Prairie Lights: On the edge of turning 2, happy b’day to us

Crier

Last Best News would like to announce that it will be celebrating its second anniversary on Monday.

Last Best News will be 2 years old Monday morning.

We’re happy to report that Year Two was another good one. As I wrote on our first anniversary, we had 351,293 visits to the site in Year One, or just under 1,000 a day. In the past year, as of Saturday, we more than doubled that, with 708,672 visits, just under 2,000 a day.

Ed

Ed Kemmick

If this trend continues, by the end of our fifth year the number of annual visits will be in the neighborhood of 5.6 million. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

The biggest news of the year, as you already know if you’ve visited the site in the past few days, is that David Crisp has ceased publication of the weekly Billings Outpost and is joining Last Best News on Monday. Many thousands of readers deeply valued David’s work in the Outpost, and it’s hard to exaggerate how excited I am when think of how much we’ll accomplish together.

How about a few more stats? Google Analytics tell me that 61 percent of our readers in the past year were female. In terms of age, the largest cohort, making up 25 percent of our readers, fell in the 55-64 range. But three other cohorts, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54, each accounted for 17 percent, rather an odd coincidence.

We also had readers from 206 countries, though there was only one visit from 20 of those nations, including North Korea. I hope that North Korean caught us on a good day and that we did something to lighten the gloom a bit over there.

We had 453 posts this past year, nearly all of them stories or columns, with a smattering of blog items, and I wrote 312 of them. I would list some of my favorites pieces from the past year, but I already did that on Jan. 1.

On the Last Best News Facebook page, which I use to promote everything I post, we now have 4,741 likes, and on Twitter we have 1,457 followers. There’s a lot I don’t like about social media, Facebook in particular, but they do steer a good many of our readers to our stories.

And let me take the occasion of this anniversary to answer some frequently asked questions about Last Best News.

For starters, Last Best News is a for-profit business, a limited liability company registered with the state of Montana, and the holder of a city of Billings business license.

This is my only job and I can say with some confidence that I put more hours into it every week than I ever did working at somebody else’s newspaper. Not that I’m complaining, far from it. I love doing this every single day, and it never seems like a burden, even if I’m writing a story late on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon.

Because we charge no subscription fees and the site is always available for free to all comers, we rely on advertising revenue for probably 90 to 95 percent of our income, with the rest coming from reader donations.

We have had about 40 advertisers in our two-year history, and I would be remiss if I didn’t name the ones who have been with us either from the start or for a good long while: Buchanan Capital, Cape Air, Aqua Systems, AMP, Little Horn State Bank, Russ Plath Law, the Downtown Billings Association, Montague’s Jewelers and the Montana Historical Society.

They have played a big part in making all this possible, for which they have my thanks. I hope they also have your business.

I also want to thank all those who have made donations to Last Best News in the past two years. It’s amazing how many people have seen fit to help out, and we are exceedingly grateful to all of them.

In the fundraising campaign that we kicked off last week, to accompany the announcement about David Crisp’s plans, we have received donations from people in Billings, Missoula, Bozeman, Fort Peck, Shepherd, Forsyth and Red Lodge, and also from Colorado, Oregon, New York, Arizona, California and Minnesota—more than likely former Montanans.

We are particularly grateful to the people who have voluntarily set up automatic monthly contributions to Last Best News. That dependable source of income means a lot to us. So do all the good wishes and encouraging words we’ve heard in the past few days.

We are committed to maintaining free access to Last Best News and to selling enough ads to support our expanded operations, but those donations will surely help us get through the early days of our partnership. If you haven’t made a donation and want to support quality, independent journalism, please visit our donation page.

We gladly accept checks and cash, too, which may be mailed to Last Best News, Box 1351, Billings, 59103. And if you’d like to advertise on Last Best News, which just keeps growing and expanding its reach, please give us a call at 794-4481.

Most of all, we value you as readers, so keep visiting the site and please help spread the word about what we’re doing here. Here’s hoping for many more good years.

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