The creation of Franklin County Free Press was the result of a need for quality local news in Franklin County. In January 2019 we registered our business with the state of Pennyslivina. We registered the domain name FCFreePress.com on January 12 and put up the website you are using now. ?
Our idea is simple: Produce quality local news for Franklin County and sell digital ad space to local businesses to pay for it. We committed to keeping the news free to our readers.
Most local newspapers have a subscription fee to read their publications. Subscriptions are a holdover from the old print days when the subscription price covered the cost of printing and delivering a paper. Profit in the newspaper industry has always been generated from advertising sales and we see no change in the future. However, because we do not produce a print paper there is no need for a paywall. We are committed to keeping our paper free to read and share forever.
Our annual usage report for 2019 is designed for both users and advertisers. This report is published in the spirit of transparency.
In 2019 we had 511,617 stories read. December was our best month of the year with 84,198 pages being consumed by our readers.
We grew our subscriber list to 4,377 active subscribers in 2019. Our subscribers can receive our news stories on any of our platforms. Subscriptions are always free. Our goal for 2020 is to add another 6000 new subscribers to our list.
We wrote 1,850 News Articles and 364 Local Events for a total of 2,214 stories in 2019. That is an average of six stories a day.
Our traffic for 2019 averages out to 1,401 visitors per day. We are still growing, however, so we expect those numbers to grow in 2020.
Our User Demographics
We combined Google, Bing, Facebook, WordPress and US Census statistical data to write our usage reports.
NEWSPAPER SUBSCRIBER DEMOGRAPHICS
Although we have subscribers from every group our core subscriber demographics are women from 35 to 65 years old, 52% of our total subscribers.
PUBLIC REACH DEMOGRAPHICS
We measure reach by how many people were shown a Headline, Featured Image and Teaser Paragraph on their viewing device. Our core reach is to women from 25 to 65 years old, 54% of our total reach.
2019 Traffic Report
Our usage report for 2019 shows that we had a total of 301,147 visitors who viewed 511,617 pages on our website in 2019.
Readership by Geographical Location
|Top 4 States in 2019||Number of Readers|
|Pennsylvania||258,082 Readers (66.31%)|
|District of Columbia||51,474 Readers (13.23%)|
|New Jersey||20,304 Readers (5.22%)|
|Maryland||13,360 Readers (3.43%)|
|Top 5 Cities in 2019||Number of Readers|
|Chambersburg||104,060 Readers (40.32%)|
|Shippensburg||26,210 Readers (10.16%)|
|Waynesboro||21,114 Readers (8.18%)|
|Greencastle||10,780 Readers (4.18%)|
|Mercersburg||4,771 Readers (1.85%)|
Organic search engine placement is the most difficult and slowest process. A year ago we started out in the last position. Some of our competitors have been in business for 150 years.
- For the keywords “Franklin County Free Press” we started the year on page 6 for that keyword search and today we are #1 as one would expect for the business name.
- For the keywords “Newspapers in Franklin County” we started the year on page 15 and now we are #1 for that keyword search. That is an impressive accomplishment when you consider the corporate news publications that we are competing against.
- On Google Maps for the keywords “Newspapers in Franklin County” we started the year dead last at #10 and now we are #3 on Google Maps.
- On Google news for the keywords “Brian Helman”, a big story we recently covered, we have 4 of the 10 articles on the first page (40%).
The above keyword examples are a testament to the effectiveness of our search engine placement program.
Social Media is the perfect platform to deliver digital media. It gives us a paragraph of text to write an appealing teaser, a large image, and a headline to attract readers. For the most part, it is free to use.
We received 80% of our traffic from our Social Media platforms. In 2019 we had 177,870 readers from Franklin County come and read 396,954 pages on our website. The rest were from other areas, including surrounding counties and states, including Maryland and New Jersey.
The above image shows the 8 newspapers in our area. A few are not in Franklin County but have some influence on the Franklin County news scene. The chart is ranked by Facebook page likes. We just passed The Shippensburg News-Chronicle a few days ago and will pass the Echo Pilot within a month.
If you compare the content production rate we are usually #3 or #4. This measurement is from week to week so some weeks we are up and others we are down. In this graphic, Jan 5 to Jan 11, we are #4.
If you compare post engagement we are #6.
We are developing 9 Facebook Groups. One for Franklin County, one for each of the Franklin County Boros and one dedicated to Franklin County Sports.
- Life in Franklin County
- Life in Chambersburg. PA
- Life in Shippensburg, PA
- Life in Greencastle-Antrim, PA
- Life in Waynesboro, PA
- Life in Mont Alto, PA
- Life in Mercersburg, PA
- Life in Orrstown, PA
- Franklin County Sports
We have several revenue generation programs. Our primary vehicle is selling Display Ad Space. By selling ad space we can keep the news free for our readers. We also accept donations from our readers.
In 2019 we provided local advertisers 511,617 opportunities to sell their product or service.
Because most of our readers are from Franklin County and they read our paper on a daily basis, we are able to provide local advertisers with about 1,500 daily opportunities to interact with high-quality local buyers. That means our advertisers are seen by a new set of eyes every 57 seconds.
Using Facebook for tracking our engagement with our readers and tracking our competitor’s engagement enables us to calculate an engagement rate to grade each publication for how well their readers like what they read.
