Last month, I circulated a survey asking you about features you wanted to add to the weekly stories in the Amador Business Ticker. In this article, I’ll talk about the development of the Ticker and past attempts to make money, explain why I’m making the Ticker a subscription service, and about my plans for the Ticker as we move into the fourth quarter of 2021.

I started the Ticker in May 2020 because I saw and felt an unmet need for information about county businesses that wasn’t being filled by existing local media outlets. It’s clear that many of you felt that same need based on the number of followers I have on Facebook and Instagram. As of September 26, the Ticker Facebook page has 213 followers, and the Ticker Instagram profile has 441 followers. Thank you for being a part of those communities.

I’m also gratified that you find the Ticker an important and valued source of business information and food reviews based on the comments I’ve received online, both positive and negative. And more people are starting to see the Ticker as an important resource. Two people e-mailed me in the last 90 days asking for information. Several people have asked for feature interviews to boost their businesses. And city leaders are adding me into their loops about news and events.

Main Street Volcano CAThose approaches informed me about the path forward for the Ticker. It’s clear to me that people want to create a community to get answers and share information about business in Amador County. To do that, I need to know the larger community is in this with me.

The Why

There are three reasons why I’m creating a subscription model for the Ticker:

  • It validates what I’m doing. It feels good knowing that people think I’m providing such a valuable service that they’re willing to put in some of their hard-earned money to see this venture continue and grow. And that motivates me to keep working.
  • I want to grow the Ticker. As I get more paid subscribers, I’ll be able to hire people like a writer and a community manager to add more value, and I’ll also be able to add more subscriber services.
  • I also want to invest in the Ticker. Income means I can boost posts on social media sites like Facebook to drive more eyeballs to the Ticker and its Facebook pages, add subscribers, and keep the flywheel spinning.

Until now, I tried two different ways of raising money for the Ticker. In summer 2020, I put up an Instagram poll asking if people were interested in financially supporting the Ticker. I only received one response and the answer was no. At the same time, two interviewees told me they would advertise in the Ticker when ad space was available, so I created an advertising program.

I added ad spaces on the website and created a rate sheet on a separate webpage. Then I put together two separate e-mail advertisements through the Amador County Chamber of Commerce over a six-month period. The first e-mail ad brought one advertiser, who ran one advertisement for two months before he stopped. The second e-mail ad brought zero responses. And I never heard from those two interviewees about advertising again.

This is the Way

Main Street Plymouth from Amador Vintage MarketWhat I like about the subscription model is that it’s happening organically. That is, members of the community are telling me that they want in-depth information that will give them what they need to make decisions and grow their businesses.

The subscription model also means that the Ticker will be community-based, which is what I wanted at the beginning of this journey. I would rather have subscribers support the Ticker and help me share information, which would eliminate the problem of balancing advertiser dollars and fair coverage.

Survey Says

30 people responded to the survey that ended on September 7, and thank you to everyone who participated. And congratulations to Pam Greene, Vicky Runquist, and Linda Weber, who won copies of my books in the survey giveaway.

Of those 30 respondents, 10 of them said they were willing to pay a subscription fee to support more online and even in-person benefits. I came up with that list of benefits before I put together the survey, and I used the survey to learn what the most popular benefits are. I’ll use the results from the survey to inform me about what benefits to provide first and what to provide later—or if I should think of more popular benefits to include instead.

What’s more, the survey told me that I have enough support to start working on creating those benefits and set up a subscription model. The problem is doing that takes time. And time is in short supply in my world.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I talked about my time constraints at the beginning of summer, and I planned to cut back during the summer. It turned out that I had more time to devote to the Ticker and there were plenty of interesting stories to write. Now, though, I’ll have to be firm in cutting back my writing work on the Ticker through the end of 2021 and maybe into early 2022. There are several reasons why.

Earlier this year, I talked about the fact that I was diagnosed with COPD in March, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle the smoky days that were sure to come. And come they did, but I stayed indoors when skies were dark orange and I bought KN95 masks to help me cope when the air was somewhat cleaner outside and I had to go out. I’ve managed the bad air quality better than I thought I would.

Central Fiddletown CAOver the summer another medical condition has worsened, and this condition has the potential to be as serious as COPD. If my suspicions about my condition are right, I need to find out how medications will affect me. I should have a diagnosis sometime this fall.

I also run my own website design, online marketing, and writing business. Right now, I’m building four different websites, and I’m going to talk with two potential clients this week. I’m working with a subcontractor on one website, but I’m working on the rest myself. And when those sites are done, it’s likely those clients will have me design more sites for them.

I talked about my books earlier in this article, and it’s true that I’m a technology and business book author for major publishers including Wiley and Entrepreneur Press. I’m currently writing two books—one myself and one with co-authors—that need to be done (edited and all) by the end of January for publication next spring. And I may land a third book contract this fall.

And setting up subscription services for the Ticker will also take a lot of time and effort behind the scenes to set up before they’re launched.

My Commitments

With all that said, I still want to stay in front of the community and inform you about county businesses. I enjoy writing stories about what’s happening with local businesses and reviews about local food, but I can’t do that as often for a while. So, I’ve come to a compromise.

Until the subscription model is set up, access to the Ticker website will remain free of charge. I’ll publish a digest of what’s happening with county businesses on the first Monday of each month through at least January 2022. If you’re a business that has something going on during the fourth quarter and the first month of January, please e-mail me and let me know what you have going on. I am working on setting up my schedule so I will have time to read and respond to e-mails each day.

Main Street Jackson CAMy mother and I will also continue to go out to dinner once a week and I’ll write digest reviews of local food every third Wednesday of the month. These will be capsule reviews of each restaurant, and we’ll probably have more reviews of regional and national restaurant chains in the area we haven’t reviewed mixed in with reviews of local restaurants we have yet to try.

I won’t publish any articles or promoting the Ticker on the remaining Mondays of each month when I’m not publishing news or food review digests. If there is breaking news, I’ll post it on the Ticker Facebook page and Instagram profiles. Those two social media platforms are clearly where readers are, so I’ll close the Ticker’s LinkedIn and Twitter profiles this Friday, October 1.

I will publish updates on the Facebook and Instagram sites about the subscription model, and I may write and publish an article on the Ticker Facebook group page if an update is long. In the meantime, you’ll see the first feature digest next Monday, October 4, and our first food review digest will be published on October 18.

I hope this article has been informative and helpful. Please e-mail me if you have any questions or comments. I’m looking forward to serving you with even more valuable news and services in 2022.

Eric Butow

Do you have news you want to share with other readers? E-mail us and tell us all about it.