Almost two weeks ago (June 4, 2023) LiveWire Calgary marked five years in operation – but we didn’t make a big deal out of it.
In fact, we didn’t say anything about it. Not on social media, not really to friends of LWC, not to our colleagues. Not even to our valued and loyal members (yet).
We could tell you it slipped our mind, or that five years isn’t a big milestone, or some other excuse.
The more direct explanation is, we were busy.
We had our heads down, our hands on the keyboard or our eyes looking through glass shooting photos. The day just came and went like so many others over the past five years.
I mean, we’re a pretty focused, albeit tiny team. Our job is to deliver high-quality information on important issues to the people of Calgary and we take it (mostly) seriously.
Of course, there will be those who say we need to take time to celebrate our accomplishments. We’re a team of two duking it out daily against better-staffed, better-resourced legacy news operations – and often times we win.
Yes, we should acknowledge it. We should be proud.
Unfortunately, it’s not really a time for chest-thumping.
To be frank, it’s a mixed bag of emotions: Jubilation, fear, frustration, determination, resignation, pride – we’ve survived a half decade in an industry fraught with peril.
It’s a time when we see fellow indies (Calgary Citizen and the Sprawl) fading away, colleagues at Postmedia losing jobs or leaving as that company’s revenue spirals downward, even more colleagues at CTV cut, along with layoffs at Corus (Global, QR).
It’s a time when we’re fighting with tech giants that want to use our news and not pay and a federal government that wants to bail out media tycoons to help “journalism.”
It’s tough to stifle a laugh.
It just doesn’t feel like a time to celebrate.
Driven by duty; a passion for local news
Here’s the good news. Here’s that catalyst for us pushing forward.
We’re not going anywhere. In fact, we’ve never been stronger.
By the numbers, our 2023 web traffic thus far has already eclipsed 2022 full-year numbers by 10 per cent. I remind you we’re not even through June. (I should note that 2022 was our second-best year on record. We’re less than 100K views behind our all-time high and we should hit it in July.)
In 2018 when we launched, we hoped for 500 views a day. Today, 5,000+ daily is common. There are thousands of Calgarians that trust us to provide them daily insight into their city, their home.
And, while we hit a lull during the pandemic and we shed loyal members, we’re starting to see membership growth again. That’s a great sign. Further, single-pay contributions are also strong again in 2023.
In five years, we’ve published 4,625 pieces, many on Calgary-specific stories that might not otherwise have been told. Yes, we reach into niches; in doing so we pull together a city that can sometimes be divided.
We’re more than a year into our Daily Flip – a micro-newspaper we still have big plans for. It’s had ups and downs over the past year, but recently it’s been nothing but up, with the number of subs jumping.
We’re solidifying partnerships and creating new ones. These are local organizations lending their support to building the ongoing foundation that will be the launchpad to propel us forward.
The future looks… busier
Every day that Aryn Toombs and I come to work, we’re dreaming of where we can take LiveWire Calgary. We have ideas – some good, some not – of how we can continue to deliver a premium local news experience with a focus on making Calgary a better, more informed place to live.
Whether it’s more stories, different stories, different voices, VR, AR, produced video, live video, podcasts, photo stories, sports, entertainment, maps, data – (takes a breath) – deep investigations, news briefs, print product, AI, sponsorships, partnerships… we dive into it all.
The reality is, we’re just two people on the front lines. We have the support of several behind-the-scenes folks that just freely give their time and effort to help move this independent media ball forward. Even if it’s a centimetre at a time.
We get dozens of requests for coverage each day. Many, many good requests. Great stories that we believe in, and feel should be told. Often they’re the ones that will never be told by legacy media. They just don’t fit their mandate.
They fit ours. We just can’t get to them.
That’s where you can help. If you believe in the power of local news and the importance of local journalism, contribute. Help us build a team of passionate local journalists so we can reverse the death spiral facing quality information in our communities.
We can already see where this story ends if quality, trusted local news and information are lost. Misinformation and division fill the void. (You can actually read about it here, too.)
LiveWire Calgary expects to be around in another five years, hopefully beyond. Our goal is to be the predominant daily local news source in Calgary.
With your support, we can do that and preserve Calgary’s stories today and for years to come.
That’s cause for celebration.
Thanks, Calgary, for giving us five years of your time, attention and support. Here’s to five more.