EDITORIAL: Why did the One Feather go free?

by Nov 23, 2019OPINIONS


Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board


The Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board recently (September 2019) reviewed the revenue streams of the paper and the history of rack sales (those copies of the One Feather that you may pick up at various retail outlets locally) over the past five years. The Board saw that print retail sales have been on a steady decline. This is due in part to a large segment of the readership switching to reading the One Feather’s digital offerings on the website and on our social media page. In addition, many of our colleagues in the business, like the Smoky Mountain News, have been using the free rack print edition model for many years and have been very successful in generating revenue through business advertising.

In fiscal year 2018, the One Feather instituted a rate increase, bringing the retail price of the paper on the racks up from 50 cents to 75 cents per copy. This measure did help to cut monetary losses in the declining per copy sales, but also accelerated the shift of our readers away from our print copies to the internet versions and made selling advertising to businesses even more challenging.

So, in order to maintain or have opportunity to increase income from rack sales, the Editorial Board had two options. One, they could raise the price on the per copy retail paper again to $1.00, which might bolster sales revenue for a brief period while further eroding the readership who get their Cherokee news through the print edition. Two, they could make the newspaper free at retail, modify the advertising rates to reflect the bigger, better distribution potential that going free would present, and move to a model that is now commonly used by many newspaper organizations.

In September, the Editorial Board unanimously voted to choose option two. In the first few weeks of the new retail plan, the One Feather has seen retail distribution grow to over twice the distribution that was realized prior to the change. The One Feather office almost immediately began to get inquiries about how to be added as a retail outlet and businesses are contacting us to find out what the paper’s rates are so they might consider adding the One Feather to their marketing plans.

All indications are that going free at retail is a positive strategic move for the Cherokee One Feather. We have positioned the print edition to have new life in our community. The Cherokee Code tasks the One Feather with communicating to and informing as many of our tribal members as possible. Free distribution accomplishes this directive in a more effective way than has been used in the past. We serve, first and foremost, the members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and it is our duty to make sure that we make the information contained in the Cherokee One Feather available to as many of our tribal members as possible.

We will continue to find ways to get important information into your hands and we will continue to strive to be a revenue generating asset to our people and government.