Reeder Media turns to digital marketing to serve advertisers

Teri Saylor

Special to Publishers' Auxiliary

Aug 1, 2021


As the newspaper landscape has evolved, so has Reeder Media of Fallbrook, California.

Reeder Media’s journey started in 1998 when Julie Reeder launched the Village News. Eight years later, in 2001, the Valley News came on board. Over time, the company added magazines including the Greater Fallbrook Area Sourcebook and the Southwest Riverside County Cancer Resource Guide.

Reeder doesn’t have a journalism degree, but she has been steeped in newspapers her entire career, starting in her late teens when she worked in tearsheeting down in the basement of the Los Angeles Times. She got married and started a family before activating her entrepreneurial skills and establishing the Village News in Fallbrook.

“We had lost our newspaper here in Fallbrook,” she said.

The Fallbrook Enterprise was the town’s first weekly newspaper and had been publishing there since 1910. By 1997, the Enterprise and the North County Times had been purchased by the Chicago-based Tribune Company. In September 1997, the Enterprise was assimilated into a zone of the North County Times, Reeder said.

“Readers and advertisers here were disappointed not to have their local newspaper anymore,” she added. “Advertisers were struggling because they missed having affordable advertising options, and they missed the long shelf-life weekly newspapers have on the newsstands.”

Although a labor of love, starting a newspaper was not the best financial decision Reeder has ever made, she admitted.

“If I had been working for someone else for the last 23 years, I would be in a much better position, but I believe local newspapers are important, and I believe local news is vital to our communities,” she said. “It has just been tough financially.”

Over time, Reeder has added in a variety of digital services for clients, including search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation, reputation management, branding and others.

“We started our digital marketing agency because as the world became more digital, we wanted to be able to help our customers with their marketing and social media,” Reeder said. “Our clients range from nonprofits to mom-and-pop businesses to larger companies.”

One of their clients is a local nonprofit food pantry that is organizing a major fundraising golf tournament. Reeder media designed a special package to serve all the pantry’s tournament marketing needs.

“We do all their newspaper advertising, social media management and digital marketing,” Reeder said.

Reeder Media serves communities in the northernmost region of San Diego County and southwest Riverside County. The Village News, a weekly with a circulation of 5,000, covers the towns of Fallbrook and Bonsall.

The Valley News has a weekly circulation of around 20,000 and covers Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Winchester, Menifee, Hemet and San Jacinto.

“At one time, the newspapers had separate offices, but we have consolidated them in Fallbrook to save money,” Reeder said. “Most of our Valley News employees work from home.”

Reeder Media runs its newspapers and digital services with 22 employees and a variety of independent contractors. Reeder admits she has learned to do a lot of work with little staff, and she works about 60 hours a week.

Fallbrook is a Census Designated Place (CDP), a populated area recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, but without incorporation or any municipal government. Its population was 31,701 in 2019. Fallbrook sits about 56 miles northwest of San Diego.

The last decade hasn’t been kind. In 2008, following the worst economy in decades, a series of fires devastated communities around Fallbrook. Both blows were hard to overcome. Just as Reeder and her team were starting to move past those tough times, COVID-19 struck, the economy shut down and Reeder’s business took a nosedive, particularly newspaper advertising. Reeder says the year has been challenging.

“Our hospitals, which were good advertisers, didn’t need to advertise because they were full,” she said. “Walmart didn’t need to advertise because it was packed with shoppers. Our car dealers didn’t have the stock, and our mom and pops were shut down or didn’t have enough money to advertise.”
Reeder turned to her digital services and magazines to try to make up for the losses, she said.

On the news side, as in most newsrooms, reporters were not able to cover the news in person for an entire year. They resorted to watching local government meetings on Zoom channels, which makes it hard to provide full coverage for readers. Local events were also canceled, and beyond COVID-19 coverage, news was almost as scarce as advertising.

“It was just about constantly being creative and figuring out ways to do more with less,” Reeder said.

Despite the gloomy economy and downtrodden environment, readers are faithful, and circulation is on the rise, she added. She has converted the free-circulation Valley News to paid, and that is helping.

She also tapped into CARES Act programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program, and secured a loan through Mission Driven Finance, a local organization that offers low-interest loans to businesses benefiting their community and enacting positive social change.

“These programs helped us get through a tough time,” Reeder said.

Reeder Media’s newspapers continue to be popular and well-read, combining print with online platforms. About five or six years ago, social media drove about half of the newspapers’ online traffic, but now that volume has dropped to 25% with more readers going directly to the websites, which Reeder prefers. The websites get about 150,000 unique visitors per month. She installed paywalls on the website two years ago, a move that has proven successful.

For the future, Reeder is focused on becoming more reader-supported while continuing to grow advertising. She is also focusing on quality reporting and delivering meaningful news and information to the communities her newspapers serve.

“Our goal is for our communities to realize the value and importance of having reporters who are watching city governments and school districts in an in-depth way,” she said. “The future of community news is really going to depend on our ability to deliver stories our readers can’t find anywhere else.”

Teri Saylor is a writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her at