The Drum goes free

Starting today, The Southern Ute Drum is free to pick up at newsstands in La Plata County.

After 44 years as a paid publication – the Drum has been its current price of 25 cents since Feb. 17, 1995 – the Southern Ute Indian Tribe is making the newspaper available to tribal members and others interested in tribal news free of charge. The move is aimed at better fulfilling the Drum’s parent department’s mission of “dissemination of vital tribal information.”

The Drum’s current mail and newsstand circulation is approximately 1,800. The staff anticipates that by offering a free product, the paper’s readership will grow and the print version will complement the Drum’s new website, www.sudrum.com – which also offers the news at no cost.

The paper’s fiscal health will not suffer as a result of the change. Newsstand sales have accounted for just 4 percent of the Drum’s revenue over the past three years. Because the Drum does not use locking newsstands, 87 percent of papers picked up were not paid for anyway, according to internal numbers.

While making money is not part of the Drum’s mission statement, the staff hopes that the change will encourage new advertisers. By growing the paper’s circulation and holding advertising rates steady for the third year in a row, the Drum will become a better deal for tribal members and others looking to promote their businesses and get the biggest impact for their advertising dollar.

The amount of money collected from newsstands over the course of an entire year is roughly equivalent to the price of one half-page ad in one issue.

The staff also considered raising the price of the paper or purchasing locking machines – a five-figure investment – but decided the tribal membership would be best served with both a free newspaper and a free website.

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