Engagement is the conversation that goes on after a story is published. It is calculated by dividing the number of people reading a post by the number of people who responded after reading. From that, we have a rate that can be compared for analysis.
The higher your engagement rate the more opportunities advertisers have to promote their product or service. This is important to advertisers because it keeps eyes on the page for a longer period and involves return visits. The more times a buyer sees your ad the more likely they will buy.
- Franklin County Free Press has an engagement rate of 2.4 ?
- Herald-Mail Media has an engagement rate of 2.3
- The Record Herald has an engagement rate of 2.0
- Public Opinion has an engagement rate of 1.7
What does it all mean? Your advertising dollar will go farther with Franklin County Free Press.
Start Advertising Now
Not all, but a few examples of banner ad placement
We have been running our donation program for almost a year now.
In 2020 we plan to implement a membership program. This program will not be a paywall and our news will remain free to read and share. The program will give members who want to see Franklin County Free Press survive and grow a chance to support us with ongoing pledges.
In return for that support, we will have special members-only features with access to weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual newsletters via email. We will hold quarterly meetups where our members can discuss local news, events and other things members might want to talk about.
We might even host an occasional members-only event.
The new membership program will require several systems we have started to develop. We plan to roll out the full system this spring.
Now would be a good time to become a member. ?
Become a Member
Lessons Learned in 2019
2019 was our first year in operation and we have built a well-oiled machine. We are still growing but out preforming all of our competition.
Problems with Facebook
A big lesson learned in 2019 was that Facebook does not provide a level playing field for business. We believe the problem came about Because of the volume of content we produce, and the fact that we were not running Facebook ads at that particular time.
In June of 2019, we reached about 6,000 readers a day on Facebook and were not running ads on Facebook. Overnight we were throttled down to 600 readers a day. That lasted for a few weeks until we figured out Facebook wanted money and we started running ads again.
We also learned that Facebook will allow misinformation political ads but reject legitamate political information. We tried to promote a candidate reference list with candidates and polling stations prior to the May 2019 Franklin County elections but Facebook rejected it saying it was political misinformation. We tried to explain it was a list of candidates and polling stations but Facebook would not respond and would not reverse their decision.
Although we have many issues with Facebook, we understand that we depend upon that platform to help deliver the news to our readers.
Copyright Issues and Denial of Service Attacks
Another lesson learned is “Beware of Who You Challenge.” In October 2019 the FBI in California copied and pasted one of our crime stories into their public website. As we include a code on each page to report if the content is being used on another website, we were alerted that our crime story was being used on the FBI website.
We sent a cease and desist notice because they disabled our links and were pulling the images to their page from our server. That meant we were paying for the bandwidth to display it on their website.
We send a cease and desist notice to anyone that does that — we have had a few dozen websites do that. The problem of copyright violation is larger than most people realize. If someone wants the story or image without us knowing, it is not that hard to do. The ones we catch are just lazy or ignorant of how websites work.
The FBI removed the story and sent a reply email to inform us they removed the story.
Within a few hours of that email, we were hit with a denial of service attacks that lasted for 3 days. To fight the attack —which for the most part we lost — it took 1 senior server tech, 3 server techs, our staff IT tech and hundred of dollars in additional resources.
The attack could have come from anywhere and might have had nothing to do with our confrontation with the FBI, but by the time it was over we had to wonder if we should have just Let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.
Now I am not accusing the FBI with anything other than copyright infringement, in view of what was to follow immediately after, we probably should have just ignored that violation.
The Next Step
As we improve our method of collecting and producing news we are growing both our content and our audience. Thanks to our contributors we can spend more time working on features and investigative stories. The high-quality investigative stories take the most time to write but yield the greatest number of readers.
We continue to improve our social network footprint by growing our followers and expanding our presence by developing new Facebook Groups.
Progressive Web App
In order to reduce our dependency on Facebook, we are developing a Progress Web App for mobile phones. When ready, it will be a downloadable app for your phone to have direct access to all of FCFreePress news without having to find it on the internet or Facebook. The App will give our readers the newspaper in their pocket.
Although our Advertising Program is starting to pick up and more businesses are seeing the value of our newspaper, it’s not paying all of our bills right now. As discussed earlier in this spring we are developing a membership program to try and encourage supporters to commit to recurring donations.
The theory is that by keeping our news free and having the readers donate the cost of news production, the news will be higher quality and it removes the possibility of business influencing the news because they are paying the bills.
Running a membership program requires a lot of resources. We are working on building a platform for that and developing a marketing strategy. We have started this process but it will take a few months to complete.
Our mission is to revitalize the local news of Franklin County. We will continuously provide objective and honest reporting for the people of this community. We are committed to up-to-date information, news and events in our county.
Meet Our Staff
Editor & Reporter
Vicky is our editor and chief reporter.
David L Taylor
David is our senior publisher.
Linda Osborn is a writer, genealogist and historical researcher. She and her husband Merle live in Las Cruces, N.M.
David E Taylor
IT, Search Engine & Social Media
David is responsible for maintaining the website, search engine and social media management.
Trish is a local reporter.
Shippensburg Sports Sports
Bill writes all of our Shippensburg University sports news.
Penn State Sports
Frank writes all of our Penn State sports news.
Wilson College Sports
Chris writes Wilson College sports news
Wilson College Sports
Seth writes Wilson College sports news
Wilson College Sports
Jeremy writes Wilson College sports news