Today marks the eighth year of our ownership of the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch, and we're hoping it won't be our last. No, that's not an April Fool's joke.
Right now, things are tight for everyone, and we're no different.
We haven't taken the straightforward hit from the COVID-19 restrictions that some local businesses have, thanks to our core advertisers who have stuck with us through the last three weeks. We can't thank them enough. But we're looking down the barrel of a major shift in the economy that is going to take a toll on everyone and, to be blunt, the BVD barely made it through the last two years of good economic times.
Nevertheless, we'll continue to provide the Upper Blackfoot Valley community and our readers with as many timely, locally-focused stories and as much information as possible in these uncertain times. To continue to do so we've had to change a few things for the time being.
First, we've reduced our page count to help keep printing and mailing costs down, so we can keep publishing. To do that, we've temporarily suspended publication of the Dear Dietitian column, the statewide display ads and unpaid advertising, including our own ads for the BVD and Rusty Relics. We've also pulled out most of our community information, since coronavirus-related restrictions have led to a re-shuffling of so many community meetings and the closure of churches and the Senior Center. We'll provide updates as we get them.
In addition to local stories, we will continue to run all our paid advertising, as well as the Billy Graham's My Answer column, Bill Quay's Totally Western cartoon and Jim Oly's Hey Howdy Hey. Dave Carroll's 'Mountaintop Musings' and Tammy Jordan's 'From My Perspective' columns will continue to run alternating weeks, like they have been.
We've been trying to capitalize on our website, blackfootvalleydispatch.com, as a platform to publish stories and information we didn't have room to include in the print edition, and to share important news releases from state, local and national agencies.
If all goes well and we can weather this, we hope to return to publishing our regular content when things start to return to normal.
But there are still challenges to face. More and more, local advertisers have grown to rely on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, rather than the newspaper and we recently learned we won't see anything from most of the ads we ran last year under the Montana Newspaper Association's Statewide Display Ad Program, which is another blow. Additionally, while we still have several great regular print customers, our print business has been virtually decimated by online printing sites and cheap home printers.
We will be releasing a reader survey soon to gauge the community's interest in the future of your local community newspaper. Once the responses are in, and as things return to some semblance of normalcy, we'll probably take a week off to evaluate where we stand, and to figure out what the future for the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch will look like.
Erin and I believe the BVD is important to Lincoln as a way to provide the community with accurate and up-to-date information, as a way to help local businesses by providing them with an advertising platform and, ultimately, as a tangible historical record for the future. Admittedly, we've dropped the ball on a few things in the last eight years, but we've done our best to live up to that.
With luck, we'll celebrate the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch's 40th anniversary with you all later this year.
Roger and Erin