From the publisher: Steamboat Pilot & Today is not immune from COVID-19
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — These are surreal times in Routt County and the rest of the world as we navigate the uncertainty the COVID-19 virus delivers daily.
As our movements are further constrained in the interest of health and safety, those changes in behavior are triggering unprecedented financial and emotional impacts, and Steamboat Pilot & Today has not been immune to that dramatic upheaval.
As a staff we’ve been working from our homes for the last 13 days, doing the best we can with laptops, cellphones and makeshift desks to deliver important news and advertising to our print readers as well as to a rapidly growing digital audience that ranges from our core of Routt County — where we had 19,330 unique readers over the past week — to faraway places like Australia (654 uniques the past week) and China (25 uniques).
And during what has been an intense two weeks, we’ve seen the economy around us spiral out of control, as tourism hit a wall and locals were encouraged to stay indoors. That double whammy has forced Steamboat businesses of all shapes and sizes to close or reduce hours, some by choice as a matter of long-term survival and many others by government edicts outside their control.
The trickle-down effect on Pilot & Today has been more like an avalanche, as advertising revenue tumbles in proportion to a lack of shoppers and open businesses. It’s a trend resonating through other resort markets like ours and communities, small and large, nationwide.
In reaction to plunging revenues that are out of sync with the expense of professionally produced local journalism, we too are implementing changes in hopes of ensuring our long-term survival.
Swift Communications, owners of Steamboat Pilot & Today and other media properties throughout the Rocky Mountains and the West, on Thursday announced cost-cutting measures that include pay cuts to salaried employees and a reduction in hours for hourly employees. No employees have been laid off at Pilot & Today as a result of these moves, an indication of the deep-rooted support Swift has for its mountain resort media operations. The wage and hour cuts are effective for two months, and we are hopeful these reductions will indeed be short-term as we continue to work hard to keep our communities informed.
Those payroll cuts — while deep and painful to every member of our team and yet another nick in the local economy — are not enough to cover our gap toward anything remotely resembling a profit. With the need for more cost savings in mind, I have made the difficult decision to cease publication of our Sunday newspaper. This Sunday’s issue will be the last, at least for the foreseeable future.
We will continue to staff our newsroom and deliver news to SteamboatPilot.com on weekends — we just won’t be printing and distributing a Sunday newspaper. We’ll move the existing advertising and popular content to other days —including a beefier Saturday weekend edition — so our loyal readers and customers won’t miss anything crucial.
I did not make this decision lightly. I’m proud to work at Pilot & Today, where our staff has always punched above its weight and it’s been a badge of honor to deliver a daily newspaper in such a relatively small community.
Moving forward, we’ll publish one less day in print. And, with our hard-working journalists forced to work fewer hours, we’ll be producing less content, at least in the short term. But we will continue to prioritize what’s important to our audience and produce quality news and information on SteamboatPilot.com, our smartphone app and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and in print. Change is everywhere, so let’s call our pivot part of the “new normal.”
Even though we are hurting, we know there is demand for Pilot & Today products and services. Traffic to SteamboatPilot.com has been at record highs all year and continues to grow. And as more people stay indoors, we’re seeing dramatic increases in visits and page views to our e-edition, the digital replica of the printed newspaper that can be accessed via SteamboatPilot.com.
And advertising revenue for the 2020 edition of Steamboat Trail Guide — formerly known as Steamboat Bike Guide — hit a record. The Trail Guide will be distributed throughout the area in mid- to late-April and will be the perfect companion for locals and visitors who want to escape their homes for the beautiful trails that surround and beckon us.
We also know there’s urgency in highlighting local restaurants that continue to operate. In Saturday’s newspaper we’ve launched Open for Business, two pages that publicize all local restaurants that remain open for takeout and/or delivery. Our plan is to publish “Open For Business” frequently in the newspaper and 24-7 on SteamboatPilot.com as we fight through this pandemic.
And while our initial focus on Open For Business is on restaurants, we’re exploring ideas to expand that list to include other local retail businesses that remain open, providing important products and services throughout the county.
As Pilot & Today enters its 135th year of operation, I’d like to think we provide an equally important service to Routt County. We’ve weathered a wide variety of challenges over those many decades but have survived because our operators and employees have never lost sight of our mission: to connect our communities, whether it’s uniting readers around civic issues and shared topics of interest or bringing together buyers and sellers.
I encourage you to support the many advertisers who make our mission possible. But above all, let’s support all our local businesses as we confront and smother this massive threat to society.
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