At least for now, ARLnow has weathered the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ve done it with your help.
Back in March and April, things were looking bleak. For a time, advertising sales were down over 40% and new sales had nearly stopped. We were staring into a void of financial losses and a worsening economic picture. But then things started going right.
Several hundred people joined our Patreon page. Others sent one-time donations via Paypal. Almost all of our ongoing advertisers stuck with us. And eventually, the financial outlook improved to the point where today we can say: we’re out of imminent danger.
Thanks to the support of our readers and advertisers, we have been able to retain our full-time staff and keep reporting, uninterrupted. We’re running pretty lean at the moment, and tired from months of a very busy news cycle, but we’re here.
The Patreon campaign was intended to be a temporary measure, and given that we’re in decent shape we are pausing billing for our members through at least September. As there is a very real risk of a second wave of infection hitting the region in the fall, we’d appreciate if those who joined can stay on until we know the coast is clear. We’ll continue to defer billing until a need returns, at which point we would let you know that the Patreon is being turned back on.
The pandemic has hit the media business, particularly local news, very hard, and we’re incredibly grateful to the Arlington community for your readership and support. It didn’t seem like the right time to brag about it, but at the height of the crisis we reached 2.5 million monthly pageviews, a new record and more than 1 million views over the record we set in February.
So thank you, Arlington. We look forward to continuing to serve the community for years to come.
– The ARLnow Team
Do you operate a small business in Arlington that is open but struggling amid the coronavirus shutdown?
We know the feeling. And we want to help.
For now until whenever things get back to mostly normal, ARLnow is offering free Community Posts to locally-owned businesses that need a bit of a boost.
Here are some ways you can use a Community Post:
- Let the community know you’re still open
- Promote a new online ordering page
- Tell local customers about specials you’re running
Community Posts stay on ARLnow’s homepage and email newsletter for up to 7 days.
This is being provided as a free service to local businesses. We ask that submitters limit posts to 150 words or less and refrain from promoting treatments or services related to COVID-19.
A week ago, we leveled with you: a deterioration in the advertising business is putting ARLnow in a tough spot.
We are humbled by the response from the community and promise to put your contributions to good use, providing vital, up-to-the-minute information during this crisis, telling stories that need to be told, and finding ways to support local businesses.
To that end, tonight we’re announcing a new initiative to help small local businesses reach potential customers during the outbreak. Effective immediately, all community posts on the site will be free to locally-owned small businesses in Arlington.
To get the word out about things your business is doing to serve the community during the coronavirus outbreak, submit a short post here for publication. We hope it helps keep readers informed and businesses afloat during this tough time.
(Other forms of advertising and sponsored content remains a paid service — we need to keep the lights on!)
From our overworked and home-bound staff, thank you to every one of our donors. And if you have the means to donate a few bucks a month but haven’t done so yet, we hope you’ll consider joining them — every little bit counts and we can still use the help.
Last month, ARLnow set a new all-time readership record: 1.45 million pageviews. In the nine days since the first coronavirus case was reported in Arlington, we have blown that away, setting fresh records every night.
For the past 30 days, we’ve served 600,000 readers and just under 2 million pageviews.
It has been an incredibly busy two weeks for ARLnow’s staff. We have been working around the clock to provide vital community coverage, continuing to dig up scoops while curating a large amount of information that has been coming in via email and social media. We have also been working to make sure we can continue to operate amid unprecedented business disruptions.
It seems like ages since our first staff meeting about coronavirus, on Friday, March 6 — before the NBA season was cancelled and the president went on TV.
Here’s part of the staff memo:
There are two schools of thought regarding the outbreak. One is that it’s not too bad and it’s going to be similar to the flu, and it will be business as normal in a few months. The other is that this is a “black swan event” that is a significant public health danger as well as a prolonged disruption to the economy. At this point, from what I’m seeing, I lean more toward the latter.
Obviously, the more alarmist-seeming (at the time) prediction proved to be very much correct.
We sent our editorial staff home the following Tuesday, after Arlington’s first confirmed case, and our business staff home shortly thereafter. We have been working remotely ever since, with the exception of our roving staff photographer, Jay Westcott, who is taking proper precautions to stay healthy.
Given the extraordinarily high readership ARLnow has been getting, we know that we have a big responsibility to keep the community well informed. And we are going to do just that, through thick or thin, to the best of our ability. Expect continued, up-to-the-minute coverage, including both enterprise reporting and curation of the firehose of press releases and info we’re getting, in the coming weeks.
