Partway into the third year of Press operation, and having encountered severe financial difficulties caused by local and national economic conditions, we documented in a series of blog posts our startup and our first few years of positive and negative experiences. Following are links to five posts:
The Press moved to its present quarters on the third floor of the General Store in March, 2009, and for the next six years operated close to breakeven in some years, losing between $15,000 and $25,000 in others. By late 2015, startup donations had been depleted, and it was clear we needed to ask readers for help.
A "Publishers Corner" article in early November of 2015 put out a call for help, and almost immediately, contributions came in.
See Publishers Corner: The economics of local news, 11/6/15
In our next issue we were able to report that an anonymous donor had pledged $5,000, matching individual gifts up to $100. In the ensuing three months, more than $7,000 was received, and with the $5,000 match the 2015 deficit was almost totally eliminated.
See Publishers Corner: Meeting the challenge, 11/13/15
In the 2016 spring townwide issue, we listed names of 76 families (all but those who preferred to be anonymous) who had contributed in the past year, allowing us to take full advantage of the matching donation.
See It takes a village to support local news, 4/1/16
In a November 2016 Publishers Corner article, we gave another update. By that time the list of recent donors had grown to nearly 100 families, helping to reduce the 2016 deficit, but it would still be a money-losing year unless additional donations were received. Once again there was a nice response, but the year's loss was more than $10,000.
See Update on the economics of local news, 11/18/16
Just before our summer break in July 2017, we sounded the familiar refrain—2017 would be another money-losing year, and we had borrowed to keep the lights on until more funding could be obtained. After extensive consideration of financing alternatives, consulting attorneys and industry experts, we settled on the current model of Sustaining Subscribers (and Sustaining Advertisers).
See Update: Ensuring a path forward ... SUSTAINING SUBSCRIPTIONS, 9/14/17
In the year since our sustaining subscriber program began, more than 130 families have become sustaining subscribers. For the first time in many years, there is a good chance that 2018 will have little or no operating deficit. However, it isn't time to relax. To be truly sustainable, we need at least 250 more sustaining subscribers, and we need our current sustainers to renew, now and in the future.
See Publishers Corner: Ensuring the future of the Press just got easier! , 11/2/18
In February, 2019 we asked six active community members to come together as a Steering Committee, to help Press owners develop succession and financial plans to ensure the future of the Harvard Press as a community resource. In July, before beginning of 4-week summer break, a Publishers Corner summarized progress and near-term plans.
See Publishers Corner: Reimagining the future of the Press, 7/6/19
In September, 2019 we reported Steering Committee recommendations, including moving to an annual call for sustainer commitments, and introducing premium sustainer as one whose cumulative sustainer payments is $500 or more. Premium sustainer benefits will be introduced in coming months, beginning with a complimentary ticket to the first of a series of speaker events.
See Publishers Corner: Help the Press move forward, 9/13/19