Beloit Call expands social media presence
BELOIT – The Beloit Call newspaper has been serving the Beloit and Mitchell County area since 1905. The Blade-Empire newspaper in Concordia has been serving Concordia, Cloud County, and all of north central Kansas since 1902. It's a surprise to many to know that Blade-Empire Publishing owns both newspapers.
Newspapers all across America - especially small-town papers in rural communities - are facing hard financial times. Rising costs and declining population bases make it difficult to survive, and many rural newspapers have closed their doors. But the Lowell family is committed to maintaining the presence of print media in the communities they have served for over a century.
"It is our intent to provide a newspaper in Beloit for as long as it has the community's support," said Brad Lowell, Blade publisher and the chairman of Blade-Empire Publishing. "We are proud of the job that the Beloit Call staff does in collecting and writing news about Beloit and the surrounding area."
In today's technological era, a large portion of people - especially those under the age of 40 - now read the news on their computers and smartphones via social media platforms like websites and Facebook postings. That under-40 demographic accounts for a significant percentage of spending and purchasing power.
"The analytics are somewhat different for rural communities," said Jim Lowell, Managing Editor of the Blade and a corporate officer of Blade-Empire Publishing. "Most rural populaces are graying communities who still prefer to open a newspaper and read stories about their town and local area, and that is what has helped us to survive. But every business in today's economic environment needs to connect with the younger generations, and that connection is through social media."
In 2018 the Blade made a major commitment to expand its social media platforms. Led by Russell Gagnon, a Concordia native who spent 30 years in Hollywood as an actor and then an award-winning writer and filmmaker, the Blade expanded and refined its social media presence. In 2017 the Blade was averaging 8,000-9,000 views a month on its website and Facebook page. Now in just one month - March, 2019 - the Blade's news stories, videos, and photographs were viewed over 73,000 times.
From an average of approximately 100,000 total views a year, the diversity of coverage on the Blade's social media platforms will reach nearly 1 million views a year, and have been seen in every state in the U.S. and 12 foreign countries. One story alone - Gagnon's four-part series, photographs, and video on former Special Forces soldier Heath Trost - has been viewed a total of 57,836 times on the Blade's social media platforms.
Blade-Empire Publishing is now bringing those positive changes to the Beloit Call.
"The Beloit Call is a great local newspaper," Gagnon said. "It has a small, hard-working and dedicated staff that puts out a quality product every week. None of that will change. The changes will be in the Beloit Call's social media presence. We had dramatic success at the Blade, and we're bringing those new ideas and concepts to the Beloit Call's website and Facebook page."
One of the new concepts is providing video highlights of a wide variety of events, including sports. In Concordia and Cloud County, on a daily basis, that video viewership reaches thousands locally. The Beloit Call will begin offering the same coverage for its readers.
"It's really all about engaging the community we serve on a more personal level," Gagnon said. "I was born and raised in rural Kansas; my first job as a kid was a paper route for the Blade. I'm a passionate advocate for preserving the media's connection with the rural way of life."
The connection has a local support base for a foundation, but social media allows that support base to grow everywhere.
"For the Blade, and now the Beloit Call, it's not just about staying in touch via social media with former residents who moved out of state," said Jim Lowell. "People in large cities all over America - and some foreign cultures - love reading stories and getting news and seeing video footage about rural communities."
"What we're going to do at the Beloit Call," Gagnon said, "is use social media platforms to focus on local people, local sports, and local businesses that honor and preserve the rural way of life."
In a recent Editorial, Blade-Empire Publishing chairman Brad Lowell wrote: 'When a community loses its newspaper, it loses part of its identity.'
The Beloit Call will be resolute in its efforts to help Beloit and all of Mitchell county maintain its proud identity and heritage.