Route 66 News

Santa Rosa newspaper surviving just fine, thank you

About 15 months ago, Route 66 News and other media outlets reported about M.E. Sprengelmeyer, a former reporter for the defunct Rocky Mountain News, and his purchase of the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa, N.M. Sprengelmeyer said he still had faith that print newspapers could survive, and staked his life’s savings on it.

A new article today by Editor & Publisher tells how tell he’s doing:

[H]e’s been successful with his 16-page weekly, increasing revenue some 75 percent over the previous year by staying local and relevant. […] Sprengelmeyer, who drives 99 miles weekly on a press run, said if he’s not back with the papers by 2 p.m. Thursdays, cross-armed customers are waiting for him. He doesn’t like to disappoint.

Editor & Publisher tells about how Sprengelmeyer planned a congratulatory extra edition the day the local high-school football team was playing in the state championship. Victory wasn’t guaranteed — Santa Rosa had a 7-4 record, and was facing an undefeated foe. Sprengelmeyer said he’d “eat” the extra cost — and embarrassment — if Santa Rosa lost.

“I called up one advertiser and said, ‘Look, I’m taking a gamble here. If we win, we both look great. If we don’t, we never had this conversation,'” Sprengelmeyer said. “I told him I’d eat the cost.”

In-house, the secret paper was known as the “Dewey Defeats Tularosa” edition, because if the Lions lost and the paper ended up on Facebook, they’d be as embarrassed as the Chicago Daily Tribune was when it wrongly printed “Dewey defeats Truman” in 1948.

Santa Rosa won, and Sprengelmeyer sold 2,000 copies of that extra edition at the game. Another 2,100 copies were sold at Santa Rosa. And in the subsequent editions after the game, the newspaper sold dozens more congratulatory ads.

“What did I risk?” he asked [about the extra edition]. “I risked $700. It was a coin flip. Anything you do that just creates excitement about the paper is critical.”

Not every publication needs to be global or universal, he said, adding that he is “disgusted” with newspaper corporations that think they must slash expenses and staff.

“If the revenues are suffering because people are questioning the relevance of your paper, invest to make it more relevant,” he said. “Do exciting things to make it more relevant. Do whatever you have to to make it more relevant. Or die.”

Sprengelmeyer refuses to “give away” his newspaper’s content on the Internet. If you want to read an article in the Guadalupe County Communicator, y0u have to buy a print copy. And we do.

The irony is the media outlet that reported on Sprengelmeyer’s story, Editor & Publisher, still posts its material for free on the Internet, and nearly ceased publication a year ago after years of declining revenues.

2 thoughts on “Santa Rosa newspaper surviving just fine, thank you

  1. RT

    Many of us read their paper here, and you can still get an eyeful on-line on their facebook page. The main reason he’s successful, that unfortunately most people just don’t get, including that other paper or even ours here, has absolutely nothing to with the internet, so he need not fear it. It might just make him even more successful – a little content as a teaser, and then even have people buy an on-line subscription?

    He is mostly successful because he stays local and relevant, just as you pointed out. Not to mention runs the paper like his life and job depended on it, because it does. That is key for any small town newspaper, and a far cry from what any of these commercial chain papers are doing in any small town, that we all wish would just go away!

    The commercial chain papers, write about the oddest article topics that have absolutely nothing to do with our community nor anyone in it, deliver by mail once a week on wednesday, and charge more for local small town ads, than any big city national paper nearby. Then sit in a vending machine for .75, next to a vending machine for USA Today, for .50 that is published daily and right there in front of you on the way to your favorite coffee shop. Not to mention, as is the case with our local paper, not one single person that works there or writes in it, is even close to the age of 40, which may very well explain no relevant content?

    While you want the youth involved in the process, they can’t be the ones running the show, sorry, they just don’t have the experience, nor in most cases can they be relevant with an over 40 crowd, that is well over 50% of the newspaper reading market. Most kids today, would never touch a newspaper, if they even know what one is, so you had better be playing to the older local crowd, who in most cases would never touch a computer, and still don’t know how to retrieve their voicemails! And if you expect to have any success with selling ads, it had better not cost more than or even the same as Amarillo, Albuquerque, or Clovis.

    Great job Mr. Springelmeyer, for doing what most small town local papers no longer do – thank you for being independent too, which is another reason they can’t figure it out, and we will all keep watching and reading your wonderful and interesting paper! How about maybe branching over a little further East – hint, hint! :+)

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