But choppy seas are ahead. Advertising-supported local media in the D.C. area is hurting, as DCist reported today. ARLnow’s amazing advertisers have mostly stuck with us so far, but amid the chaos the usual steady flow of new sales has slowed to a trickle.
We have prided ourselves on making our reporting free for all, and not asking readers to support our ongoing operations. But this time things are different — we need your help to get through this. ARLnow runs a lean operation, and don’t have legacy newsprint costs to worry about, but we still have significant expenses — salaries, benefits, office rent (shout out to our friends at Techspace), and enterprise-grade web hosting, to name a few.
If you have enjoyed reading ARLnow over the past 10 years, and you have the means to give us a few bucks a month, we would very much appreciate you joining our Patreon.
If you would prefer, you can also send contributions via Paypal.
We have two Patreon tiers: $6 and $10 per month. Every little bit will help us get through this for the next couple of months. And when everything is back in business and we’re in the clear, we’ll let you know.
While we appreciate inquiries about giving more, the truth is there are plenty of local organizations and people that need it more urgently than us. Please give the big bucks to nonprofits like AFAC, A-SPAN, Arlington Thrive, the Arlington Community Foundation and others.
We are humbled by the trust Arlington has placed in us, in making ARLnow your go-to local news source. If you can go a step further and support us for the next few months, we would be extremely grateful. Maybe we’ll even throw a party when this whole thing is over.
ARLnow is moving to remove old crime reports from internet searches.
After a review of past articles, we made the decision to keep the crime report articles on our site, but to mark each as pages that should not be indexed by Google, Bing and others.
In years past, Arlington County Police published a weekly crime report summary that ARLnow, in turn, reproduced, highlighting the more significant items. More recently, ARLnow compiled daily crime reports into a weekly post, the last of which was published on Aug. 1, 2019.
The problem is that along with the more significant items, crime reports would sometimes report on arrests for minor, nonviolent crimes — including the names of criminal suspects — without a mechanism in place to eventually remove such names from the record.
The decision to remove these posts from search engine visibility will not affect articles on individual crimes, which typically highlighted more serious incidents like robberies, stabbings and murders. It will, however, give dozens of nonviolent offenders a better chance at moving on with their lives after paying their debt to society — and that’s not to mention incidents in which someone was arrested but never convicted.
The ethics of nonviolent crime reporting at local outlets across the country have been under scrutiny in recent months. Crime reporters are reevaluating basic norms such as publishing the names and faces of offenders who pose little physical threat to the community.
Many who have spoken on the topic argue that these crime reports live on long after the offender they describe has paid the price for their crime — making it difficult to for the offender to move on with their lives. In an op-ed for the Guardian, former crime reporter Hunter Pauli writes about his decision to quit his job because of questions he had about the informative value of some crime reports and the impact on people’s lives.
“If you do a Google search for [the offender’s] name, the first results are stories about his alleged crimes,” Pauli wrote. “How is he supposed to get a legitimate job when a potential employer takes a cursory glance at his name? How is he expected to make an honest living and stay out of trouble?”
ARLnow has an existing crime report policy in place that provides for a review process if someone named in a crime article would like to request removal of their name:
If you have been arrested for a crime and have been found innocent or had the charges dropped, we will, upon request and at our sole discretion, consider removing your name from any articles we have published and requesting that Google update the page in their cache. We will also consider name removal for minor crimes that occurred more than 4 years ago.
If you would like to request name removal, please email us at [email protected] with your name, a link to the article in question, and proof of the court verdict or case status. Processing this request may take several weeks.
Our decision-making in these cases attempts to find a balance between the public interest of knowing about past criminal incidents and the private interest of individuals seeking to clear their name or move on from past mistakes. Note that all such emails will be reviewed, but we may not be able to reply to every message received, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
Shreeya Aranake contributed to this report. Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf.
Maybe it’s the lousy weather keeping everyone glued to their phones and computers. Maybe it’s people tiring of the endless stream of national political news. Or maybe there’s just been a lot going on locally.
Whatever the explanation, ARLnow has officially set a new 30-day web traffic record.
From Jan. 14-Feb. 12, a timeframe that includes a federal holiday, ARLnow recorded 1.453 million pageviews, breaking the old record of 1.43 million pageviews, set in 2016. While not a record, ARLnow also served just over 400,000 unique visitors over the past 30 days.
