March 19, 2023
Sometimes numbers don’t mean so much when they’re just numbers. Including in business.
As I sat at a packed basketball game at the recent Summit League tournament, for some reason I began to mind my own business as I looked out at the crowd.
It was a sea of people. Almost no empty spaces. And since I was working on a story about the Denny Sanford Premier Center, I needed to know the audience numbers. The Premier Center manager brought it right back: About 8,600.
And then it clicked.
I had screened over 8,600 people. Six years after its launch, SiouxFalls.Business is now fairly regularly producing stories that are read by that many people or more. I see this daily, monitoring the data behind our growing site. But the crowd reminded me how important it is to put a face behind your business.
The result of what we do in business is some end user. Keep this face in mind and suddenly your work has both added purpose and power.
I am honored that so many of you read our business news and that this business community has supported our work financially.
But the other truth I have to share is that while you read our business news regularly, I noticed that you don’t engage as much when I write about the media industry itself.
As someone who has spent much of my career in this industry and pioneered business in it, obviously this is of interest to me. But not so much the general public.
I hate to admit it, but a lot of people just don’t seem to care much about the media anymore.
I’ll still hear from some lamenting what they see as the decline of traditional local media, but most consumers have just moved on. They may digest bits of local news that pop up in their social media feeds, but I wouldn’t say the masses are looking for it.
Growth, like many industries, is in niche products. I’ve used this analogy before, but consider the evolution of retail. Mainstream, broad-based media is very similar to the department store model – with a little something for everyone. The media niche is more like what’s growing in retail: specialty boutiques, sportswear stores, fast-casual restaurants that create their own dishes.
The evolution of media in Sioux Falls this past year has been particularly interesting, with the arrival of both traditional out-of-market media outlets and local startups and nonprofits. I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t had this many reporters travel to Pierre in over a decade. Same with a typical City Council meeting or even some County Commission meetings.
All this is healthy for both democracy and the media market. But sustainability only comes with readers. The boutique works because it usually has lower costs and a loyal customer base. Niche media needs the same. The more general news media will struggle, I think, until they really start catering to the “audiences within the audience,” if you will, kind of like a store within a store. You could still have a solid daily news product, for example, if there were loyal audiences for politics, sports and the arts.
I’ve learned many lessons over the past six years in both business and media, but one that comes back time and time again is this: There are no shortcuts. It’s about putting in the time, doing the job the right way, and building relationships with readers and business supporters every day.
Like many industries, this one is evolving rapidly. It’s challenging, but also tempting. Sitting still in this business is not an option, so we continue to work on numerous new ventures. Knowing my penchant for ideas, the list is now long enough for another six years – and hopefully more.