Mahoning Matters serves the city of Youngstown Ohio (population: 65,000) and its surrounding communities in Mahoning County (population 229,000).
Site Launch: October 9, 2019
Current Staff: 5 editorial, 1 Business
- CMS: Village Media
- User Management System: Village Media
- Ad Trafficking: Google Ad Manager, Advendio
- Analytics: Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, News Consumer Insights
- Email Engine: Mailchimp
- eCommerce engine: Stripe
Tax Status: For profit
Primary Revenue Streams: Direct sold advertising, reader contribution
- First site visit to Youngstown
- Announced Youngstown Ohio would be the site of the first McClatchy Compass Experiment.
- Site visit with Village Media, possible business and editorial model to emulate, in Sault Ste Marie, Canada.
- Announced that Village Media would provide a technical platform for the Youngstown project.
- Hired editor and first reporter. Both previously with the Vindicator.
- Held several listening forums with the community at the local library.
- Developed Mahoning Matters name and brand.
- Announced Mahoning Matters name and new staff.
- Local and Central staff starts Sep. 3
- Launched landing page for site with email sign-up. Reserved Facebook and Twitter social media accounts.
Joined Chamber of Commerce and will be obtaining a business directory to be loaded into the CMS.
- Site goes live on October 9. Very big opening day story on food safety that got a lot of attention.
- Public launch party on October 10 at the DoubleTree in Youngstown.
- Launch metrics after first 3 days:
- 21,324 users
- 47K pageviews
- 13% of users returned
- 1,829 email subscribers
- 688 Twitter followers
- 4,453 Facebook followers
- 4,308 Likes
- Mobile: 77%, desktop: 14%, and tablet: 9%.
- First sale of Community Leaders Program - this is faster than Village Media has ever sold a package!
- Working through workflow issues on editorial and ad operations.
- Starting content partnerships with WYSU, WKSU and Center Square Ohio.
- Building good relationships with funeral homes to publish obituaries.
- Did 8 community events/speaking engagements
- Getting staff trained on Village Media CMS
- Getting CMS configured and loading up the business directory
- Selected as a Report for America newsroom for 2020, adding a new reporter in June to help cover the Youngstown budget crisis
- Published breakout exclusive stories that lead the pack locally: Chamber of Commerce President firing, Canfield schools police reports, Lordstown autoworker updates
- Started discussions with Cityspark about using their tool to manage the Mahoning Matters event calendar instead of manually curating each week and getting people to use the built-in events feature on the Village Media platform.
- Increased editorial output in November as we develop a smoother workflow (up 30%)
- First high school sports stories published and doing well
- Launched stories for for CLP "Movers and Makers"
- Participated in 7 community events
- Added entertainment and business sub-sections
- Email subscriptions have leveled off
- FB acquisition is getting more expensive
- Decided to enable McClatchy to do direct sold advertising onto Mahoning Matters.
- Published multiple exclusive stories, including a story about an impending pharmacy desert that influenced a local hospital to open its pharmacy to the public.
- Soft launched curated a.m. newsletter, which has high open rate and multiple positive organic responses from list members.
- Increasing polls to 2 a week.
- Held public event at local trivia night.
- A number of high impact and exclusive local stories including scoops about local ice cream business Handel's being sold to an out-of-state firm and news of an affair between the Canfield police chief and one of his subordinates while he was acting HR director for the city.
- Checked in with our first CLP sponsor - Farmers Bank - and they are happy with our performance so far.
- Official launch of the morning newsletter, Morning Matters, which is getting great community response.
- Completed our first local contest to drive subscribers to the new morning email newsletter. It had a rocky start with some tech/process issues, but we learned a lot. The two-week contest campaign, which relied on onsite and FB marketing, garnered 360+ new subscribers. Overall in January, we saw more than 600 email signups.
- The team held their first virtual community story pitch night on Facebook Live, to great results. The video got more than 3K views and lots of good comments. They got some decent story ideas, but most importantly, the community really liked it.
- Launched Cityspark events integration.
- Closed on annual contract for our first "Hub+" package with the local library. This includes not only display ads on the site, but also a directory listing on our local business section, which will serve as a jump start for our planned launch of local classified job postings.
- Big lift in audience: 100K unique visitors compared to 60K in January.
- Communicated with the community and advertisers about the McClatchy bankruptcy announcement
- Obituaries newsletter launched and has attracted 300 subscribers quickly and has 60% open rate and 25% click through rate.
- Starting to develop a new speaker series with the city's newsmakers. There is now a gap in the community with the closure of the Youngstown City Club.
- Launched first contest with "Stay and Play" golf package giveaway
- Mandy gave a presentation to the Mega Conference (LMA)
- Another good month of audience growth
- Hit 5,000 email subscribers
- Short term sale of Community Leaders Program highlighting coronavirus heroes, dedicated to business executive Mark Eckert who was lost to COVID-19.
- Launched Look Local program to provide local businesses free classifieds credits on the Hub.
- Launched Pro Sports page with Distributed Media to serve another area of interest for our readers.
- Launched 3 new ongoing local columns: The Earnheardts (family life during the pandemic), Keeping the Faith (religion), Your Legal Rights
- Deep focus on coronavirus coverage including health info, business closures and running FAQ. Adding a contractor for extended production coverage.
- 45 second daily headlines segment on WYSU.
- Closely following many changes to Ohio primary.
- Published Compass blog on efforts to cover coronavirus in Northeast Ohio.