ARLnow’s sister sites also posted strong numbers during that time frame, according to Google Analytics:
- ALXnow, which launched this past fall, exceeded 150,000 pageviews and 55,000 unique visitors for the first time
- Reston Now exceeded 250,000 pageviews and 100,000 unique visitors
- Tysons Reporter exceeded 225,000 pageviews and 100,000 unique visitors
- In total, our owned-and-operated sites served 2.1 million pageviews and 660,000 unique visitors
Our partner site PoPville, meanwhile, recorded 2.26 million pageviews and more than 375,000 unique visitors. ARLnow’s parent company hosts and provides business services to both PoPville and RunWashington.com.
Network-wide, Local News Now sites served 4.4 million pageviews and — for the first time — just over 1 million unique visitors.
ARLnow and our sister and partner sites provide original journalism and other local content to the community thanks to the support of our local advertisers. For more information about growing your business via ARLnow — or our other sites — see our advertising information page.
On Jan. 29, 2010, ARLnow.com launched with an inauspicious post that basically no one except the family and friends of the site’s owner read. It was followed by a post about 2-4 inches of snow in the forecast.
Ten years later, despite major challenges in the local news biz, this site is still around. A quarter million people read it each month. We have a dedicated, full-time team; a newly-formed alumni group; a long list of fantastic advertising clients (thank you for supporting local journalism!); and an office in a Ballston high-rise complete with a mini fridge stocked with Diet Coke and a granola bar drawer.
Yes, we’ve come a long way in the past 10 years. And we’re looking forward to the next 10.
To celebrate, ARLnow is pleased to invite everyone who lives or works in Arlington, or just is a fan of the site, to join us at Bronson Bierhall (4100 Fairfax Drive) on Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 5-7 p.m. for a free happy hour event.
We’ll have local beer flights and a special Arlington cocktail available for purchase, local movers and shakers, and the entire ARLnow team on hand. Meet your neighbors, local notables, and maybe even an ARLnow commenter or two. Also: we’ll have 10th Anniversary cups for the first 100 people to arrive.
Please RSVP via Facebook so we can better estimate a guest count. See you there!
An ARLnow reporter is leaving but a familiar face and a new intern will be joining the team in January.
ARLnow’s Kalina Newman is leaving to pursue a new career in organized labor as the Press Secretary for the AFL-CIO. Her last day is today.
“I’ve been extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to come back and write for ARLnow,” Newman said. “As someone who grew up in Arlington, it’s been surreal graduating from journalism school and jumping right into reporting on the community I know best. It’s no secret the media landscape is shifting, for better or for worse — and now more than ever, local journalism matters.”
“Leaving ARLnow, I cannot stress enough how much the readership has meant to me,” she continued. “To everyone who has clicked, shared, commented, and lit up in person when I’ve mentioned the site, thank you. I’m excited to transfer my skills to the labor movement, but you haven’t seen the last of me — I just signed a lease for an apartment in Ballston, and can now properly join the ranks of ARLnow commenters. Username suggestions appreciated.”
Separately, ARLnow’s new sister site ALXnow announced today that it has hired James Cullum, an experienced local journalist, to join the site’s reporting team and expand its coverage of Alexandria. That will in turn allow Vernon Miles to split his time between between ARLnow and ALXnow, so expect a return of Vernon’s bylines in the new year.
ARLnow also will be adding a part-time spring semester intern later in January. Shreeya Aranake, a GW student who originally hails from Silicon Valley, will join the ARLnow team for three days a week later in the month. Finally, Ashley Hopko, who primarily reports for our Tysons Reporter and Reston Now sister sites, will be occasionally contributing to ARLnow.
ARLnow’s mission is to connect and improve our local community — residents, workers, local businesses, nonprofits and government — via high quality, original journalism and photography.
In addition to our own reporting, we seek to fulfil our mission via contributions from community members. As part of that, we’re debuting a new slate of opinion columns, focused on specific local topics, starting Monday. These columns will alternate every other week with our existing columns: Progressive Voice, The Right Note, Peter’s Take, and What’s Next With Nicole.
Here’s the slate:
Mondays: Making Room by Jane Green, covering housing-related issues in Arlington. Jane is a proud renter in Pentagon City who by day works for Greater Greater Washington and by night tries to navigate the complexities of the Arlington Way.
