On November 14th, Lowell’s First Look hit a milestone. It celebrated five years since the date it was announced in the Lowell community. On our first anniversary, we had exceeded expectations and throughout the years we’ve continued to grow and develop. We didn’t mark our anniversary the past few years, but now that we’ve made it to a whole hand, it’s worth looking at where we started, how far we’ve come, and what we hope for in the future.
Simple Beginnings, Growth Over the Years
We started off as a trio in 2016, aiming to publish two or three articles a week about businesses, organizations, people, local municipalities, and happenings in the community. We quickly discovered that there was enough interest and content to publish something five days a week.
During our first full calendar year, in 2017, we published a total of 403 articles. This year, we’re on track to being close to surpassing 800 articles shared with the community.
We had just over 1,650 followers on Facebook after our first year. We currently have 3.7k followers on Facebook. We’ve also garnered just over 750 followers on Instagram. In October of this year we had 10,157 unique visitors to our website and our Facebook reach during this time was 29,032 people.
What started off as three co-founders/owners turned into a duo this year after Tina Dickerman, one of our original founders, stepped away to pursue other things at the end of 2020.
One Hit Wonders and Greatest Hits
As with any business, there are things that work and things that don’t work. There are also good ideas but a lack of bandwidth to get them off the ground.
We attempted a board game series and Sunday series, neither of which really took off. For a short time, we provided a “This Weekend in Lowell” series highlighting events for the coming weekend and a look back at some of the articles we published during the week. While readers liked this, it was quite time consuming to put together and we ultimately stopped providing this information.
For a time, we also had a monthly print version available at Englehardt Library and a handful of businesses within the community. But this too took up too much time and did not promote our sharing news as quickly as possible.
We’ve also begun creating sections in the Around Town area of our website where people can find information on recreational opportunities, including youth sports teams serving the community and a list of businesses and organizations offering a variety of services.
By far, any article we’ve written about food has appeared in our monthly top articles. Meeting recaps have also become popular, but unfortunately, we are not able to cover as many meetings as we’d like, especially those taking place in the townships.
Steady Content Grows Through the Years
From the beginning, we have brought news about Lowell City Council that includes meeting recaps, election information, and more detailed articles about city issues. Our monthly Police Beat has also been around for years and is consistently one of our most viewed items each month.
We also currently have four guest column writers sharing content about health and fitness, hospice care, local real estate, and mental health. Plus, we publish the Lowell Area Historical Museum’s ABCs of Lowell and Oral History Project interviews weekly.
Additionally, we’ve brought profiles about those working at the Lowell Police Department and the Lowell Area Fire Department. We have also published numerous press releases from businesses, organizations, and municipalities.
In our early years, as we were getting established, it could be hard to get content to write about each week. Five years later, we’re often faced with not writing about something because we don’t have the time or publication space. There are many days when we publish two pieces of content and some days when three are required due to a full schedule.
Earlier this year we started sending out a weekly newsletter that recaps all of the articles we’ve published in the last week. It also highlights some National Days to look forward to in the coming week. If you’re not already signed up, you can subscribe here.
As a duo, if we could clone ourselves, we would so that we’d have more time to write even more to share with the community. We’ve grown our following on Instagram and hope to continue to provide different content there than what’s found on our website and Facebook. We even have a Twitter account where we share links to our articles.
If there were more hours in the day and if we didn’t have families and other jobs outside of Lowell’s First Look, we’d love to start a podcast and put more effort into making videos.
Keeping it Local
At its core, Lowell’s First Look is about local news brought to you by people who live in the community. We are not outsiders but rather residents who love Lowell and who want to ensure that other residents have access to accurate and unbiased news and information.
Lowell’s First Look is something of anomaly in the world of journalism and news. Today, most newspapers and news websites are part of larger companies that are controlled outside the community. Consider that the Grand Rapids Press and Mlive are owned by Advance Local, which is based in New York City and publishes their papers in Cleveland, Ohio. We aren’t like that. We are a small business that is locally owned and operated. In fact, we are the only Lowell news source that is based and owned in the community.
As a business, we’re unique in that give away our product to customers — that would be you, our readers. A paid subscription is not required to access any of our articles. We rely on advertising revenue to run our website, PO Box, and other administrative aspects. And as a business, we look to make a profit each year however small it may be. We thank those who have been steady advertisers with us, seeing value in what we offer the community and value in what we provide their business. Those looking to advertise with us can see our advertising information here.
If you appreciate the work we do, please patronize our advertisers and let them know you heard about them on Lowell’s First Look.
And if you think we add some value to your life, would you consider making a voluntary contribution toward Lowell’s First Look? Whether you can afford $1, $5 or $20, we appreciate your support. The easiest way to make a contribution online is through our Ko-fi page.