Week One of the Center Square Ledger

January 22, 2010

Starting a new publication – and then discovering that real
people actually read it – is more fun than I ever anticipated. This past week’s
launch of the Center Square Ledger has been hard work, stressful but
tremendously rewarding. More than anything it has made me remember my college
newspaper days – as well as the pitfalls and stresses of those days.

The most important lessons of the first week:

  1. Leg work pays off.
     We hit every El and Metra stop for our launch day’s morning commute. It was cold, dark and more than half of the people were rude. But many others took our flyers – and we saw an immediate increase in traffic that night. This is yet another case of, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
  2. Tell everyone you know. Even in a metro area as big as Chicago you’d be surprised how interwoven we are. For instance, it turns out one of the close friends of my tenants works for a local chamber of commerce. By the time I called her for help, she had already heard about the Ledger.
  3. Join the local chamber of commerce. We live in an isolating world and that’s made worse for me by producing a product that’s delivered electronically. Opportunities to gather and talk to other like-minded people are important. The local chambers of commerce provide those opportunities, and at the very least I emotionally benefit from those interpersonal relationships.
  4. Keep working and be patient. At the Lincoln Square Chamber meeting I was talking to Gunther Kempf, one of the two brothers that founded the Chicago Brauhaus in 1963. After he finished boasting about how his annual Oktoberfests are jam packed, I asked him how things were when he first started. “Well, it was hard, of course. We had lots of nights when the place was empty, and we struggled. But we kept going, and things got better.” When you look at the success of a long-running business, it often seems impossible to replicate. But then, how do you suppose the successful people got started?
  5. Stay positive. It’s easy to be positive about places like Lincoln Square and Northcenter. They are great places to live and work. But I find that humans tend to be sourpusses. As a result of our generally positive (but not whitewashing) coverage this week, we’ve received at least half a dozen messages and comments from readers thanking us for our positive outlook. I’m convinced that’s an element of our future success. And it certainly makes things more fun.

Next week we’re going to start really beating the bushes for advertisers. That should be an interesting process – and I am sure we’ll learn lots about what we should and should not be doing.

Dang this is fun.