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Year 1 is complete: Where to now, Randolph Hub?

By Ray Criscoe


Randolph Hub is officially a year old. Can you believe it?  


You’re holding our 52nd issue in your hands right now. 


True, technically, our first issue debuted on Sept. 1, 2021, but that was a sort of practice run issue, a free paper that, thanks to a sponsorship by Klaussner Furniture Inc., we mailed to all points in Randolph County west and south of Archdale-Trinity (more than 46,000 residences in all). That was a soft run, to both see if the process we set up with the Winston-Salem Journal and the US Post Office was going to work and to attract potential subscribers if it did. 


The result? It worked just like Field of Dreams — we built it, and subscribers came. 


We then took a two-week window before beginning the “official” first weekly issue for paying subscribers on Sept. 15. By then, we already had nearly 900 on board. 


As of this issue, we have 2,775 print subscrib-ers. We have another 12 e-edition subscribers only.  And on average, we sell about 100 copies on the street in a small number of outlets. Together, that gives us a circulation just shy of 2,900 — built largely on word of mouth because we haven’t done much marketing yet. We’ve just let the product speak for itself.


What I hear a lot is it’s doing just that. People talk about how they love their Hub — “the Hub,” “our Hub,” “my Hub.” I’ve had people tell me they’re doing something — like go on a hike or taking in a local event — because they saw it in the Hub.  


Such response is music to the ears of everyone involved with this project. 


Best of all, that love and respect fits into our initial goal — use this newspaper to try to help glue our community back together. We need a depend-able place to go to for information — a hub that the community can revolve around. A source it can trust. And while we’re not the end all be all, we’re gaining a footing ... and a following.


One of the reasons we can point to as knowing we’re heading in the right direction is that our subscriber base has grown every single week for 52 straight weeks. That’s no small feat in today’s world of declining print numbers. It may be just by 6 or 9 or 12 new subscribers per week, but we haven’t had a negative number yet.


 Now, that could change. We’re now into our first renewal period. Some may choose not to renew. Some may forget or put it off till it is forgotten. 


And, we’re going up in price from $45 per year to $50. One subscriber asked if we’re going to raise the rate every year. The hope is we stay at $50 for quite some time, but I’ve learned not to make promises in an unpredictable world. 


So this year, as a nod to all of the goodwill you have shown us, we’ve offered subscribers a chance to “self-renew,” if you will. Sign up now and you can still get in at $45, no matter when you first subscribed. And many have taken advantage, nearly 600 customers, so far. 


This helps you and it helps us — that’s nearly 600 renewals I don’t have to mail, lol. 


Now our self-renewal effort was supposed to end this week, but I’ve lived in Asheboro for 30-something years. I know what procrastinators live in this area. We used to see it with Sports Editor Dennis Garcia’s Fall Ball registrations in the old days. At the deadline, he might have a couple dozen people, then a hundred more would show up after the deadline asking forgiveness. Year after year.


So I’m taking one step toward not dealing with that by extending our self-renewal offer for one more week — but one more only! So if you’ve been procrastinating, you now have until next Wednesday to get your renewal forms in for $45 (there’s a form on page 8A). After that, it will go up to $50 and you’re going to force me to send out renewal cards to the unrenewed.


At this point, let me say that, once again, I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of so many who have already renewed with your extra notes. The kind words, small donations, suggestions for future stories and ideas ... believe me, they are all really appreciated. 


As for the coming year, what’s next? I can’t say for sure; in fact, in the past I’ve said we’ll have this or do that, but then it hasn’t been the case yet, so I’m trying to avoid that trap again. 


Take something as simple as a cross-word and/or a couple of word games. I promised a crossword months ago, but I don’t want to start anything until I can guarantee I have the space to include it every week, so I keep hesitating. Maybe we’ll take that idea to advertisers and see if we can’t generate enough revenue to just grow the base of the paper from 16 pages to 18.  


So let me just say I’m always thinking about what else we can add and how we can go about doing it with limited resources and limited hands on deck. 


The biggest question I get is when we’re going to have more than one paper a week. It won’t be soon. And if it happened, it would likely be more toward an anniversary, when I could make a smoother subscription transition because obviously subscription rates would have to come close to doubling to add a second edition a week.  


I will say, I have been giving the idea more thought lately, but again, for now, let’s work on improving what we’ve got before taking on more than maybe we can handle. 


Right now, I’m just trying to do something with extra newspapers than just add them to a landfill. The NC Zoo took a big chunk for paper mache eggs for their residents. They’ve suggested next up could be the Greensboro Science Center. Or maybe I’ll have a giveaway day for local gardeners and people with fireplaces looking for a newspaper to start a fire. I want to also get together with Hospice and groups like Meals on Wheels to see if we can’t get papers to places they don’t normally go. 


So you see, sometimes the little ideas can take up as much time as the big ones. 


Reading over this, I realize that I’ve said a lot without really saying much of anything, which is one of my superpowers. But let me finish with a clear message:


Thank you. 


Thank you to the readers for putting your trust in this venture. Thank you to the advertisers for giving us a chance and the many business owners who are sticking with us for a second year. Thank you to Beth Farrell and Larry Penkava and Mike Duprez and Eric Abernethy and all of the writers and photographers and others helped bring this all together. And to Mary for her generosity in space and time.


There would be no Hub without any of The future is bright because of all of you. 


On to Year 2!


Ray Criscoe is owner and editor of the Randolph Hub.