What's ahead for City Pulse

A report on what’s up at City Pulse as the holiday season begins

Dear readers:

Last August, I wrote that changes are afoot at City Pulse to help it transition successfully into a digital world. Today, I want to update you on our progress.

Before I do, though, let me call your attention to the envelope self-addressed to City Pulse in this week’s issue. We hope you will support us — or continue to. You can also give by credit card at www.lansingcitypulse. com/donate. If you look on Page 18, you’ll find a QR code that takes you there.

Now, regarding our digital future.

First, I want to assure you that City Pulse in print is not going away any time soon. In fact, just last week we added several distribution locations, including for the first time in Eagle Township (at the Mobil and Speedway stations), and we are always eager to hear suggestions on others.

But print journalism is facing significant challenges everywhere, and Lansing is no exception. The Lansing State Journal continues to see declines in subscriptions. More than a year ago, City Pulse’s once-aweek print circulation surpassed the Journal’s average weekday print circulation. Since then, City Pulse has outgrown even the Journal’s Sunday circulation.

I wish I could say that being bigger than the Lansing State Journal is reason to celebrate. But, unfortunately, when it comes to print, this is more a case of a race to the bottom. The Journal is just getting there faster (which, speaking as a journalist for 55 years and not a competitor, saddens me). Maintaining City Pulse’s post-pandemic circulation is an increasingly expensive challenge, thanks to the costs of gas, newsprint and labor. Still, we have over 300 locations in Greater Lansing and, as I said, are looking for more. But the goal in adding locations is to stay even — to make sure we are meeting print-reader demand and giving our print advertisers a good bang for their buck — while we continue to grow online revenue and readership.

To that end, City Pulse applied for a Transformation Tech grant from Google last summer, and I am pleased to report that we were awarded $20,000 in October to help us take an important first step. The grant was specifically to develop a way to increase digital revenue. Our proposal was to focus on reader revenue. As a result, we signed on with BlueLena, a national company that specializes in helping publications do just that through digital  campaigns.

We settled on reader revenue as a goal because we want City Pulse to remain true to itself: We have always endeavored to put readers first. Asking for more support from readers will help keep their needs and desires uppermost in our minds.

We will remain free, as I promised in August, when we began our 23rd year. No paywall. No subscription fee.

But, with the help of BlueLena, we will step up our game when it comes to asking for your support. BlueLena brings marketing expertise and technological knowhow that we simply could not afford without the Google grant. The results will be black and white: If the bottom line improves significantly in reader contributions, the grant will have been well spent. We will be able to continue and expand our coverage of news, arts and events in print and online.

At the same time, City Pulse is learning how to better serve advertisers in the digital marketplace. (We’re seeking an even bigger grant to help with that.) Our goal is to touch both ends of the rainbow: more support from both readers and digital advertisers, while keeping our print product strong for the many people who prefer it.

I hope you’ll avail yourself of the envelope in today’s paper to send us a check. Here, you can make a single donation in any amount or set up a recurring one.

Thanks very much to all of you have been helping for years. And a happy holiday season to all.

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