how much all these communities share in common.
Why do we do this? Well, we think we might do a better job of coverage if we have a more finely tuned understanding of our communities. Advertisers might better tailor their messages and we might better distribute them to just the right audience.
I might be alone in this, but I also think we might better understand the world from our little perch in the mountains this way. We might even bind our audiences a little closer into one through this knowledge. This notion’s a bit highfalutin’, I know.
This one might be, too: You probably think we’re a newspaper. Odds are that’s how you are reading this piece.
True enough, the core medium for our work remains the daily paper. For all the rumors of papers’ demise, the Vail Daily’s readership has rather stubbornly hung in around the 90 percent range as always.
And it turns out that our digital mediums and instruments — laptops, tablets, mobile —also dominate locally in this space. Another website gets more visits, primarily for vacation booking, but no local information providers reach our audience. I’ll go further. Add the rest up and their share totals in the single digits online. Most have less traffic in two months than we attract in a day.
Sure, I feel pretty good about that. Maybe we’ve managed to understand our audiences just well enough to hold and build on our reach. Can’t get comfortable, though. Tomorrow’s always a new day to gain or lose ground as the world changes.
For the blizzard of audience distinctions and mediums we use in our collecting and distributing (including more than a dozen glossy magazines now), I’m a big believer in The One Thing at the very root of all this.
We’re a species fascinated with stories and storytelling. Never mind all the gadgets and digital channels, the variety of print expressions, the public relations, advertising, gaming, short-form and long-form journalism, fiction, all of it. The heart is the story itself.
Even in 144 characters, picture posts and the cheapest click bait, it’s about the story.
From the campfire to the Oculus Rift and whatever comes next, the story runs through humanity’s time on Earth.
Ours happens to fit in the nonfiction genre, although there’s no reason, really, we couldn’t run fiction and poems, as well. I’d love to do that, actually.
Apologies to the great communications philosopher Marshall McLuhan, but the message is what it’s all about, not the medium. The medium is just the tool for the story to reach you.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.
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