I could really use some honest feedback from my readers. I have received several complaints recently that RV Daily Report is too commercial, that our stories sound like advertisements, and that we give advertisers free reign to publish whatever they want, whenever they want. I have also heard that we are the “tabloid of the RV industry,” which is good in that tabloids make more money than any other publication, but bad if it reflects on our professionalism.
I’d like to know if that is really the case or if it is just grumbling by people who dislike particular firms, or the way we cover their own companies.
Before I ask the questions, please allow me to reiterate our mission. Since I founded the publication April 1, 2009, my goal has been to bridge the gap across the industry and aggregate all the news stories impacting manufacturers, suppliers, campgrounds and RV owners onto one website and into one newsletter. My feeling was that RV dealers needed to know what campgrounds and RV owners were up to, just as campgrounds needed to know what was going on at manufacturers and RV dealerships. And everyone needed to know what new products were on the market.
So, every day, we look for every story we can find about the RV industry and the companies involved in it. We post it on our website and publish it in our newsletter. We also frequently produce our own stories, and often cover topics that our competitors won’t touch.
The stories are segmented by category so that if someone was only interested in reading industry news, it would be easy to do. Anyone could scan the headlines and lead sentences to quickly keep abreast of whatever was happening in the industry, or their specific segment. If they wanted more information, readers could click on the headline and go to the full story on our site, which often leads to more information on a different site.
I have never felt comfortable making a decision as to what stories business owners should be allowed to read. That’s one of the primary reasons I started RV Daily Report.
As editor of RV Trade Digest and RV Industry News, it bugged me greatly that the amount of space available for news in those magazines was directly related to the amount of advertising sold in a particular issue. Imagine trying to fit 50 important news stories a month into 48 pages of a magazine — half of which were occupied by ads. The Internet eliminates those concerns to the point that nothing needs to be cut down or thrown away. We can report EVERYTHING and let our readers decide what’s important to them.
It also bothered me that we had to wait for specific issues to report certain stories. For example, if April was our “brake” issue, all stories about RV braking had to be held until then so that we could create a “special braking section” in that magazine simply so the sales staff could sell ads around that section. I never did understand why companies would line up to pay big money to have their ads appear next to or in close proximity to their competitors simply because it was the “braking issue.”
My thinking is that if a story is important, it should run THAT DAY. If a new product is being introduced, the market wants to know about it THAT DAY — not six weeks later when a magazine comes out, or six moths later when it’s time for the “braking issue.”
I also thought that we should report every story, including those about dealers carrying new product lines and companies expanding their networks. My rationale was that a dealer in Georgia would want to know if a competitor was carrying a new product or, more importantly, if a competitor lost a product line.
Granted, dealers and RV park owners in Idaho and Massachusetts could probably care less about a company in a market 1,000 miles away. But, then I was reminded that dealers and campground owners are a close-knit group of professionals with friendships around the nation. Therefore, a dealer in Massachusetts would likely know the dealer in Georgia and would be interested in knowing if something happened at his dealership.
The same holds true with campgrounds. Why would a campground in Arizona care about activities being planned by a campground in Wisconsin? Because the owners might know each other or, more importantly, the activity offered in Arizona could be duplicated in Wisconsin, too.
It’s all about networking, and I wanted RV Daily Report to facilitate that on all levels.
Lately, I have heard complaints about our coverage of RV Warranty Forever. Several complaints suggested our editorial focus was taken over by that company. So, I looked. We have published exactly 10 stories about the firm since Nov. 18, compared to seven for RV Business and three deemed worthwhile by RV Pro. During the same period, we posted 1,362 other stories, so RV Warranty Forever occupied 0.0076 percent of our total editorial coverage. That hardly seems to be indicative of a publication “taken over by a company.”
RV Camping Connect submits a press release every Monday, and they have for more than a year. But, I never hear anyone saying anything about our coverage of that company. One of our advertisers has included two ads in each issue of RV Daily Report for more than a year, but I don’t hear complaints that we have sold out to that firm. It’s simply a smart business decision on their part in knowing that for the same amount of money it costs to get a single half-page advertisement in a single issue of a magazine, they can have double daily exposure in our newsletter.
Our advertisers do get a few perks, one of which is that their press releases appear at the top of the issue in which it runs, and the same release appears at the bottom of the appropriate news section the next day. So, in appreciation for their paying my bills, I let them have an extra day of exposure. It seems to be the right thing to do considering they technically own the company.
But, advertisers have never dictated editorial control of this publication, nor would they be allowed to exert that type of control. Those who have tried have been dropped as advertisers. It would take a hellofa lot more than a few hundred or few thousand dollars a month for me to give up my cherished independence. Unlike some of our competitors, RV Daily Report is NOT controlled by any corporation, nor is our coverage swayed by a commitment to a “peacekeeping” agenda.
Based on my experience, magazines are ungodly profitable, often dropping 60 percent to the profit line. But, we can’t sell unlimited full page ads for $4,000 or $5,000 a pop, like magazines can. RV Daily Report is technically limited to 12 advertising positions in our newsletter, and about eight on our website. Because they are exclusive positions, meaning that banners don’t rotate among multiple companies like other sites do, when the space is sold, it is sold. As the owner of the publication, should it matter to me which companies buy ads and in which quantities? Yes, to a degree. We won’t ever promote drugs or sexually-explicit products, and we expect our advertising partners to be fair, honest and professional. But, we make the space available to the entire industry and the first firms to sign up get to claim the space.
As a business owner myself, I just can’t see turning down business because one company “does too much advertising,” when every firm has an equal shot. Besides, should it matter to readers which companies pay the bills for a free-to-them publication, or the frequency or position of a company’s ads?
With that in mind, here are the questions I have:
- Would you rather have access to a wide variety of stories — 1,362 over a 100-day period — or have me make the decision to limit the stories to a few that all my readers would likely enjoy?
- Of the stories we run, are they edited sufficiently so as not to appear to be “too commercial” in that they stick to the news rather than appearing as some glowing third-party endorsement for a product or company?
- Does it appear that some companies control the editorial direction of RV Daily Report and, if so, how does it appear that way?
- Is the appearance of story about or advertisement by a particular product or company likely to entice you to tune out all the other stories we publish?
- Do we have enough original content — stories written by me — that you are not likely to find in any other publication, which brings even more value to our daily newsletter?
Here’s your chance to bust the editor in the chops — publicly right here or privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. If a blind spot exists in this publication, please point it out. I’d appreciate the honest accountability.