Precisely nine years ago this month, the Chestertown Spy began its life as an online news source for a town I had fallen in love with as an undergraduate at Washington College in 1974. The premise was simple enough. By using the extraordinary tools that the internet could provide such as multimedia articles, easy reader access, and relatively low-cost startup, the Spy could be a powerful and useful complement to a legacy weekly newspaper of record.
The business plan was just as simple. Generate enough revenue to cover these costs and provide modest stipends for the Spy’s editors and writers. There was no vision for media domination or commercializing the “product” to monetize investment. The payback would come with a community well informed and respectful of diverse opinion.
Nor was there any guarantee of success. While I had known Chestertown as both a college student and later as a Washington College vice president in the 1980s, it was hard to predict if this would be considered value-added for a community that prided itself on not being an early adapter to most things.
Nine years later, the Chestertown Spy has 15,000 readers a month, reading it on average five times a month. It has attracted over 200 sponsors and has been able to pay its editors and writers the small stipends they richly deserve.
More importantly, the Spy has been able to remain faithful to its mission and aspirations. With 2,000 educational video programs produced, over 10,000 original content articles published, 1,500 local opinion pieces posted, and 15,000 vetted reader comments approved,
With the increased awareness that the Spy was indeed a community asset worthy of philanthropic support, I made arrangements with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to become the Spy’s fiscal partner, allowing us to receive funding from private foundations as a non-profit entity starting in 2013.
All of these ingredients have worked together to keep the Spy afloat over these nine years, but the reality is we, like every nonprofit organization, must seek a highly diverse revenue flow, must now ask you, our gentle reader, to chip in as well.
For the balance of March, the Spy will not be shy about asking for this support. Taking a page out of the playbook of other fundraising programs online, we will have a “pop-up” appear for a few moments to beg the question of a modest monthly contribution or one-time donation to keep the Spy going.
I hope, with your help, the Spy can continue to serve Chestertown for many decades to come with your help.
Please make your contribution here.