Ryan Boulton is a sports nut. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, really; it’s the thrill of human endeavour that he finds appealing. Ryan is also a writer and a photographer with a real commitment to journalism.
A graduate of the journalism program at Loyalist College, Ryan took a different route to the employment scene. As his classmates were applying to newspapers all over the country, Ryan was making his own decisions and launched his very own newspaper, right here in Simcoe County. He saw it as the best way to ensure his career as a sports writer.
Since Ryan is 21 years old, this represents a real challenge, a certain risk, and a learning curve that’s going to put him way ahead of his peers! His bank loan, his business plan, his background as a kid who grew up in a family business… these are a few of the things that separate him from his “employee” colleagues.
Simcoe Sportscaster is a 12 page tabloid sports newspaper that’s totally devoted to covering local sports. You won’t catch last night’s Leafs game in the Simcoe Sportscaster, but you will catch the results of high school basketball, precision skating, local wrestling matches, with opportunity for feedback and thoughtful editorial stimulation.
Not only is Ryan writer and photographer, he’s also using his design skills to assemble all the visuals and uses desktop publishing software to produce his pages.
He makes appointments and sales pitches to potential advertisers. He negotiates advertising costs. designs ads, puts them together, slots them into pages. Then he takes his pages up to Central Ontario Web where he pays to print 5,000 copies.
And then Ryan the circulation department, loads the Simcoe Sportscaster into his car and, with his brother, drives around southern Simcoe County, unbundling and setting up stacks of newspapers in stands at 170 locations. Since the Simcoe Sportscaster, like the Barrie Advance, is free of charge to its readers, it enjoys a high readership and lots of interest. Ryan says that a minimum of 4,600 issues are picked up every two weeks when the paper comes out. He’s retrieving only 400 unread copies when he distributes his next issue. Last September, he’d pick up 1,300 unread copies.
Ryan is head researcher, too, and knows that he has 5,500 readers each issue, with average age of 25-50, more men than women. He feels there’s a big market for local sports, and says that if he had the advertising to support it, he has enough sports news to put out a weekly sports paper.
I think it’s wonderful that Ryan has extended his education past just writing. He understands how much money his advertising has to earn in order to support the other costs of producing his bi-weekly sports paper. He understands the importance of circulation, of getting his paper into his readers’ hands. He knows the basics of writing and photography and his newspaper ownership experience is teaching him that while people pick it up for the words and pictures, it’s the supporting advertising that’s getting it on the newstands at all.
Quite an undertaking for a 21 year old. He’s expanding into Orillia now and wants his newspaper to cover all Simcoe County sports news and be available weekly rather than twice monthly.
Ryan’s had lots of surprises since starting this publication two seasons ago. “I didn’t realize how difficult it is to make a great name for yourself; it takes time.”
He’s right there. As a former privately owned weekly editor, I know first hand the pain of trying to provide news coverage on topics that are hard to sell ads for. It’s a fine line between producing a viable product and paying the bills. Often, it’s the content which has to support the advertising interests. Ryan’s ambition is applaudable; when he’s ready to change what he’s doing, he’ll find that along with his journalism diploma, he’s just earned his MBA (Masters of Business Administration); he won’t have earned it from the classroom, though. He’ll have learned it by doing it.
“The hardest part has been turning myself from a sportswriter into a businessman,” he said to me when I called him last week. “I’m a journalist first. But it’s hard to do it all. I have lots of energy, though.”