- Surpassed 1500 brand lovers and continued growth in unique visitors and page views.
- All time high in page views at 473K.
- Signed on two new local advertisers amid the pandemic.
- Launched reader donation feature to mark six month anniversary of Mahoning Matters.
- Received grant from the Local Media Association and the Facebook Journalism Project for COVID-19 coverage
- Hosted first virtual event to check in on the community and had about 15 non-staff show up.
- Daily headlines newsletter is now going out 7 days a week.
- Registered with Newsbreak app, becoming second highest source of referrals.
- Central growth and membership lead for Compass started
- First virtual event using Crowdcast The Valley and the Pandemic: 85 registrants, 40 attendees, 999 views on Facebook
- Event directly generated one new monthly donor, 10 new daily headline subscribers
- Surpassed 6K email subscribers, which is an increase of 1,000 in less than a month.
- Feature to start honoring Northeast Ohio's graduates, listing all graduates and allowing readers to submit a free congratulations. Several local civic leaders submitted short videos, which we compiled here.
- Redefining the business executive role to be more focused on business development and community relations than pure ad sales. Want sales focus in the beginning to be around Community Leaders Program.
- Looking to pull ad operations away from relying on the McClatchy Ad Manager instance and having a dedicated instance. Discussing with Village Media about services like ad ops and creative that they can provide.
- New business executive started.
- Report for America reporter started.
- Short-term Community Leaders Program contract for "Difference Makers" section extended to October 1
- Well-received coverage of local BLM protests, including debunking local rumors on the protesters and offering legal context to the right to assemble.
- All time high in page views at 498K and unique visitors at 219K. Brand Lovers at 1200.
- Expanded newsdesk days and days posting obituaries. Weekend traffic rose overall from March-June, but spikes were driven by news events which can be covered on a weekly rotation.
- Grant awarded from the Thomases Family Endowment of the Youngstown Area Jewish Foundation for Report for America reporting. [Video]
- Leading the way with local data reporting on PPP loans and COVID cases by zip code. The latter involved filing a FOIA request with the state of Ohio.
- All time high in page views at 544K and unique visitors at 234K. Brand Lovers at 1300.
- Experiment on auto-posting to Facebook. There were drops in all types of engagement but we also dropped paid boosts by 65% so difficult to understand cause and effect. Will continue.
- Voluntary Pay: Newsletters are converting best of any product (54%). 42% of those who contributed are brand lovers, 34% are loyal readers
- Published learnings from creating the Morning Matters newsletter
- Mandy gave a presentation at News Rewired and ISOJ on Mahoning Matters' business model
- Virtual event\
The Racial Divide: 103 registrants, 61 attendees, 2.4K views on Facebook
- Event directly generated 15 new email subscribers
- Adding video advertising position to both sites; working through details of programmatic set up with McClatchy and Village (display and video); planning for direct-sold political ads underway.
- Major grant awarded by the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. On track to reach annual goal for Report for America fundraising.
- Margaret Sullivan gave Mahoning Matters a shoutout on NPR's "Fresh Air".
- Published a major data project on which local businesses have gotten the most mask-related violations from the health department. About half the community accuses us of being anti-business and the other half is happy to see this work being published. Either way, it is getting a lot of traffic and notice.
- Experiment on auto-posting to Facebook extended another 30 days with mixed results. Hard to say if automated posting itself made a difference when there was also indications of a possible algorithm change too. The team found this change negatively affected FB moderation workflow, so they will revert to a hybrid of automated and scheduled posting.
- Virtual event\
Racism as a Public Health Crisis: 186 registrants, 125 attendees
- Marred by a major outage from our vendor, Crowdcast. Thankfully, partners at Stambaugh Auditorium recorded the event for replay.
- Major grant awarded by the Youngstown Foundation, meeting RFA fundraising goal
- Voter guides and election landing page launched week of Sep. 25
- Renewed CLP for 3-month seasonal campaign
- Morning newsletter: Review found that 20% of clicks were to other local media in the roundup, we retain the majority
- Virtual event: Voting in the Valley (via Zoom)
- 87 registrants, 71 attendees
- 35 comments, 225 views, 100+ replays
- 5 email signups
- We didn't host registration this time, so we have less data on participants
- First anniversary Oct. 9:
- The documentary Newstown, about the closure of the Vindicator, prominently features our team and has created good buzz
- Nearly 50% increase in pageviews from September
- Community Matters Election Event on Oct. 21
- Featured many local politicians and election officials (story + video)
- 1K views on MM FB page, 200 views on Stambaugh YouTube
- Limited post-event promotion by FB ban on boosting election content (Oct. 25)
- Established Mahoning Matters Community Fund through the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, allowing us to take tax-deductible donations
- United Way "auction" experiment: New homepage widget driving donations
- Weekly election newsletter launched Oct. 3 to all subscribers
- November was second-highest month ever for PVs and users
- Renewed Farmers Bank CLP (12-month through Nov. 2021)
- Report For America confirms a second year for our reporting project
- Exclusive interview (via Zoom) with Gov. DeWine which got some well-deserved attention locally.
- Completed integration with SmartNews for syndication revenue
- Shop Local, Give Hope campaign drove readers to buy gift cards from local businesses, with a charitable match from a sponsor, raising funds for the Salvation Army and Second Harvest.
- End of Year fundraising campaign raised more than $11,000. Brought in a total of 183 new contributors (our goal was 250).
- Decision to pull Mahoning Matters into central McClatchy operations