The Family Business
Posted: 11/14/2013 | By: Nu Yang
When Nicholas De Laat launched the Campbell County Observer (Gillette, Wy.) in April 2011, he published it out of his basement, using the $4,500 he had received from his tax refund that year. De Laat and his wife, Candice, put out 1,000 copies of their first edition (the paper is printed by the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota), and sold only 26 copies, but that didn’t stop De Laat. Soon after, he quit his $29/hour job to pursue his new career and become a full-time newspaper publisher.
It wasn’t the pay or hours that attracted De Laat to the field. With no journalism or writing background, De Laat said it was because he believed in freedom of the press.
The weekly paper currently has a circulation of 2,000. De Laat serves as co-owner, publisher and editor, and Candice is co-owner and manager. Every Friday morning at 4 a.m., their three children—Quintan, 10, Izzabella, 6, and Parker, 4—help put inserts inside the papers before they’re delivered.
De Laat said he was aware of the current struggles in the print industry, but he said his idea was to build on a different niche and think outside the box by publishing only positive community news. He said he leaves the crime stories and hard news to the daily newspaper in town (The Gillette News Record).
“The only crime stories we publish are the funny ones like the wife who beat her husband with a frozen corn dog,” De Laat said.
Readers are welcome to submit articles, jokes, photos, announcements and obituaries, and the paper will print them for free. The paper also publishes several popular columns written by local historians not found anywhere else.
Although the paper does have a website (campbellcountyobserver.net), De Laat said his model is print-first. “Readers still have to buy the paper to receive 100 percent of the content.”
De Laat’s goal is to prove that positive news sells. Advertising sales representative and marketing consultant Lisa Sherman said advertisers are attracted to De Laat’s back story and how he runs his family business. She added that advertisers also enjoy the positive news printed on their pages.
The paper offers marketing consulting to local businesses. “We’re not selling advertising; we’re offering a growth solution,” De Laat said.
The paper recently moved into a larger office, where De Laat will also host a local news talk radio station. Looking ahead, De Laat said he wants to go color every week at the paper, hire more writers and expand their editorial content, and continue to publish more positive news.
As a publisher, De Laat said he’s learned many lessons—a major one being he not only got into the news business, he got into the advertising and marketing business. “I built this business out of my basement, and I was able to give back to the community and produce jobs.”