By Mark Buckshon
I knew that mid-April would be a good time for me to take a working vacation because, on my return, we would only have one week to launch Ontario Construction News, our new daily construction trade newspaper.
The predictions for massive stress, workflow, and operating business challenges were correct. It’s been crazy and plenty of work to manage the incredible amount of content. And we’re only getting started. As I write this note on May 1, it is only the first day the new publication has reached its audience on a daily schedule. (We’ve been working three to four days ahead to populate the content to manage the work flow.)
We’ve published monthly publications for more than three decades, and in recent years, I’ve overseen a network of nine weekly eletters, based on our titles in Canada and several US markets (including Chicago, where I was able to combine vacation with a bit of business.) But a daily production cycle is something quite different, demanding fresh material every day, coupled with the need to review/manage and oversee the overall business. (I also still need to manage the e-letters and monthly publications, as well.)
Our original business plan called for us to staff the publication with a full-time editor, with additional freelance writers. But I’ve always believed in the bootstrap approach to business growth – and did not want to run up debts or risk major losses on this truly challenging project. So we decided to contract with freelancer Kristen Frisa part-time (she will become the full-time editor once we’ve confirmed the publication’s viability) and I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and writing more like a first year journalism grad than a 65-year-old publisher.
(The work I’m doing now reminds me of my time at the Medicine Hat News in 1977, when I would crank out four or five stories a day, before I headed off to Africa to live through the end of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe civil war. But I was 24 and 25 years-old then.)
It’s early going, but despite the stress, we’re managing, and are receiving some critical early orders for certificate ads mandated by the Ontario Construction Act. Our objective: Capture a 10 per cent market share and break a long-standing monopoly for these legal ads, saving advertisers significant amounts of money while building a viable and useful publication serving the province’s construction industry.
But right now, it’s a whole lot of work for very little money. I think I’ll feel the stress most in about two to three weeks, as we push through issue after issue without break. The key measure of our success will be for me to be able to contract/hire writers for the successful publication by July – in time for my next vacation, two weeks in Central Europe including about 10 days on a bicycle.
While the peddling then will be stressful, I think it will be bliss compared to the writing challenges now.
You can follow the progress of Ontario Construction News at www.ontarioconstructionnews.com and reach Mark Buckshon at firstname.lastname@example.org