Tuesdays: Community Matters by Krysta Jones, discussing community engagement and inclusivity in Arlington. Krysta has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. She has also previously written for the Progressive Voice column on ARLnow.
Wednesdays: Modern Mobility by Chris Slatt, examining transportation and transit matters in the county. Chris is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, Founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president.
Thursdays: The Hurtt Locker by Matthew Hurtt, which will shine a light on issues related to local government transparency and fiscal responsibility. Matthew is a 10-year Arlington resident, a member of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and was previously the chairman of the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans.
Fridays: Ed Talks by Abby Raphael and Maura McMahon, tracking education-related issues in Arlington. Abby served on the Arlington School Board from 2008-2015, including two terms as Chair, among other local leadership roles. Maura is a mother of two who currently serves as president of the Arlington County Council of PTAs.
It should be noted that for all of our columnists, they are uncompensated and the local perspectives they bring are their own and not their employer’s. Our columnists commit their time to bring the Arlington community new ideas, to highlight important local issues, and to start community conversations.
Please join us in welcoming them!
At long last, ARLnow is getting a sister site in Alexandria.
ALXnow — feel free to call it “Alexandria Now” — will launch on Tuesday, Oct. 1, after six years of *almost* deciding to launch in the city to Arlington’s south. (Check out the “joined” date on the @AlexandriaNow Twitter account.)
As Washingtonian reported yesterday, ALXnow will, like ARLnow, offer “high-tempo online coverage” of “a mix of news about local government, transportation, restaurant openings, and the culture of the neighborhoods it serves.”
That’s in addition to our up-to-the-second breaking news coverage.
Our team is looking forward to providing a fresh look at Alexandria, with more immediate, online-only coverage that is intended for all who live, work or follow happenings in the city. Whether you rent an apartment in Old Town, own a house in the West End, work along Eisenhower Avenue or frequently visit Del Ray, we will be providing coverage that’s relevant and interesting to you.
ARLnow.com has set a new 30-day readership record.
From June 25-July 24, more than 400,000 unique users visited the local news site, viewing 1.41 million pages, according to Google Analytics. The average unique user, as measured by Google Analytics, read 3.5 pages during the month, though those returning 15 or more times throughout the month accounted for more than half of ARLnow’s pageviews.
The readership figures are the highest recorded since ARLnow launched in January 2010.
“The ARLnow team is immensely proud of the local journalism we’ve been producing this year — from comprehensive storm coverage to dogged local government reporting to longer-form, investigative pieces — and this new record serves as validation that those efforts are paying off,” said ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck. “Arlington is a fantastic community, with civically-engaged residents and commuters who care about the community they work in. Thank you to all of our readers who helped make this new record possible.”
ARLnow and its parent company, Local News Now, are also announcing the hiring of three new members of our team.
Ashley Hopko joined the company last month as an Editorial Fellow. A 2019 graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder’s journalism program, Hopko previously worked for Law Week Colorado and the student-led News21 investigative project. She is primarily reporting for Local News Now’s Tysons Reporter site, alongside editor Catherine Douglas Moran, but Hopko is also contributing to ARLnow.
Lene Query joined our company’s business team in May as an Account Executive, alongside Content Manager Turquoise Jackson. Bringing five years of retail and restaurant experience to the job, Lene (pronounced like “Layna”) is now the primary contact for clients seeking to place advertising on ARLnow or our other sites. She can be reached at [email protected] or 703-348-0583.
Jay Westcott will be joining us in September as our first full-time photojournalist. Jay’s 15 years of professional photography experience — he previously worked locally for TBD.com, Politico and the Washington Examiner — will help bring a new visual language to our local news sites and enhance our breaking news coverage. He will also produce video for certain projects.
The new hires will bring Local News Now’s full-time staff count to eight — made possible by our loyal advertisers and patrons, and our hard-working business team. Jordan Ciminelli, who led our business team since September 2017 and played a pivotal role in training and operations, departed earlier this month to join a new venture.
“At a time when local news is facing business model struggles around the country, thanks to our dedicated readers, advertising clients and employees, we’re able to grow as an organization,” said Brodbeck. “Our growth over the last decade has been slow compared to some of the local startups we’ve profiled over the years, but being the proverbial local news tortoise — with a commitment to quality journalism, business innovation and customer service — has allowed us to continue to find success.”