The paper you’re holding in your hands, or the website you’re skimming through on your phone or computer, is paid for by Free Times’ advertisers.
It’s been that way for nearly 31 years, since Free Times was launched by Amy Singmaster (then Whitaker) as a beloved arts and entertainment paper that hit the streets of Columbia every other week.
Over the years, Free Times has grown, developing a reputation for robust food and drink coverage, hard-hitting investigative reporting and other critical functions. From award-winning reporting on issues like human trafficking, depression in the music scene, and the perils of Live PD to a cover story on Columbia iconic dishes, we’ve made an impact on local journalism.
But the world has changed, too — especially for newspapers. Take Facebook, for example: The social media juggernaut now sucks up 20 percent of global ad revenue, per Business Insider. That’s advertising money that’s not going to local media.
As ad revenue has gone elsewhere, we’ve gotten creative. We’ve branched out into events: You may have noticed that over the past year we’ve hosted and collaborated on many more events, from a Halloween party to the much-heralded Columbia Food and Wine Festival.
And this week, we’re rolling out a new opportunity for readers. Called Friends With Benefits, the program offers perks — tickets, merchandise — but more importantly, offers you a chance to support Free Times.
Not all of you will be able to open your wallets. There are other ways to help out. Digital traffic helps us make money, so click through to our stories, and share them on social media. Tell our advertisers you saw their ads in Free Times. Call or email us with news tips. Write letters to the editor. Engage.
But if you’ve ever found something important in Free Times — a favorite new musician, the truth about a local politician, even just a dependably challenging crossword puzzle — please consider giving us a little money (or a lot! We won’t say no). We’re free, after all.
To give, check out free-times.com/friends. And thank you.