While most newspapers are folding due to imposed tariffs and hedge-fund owners hollowing out newsrooms, it’s hard to conceive that a paper could come back from the dead—but the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Progress did.
In 2009, the Progress closed after 60 years of publication, and in a city with a quarter million people, residents felt they had lost something valuable. But nine years later, Times Media Group performed CPR on the paper and brought it back to life. The first issue came out last month and can be found on scottsdale.org. The free weekly is published every Sunday.
Steve Strickbine, Times Media Group (TMG) president and publisher of the Progress, said, “When I started Times Media Group 20 years ago, it was based on one core principle: People want to know what’s happening in their community on a deeply local, heartfelt level. Based on that need—and the opportunity to create value for our readers and our advertisers—we decided it was the right time for the Progress to be reborn.”
TMG has always bet against the adage that local newspapers are dead. And Strickbine said they’ve been successful because of it.
“Is it a challenge? Of course it is. We need to work harder than the big metro newspaper; we need to be leaner and more efficient,” he said. “We need to find stories that perpetually get missed and we need to offer our advertisers more relevant, more engaging advertising opportunities. But if we do that, history tells us we will win.”
Their business model isn’t new either, rather they’re in the business of proving one thing to advertisers—that they have an engaged audience in Scottsdale.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of advertising. Instead, we’re offering the right wheel to people who need it,” said Strickbine.
He added that if they are able to prove to advertisers that they have an engaged audience advertisers will fill up the print edition and lock down the key spots on the website.
The newsroom includes two reporters, a managing editor and freelance journalists that will cover city hall, and write about local residents, arts and culture, historical perspectives and more. In addition, Strickbine said the goal for the Progress is simply to deliver well-reported local news and good storytelling to their readers and, by doing so, create value for readers and advertisers.
Strickbine and TMG have built successful weeklies across metro Phoenix by doing one thing really well: listening to their readers and digital visitors.
“Over and over, they tell us they want to know about their own neighborhoods, their own neighbors and their favorite local business,” Strickbine said. “Our readers aren’t looking for news about the Trump administration or last night’s Diamondbacks’ score. They want to know what’s happening two blocks away on Scottsdale Road.”