During the time that Nicola and I were searching for a newspaper to buy, we interviewed a couple of newspaper owners in Vermont, a couple of owners in New York state, an owner in Arizona and a serial business owner in South Dakota.
The serial business owner in South Dakota turned us onto a guy by the name of Ken Blum, a newspaper consultant who writes a column for the National Newspaper Association’s newspaper Publisher’s Auxiliary called “Black Ink,” which is also the title of a book he wrote offering tips on running a community newspaper.
We signed up for Ken’s email newsletter, “Black Inkling,” and bought his book.
We ate it all up. Every night, Nicola and I swapped chapters and read about circulation-building, advertising ideas, editorial features, special sections, promotions, etc. It had become a minor obsession.
We had subscriptions to the Kuna Melba News and The Clinton Courier and we dreamed about what we would do with the papers, how we would increase revenues, what we would change designwise, what special sections we would add.
We also set up a phone interview with Ken (which turned out to be a wise investment of time on Ken’s part, because Nicola and I later became good clients, but more on that later).
Ken Blum is an imminently affable soft-spoken intelligent man who will often introduce himself as “Ken Blum. I’m from Orrville, Ohio, the home of Smucker’s jams and jellies.”
Ken was encouraging about buying a newspaper in an almost matter-of-fact way, as if he were saying, “Oh, of course, you want to buy a newspaper. It’s the most wonderful business to own.” It seemed almost ridiculous in Ken’s world that someone wouldn’t want to own a newspaper. That reassuring sensibility made him eternally optimistic about buying a newspaper and in turn made us optimistic about buying a newspaper. “See, we’re not crazy. Here’s this perfectly reasonable nice man highly confident in the decision to buy a weekly newspaper.”
His optimism was very much rooted in a pragmatic, fiscally sound notion of running a viable business, which also provided much comfort to a young couple with two small boys contemplating giving up their relatively cheap and reliable company-sponsored health care.