The start-up in action: Stress, suspense, adventure

ocn first issue

In my last post, I expressed concern about the state of the new daily construction newspaper, Ontario Construction News, which launches today. Thankfully, in the past couple of days there have been some encouraging signs. We received our first two orders for Certificate of Substantial Performance (CSP) notice ads — the foundation of this unusual publication’s business model.

Of course, a couple of orders at $249 each doesn’t make a publication viable, but they are indications that there is a market for our offer. The business can be quite profitable with just three orders a day, representing about 10 per cent of the potential market (at a 50 per cent price discount from the competition.)

If you don’t conduct construction business in Ontario, you will likely be puzzled about the “why” behind this business, which demands that we produce a “construction newspaper” in every sense other than it does not need to be printed on newsprint, and mailed through the postal service. Long standing “notice” provisions in Ontario’s former Construction Lien Act were adapted to the new Ontario Construction Act, which require the CSP notices — which indicate the starting time for holdback/claim periods on construction liens, be placed in a daily newspaper serving the province’s construction industry.

Under both the old and new rules, the law is quite specific — you must place one of these notice ads to preserve your lien rights, and you must place it in a specific daily newspaper which contains bidding and tender information, and is focused on the construction industry. In other words, a regular daily newspaper cannot publish these ads/notices.

Clearly these rules narrow the number of potential publishers. Until today, in fact, there was only one — meaning that business had an effective monopoly.

When I saw the new regulations allowing an electronic newspaper last spring, I realized indeed we could enter the business and break that monopoly.? I needed to hold off for a while because of transitional provisions in the Construction Act that make it clear that the old rules apply for projects that either started or were in advance planning stages before July 1, 2018.? But enough time has passed, and so the planning could begin in earnest for the new publication.

I expect, frankly, the hardest but most exhilarating time for this project will be in the next two to three weeks. We’re doing things on a shoestring — I have one part-time contract editor, meaning I must generate a very large percentage of the content in each day’s issue. We have set a three to four day advance publication schedule system, so that we aren’t overburdened with last-minute challenges — essentially preparing the each issue of the publication a couple of days ahead of time. So I’ve been working as if we were publishing daily for the past three days.

But next week, the daily grind I expect will hit, as I burn through the backlog of archived stories/content and we scramble to find fresh material each and every day. Hopefully, the orders will keep coming in, growing from one a day to two, or three or more — and as they do, we’ll have the resources to hire additional staff and pay for freelancers, and make the whole thing work properly.

The load means that Construction Marketing Ideas blogging is becoming intermittent.? I’m learning some interesting things about keyword and Google advertising which I’ll share next week. In the meantime, I’m preparing to hang on for a rather challenging ride. It will be fun.

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