By Kevin King, Partnerships · October 28, 2020
Kevin King is Head of Partnerships at Column. He builds and maintains working relationships with associations and enterprise publishers to help in their efforts to improve public notice.
Over the past 18 months, I've met with state press associations across the country to discuss the urgent and mission-critical importance of improving public notice. For decades, press associations have served as front-line defenders of the responsibility local newspapers hold in the distribution of public interest information to their communities. At Column, we've built the first collaborative platform to fortify the role of journalists as the distributors of public notice and deliver a modern experience for the individuals and entities required to publish notices.
I've presented on Column's work for a variety of industry conferences, newspaper owners, public notice committees, boards of directors and association staff. Each presentation has spurred interesting questions, thoughtful discussions and unique challenges for Column to consider in the development of our solutions.
Over time, our team has gained a deeper insight and understanding of how to best serve as a technology partner for a state association. To that end, we have now formalized and standardized our offering for state press associations through the Column Partner Program.
Here is how the Partner Program works:
1) We build cutting edge technology for you. Column is a fully aligned technology partner powered by a team of principled engineers, designers and communicators. For Column Partners, we dedicate our time, resources and talent to support a diverse range of program initiatives, member services and special projects that can go beyond public notice. Have an idea for something you've been hoping to build? We can help.
Currently, our partners can take advantage of any or all of our software services, including modern statewide public notice websites, a collaborative public notice platform for members, and a set of donation tools for coordinating fundraising campaigns.
2) Participation in the Partner Program is free of charge. For too long, technology vendors and development agencies have over-priced and under-delivered for the local media industry — the same goes for their associations. This is due to a lack of empathy. We believe true change and true innovation comes from long-term incentive alignment, not short-term scope-of-works. We don't want to build something and then charge you a licensing fee to use it. We want to build solutions that become new lines of business for you, your members and Column.
3) We share our revenue. Column's business is built on a processing fee that we charge to folks who use our collaborative public notice platform to submit notices to a newspaper. For association partners that join the Column Partner Program, we offer a share of the processing fee revenue we generate from the use of our platform in your state.
4) We show up. In early 2020, the Kansas state legislature considered eliminating the publication of storage notices in local newspapers. Alarmed by the proposed legislation, the Kansas Press Association sought to defend storage notices, which provide a valuable source of revenue for local newspapers. But first, KPA needed to prove that publishing storage notices wasn't nearly as expensive as the unit owners claimed. Luckily, KPA had enlisted Column as their aligned technology partner. We provided KPA with a data-driven report refuting the claims made by proponents of the legislation. For all members of the Column Partner Program, we stand ready to help, augment and strengthen your public affairs strategies. Read more about it in our case study.
5) We move with speed and focus. We helped the Colorado Press Association, a member of the Column Partner Program, transition their membership onto a new and improved statewide public notice website in just under four weeks. CEO of CPA Jill Farschman shared, "Column is the friendliest, most patient, competent and responsive partner I've ever worked with in my long and eclectic career." Read more about our transition of publicnoticecolorado.com.
6) Have an idea? We will listen and deliver. Recently, we were approached with an idea to develop a set of tools to support the foundation branch of a press association in coordinating a donation campaign for members. We couldn't imagine a better way to leverage our technical expertise to advance our mission of supporting journalism. In a matter of weeks, we built and deployed our tools for partners in Kansas and Florida. Check out the campaign coordinated by the Kansas Newspaper Foundation.
We are not naive to the fact that trying anything new will raise objections. Often, those objections can lead to misconceptions. Here are a few things the Column Program is not:
1) We do not seek to be a vendor to associations. We seek to be a partner. A vendor simply supplies a product or service. Partners, on the other hand, become an extension of each other's businesses. A partner assists in developing opportunities by contributing knowledge, expertise and resources as needed. At Column, our expertise is building useful technology. For our partners, their expertise is how to support their members and, of course, public notice. The most notable distinction that makes Column a partner and not a vendor is that associations and their members do not pay to use our tools.
2) We are not disintermediating newspapers. Column is a collaborative tool for newspaper staff and their customers to manage the public notice process. Column is not an adjudicated publisher of notices — nor will we ever seek to be. We provide software to simplify the print production of notices and offer modern notice search sites for newspapers and state associations to host on their websites.
3) We are not an agency. We've heard from a handful of folks that are concerned Column will come in between their staff and their clients — in the same way placement agencies have for years. For too long, placement agencies have diverted notice revenue away from trusted news sources and exacted opaque, inequitable commission for doing so. Rather than replace or subvert relationships between staff and their customers, we look for our technology to enhance them. No one has taken this approach before. Recently, our Head of Customer Experience, Kevin Richman, explained our approach to putting customers at the center.
One of our guiding operating principles at Column is to Intentionally Build Community — which is exactly what we seek to do with our partners. Together, we are building a movement across the industry aimed at modernizing a range of challenges facing community journalism. As a Column Partner, you will have access to resources like our Column Partner Community Slack Channel, early looks at new products, and support in your member programming (webinars, conferences, etc).
We believe that impactful information should be distributed by way of professional storytellers that communities trust to ask hard questions. If journalists are to remain the distribution mechanism for public notice, then change must come from within the industry. That is our position. That is why we've built the Column Partner Program.
With 2021 legislative sessions right around the corner, we believe press associations are uniquely positioned to lead from the front on defining the future of public notice. We stand ready and willing to help every association looking to deliver a modern solution for their state, for their members and for their communities. To get started, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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