2017 Misssippi Vallery Blues Festival Downtown Davenport, Iowa

The River Cities' Reader begins its 25th year of publishing this Fall. With the domination of big social media, independent publishers like the Reader must establish a direct transactional relationship with its readership, or perish.

Over the decades, our readers and advertisers have repeatedly told us how important the locally-owned Reader, and its coverage, are to the Quad Cities' vitality and culture.

It's often what has kept us going.

Readers have told us everything from, “I would have moved away from the Quad Cities if it wasn't for the Reader telling me how much is really going on here to “You never leave anyone out” to “It's the key to the Quad Cities' culture.”

We've often reminded readers to patronize and thank the advertisers who have helped make these 24 years possible. Now, we're wagering these readership sentiments will convert into value-for-value memberships. With just 4,500 readers becoming paid members, (~1% of the region's population), we will have the foundation for another 25 years of independent media.

Beginning October 1, we will provide full Web-site access to our archived and new content, including the region's most comprehensive events and entertainment calendar, to paid members who subscribe for $4.99 per month or $50 each year. Throughout September, readers who sign up for a free user account can continue to access all online content complimentary.

Our increased membership value includes enhancements to event calendar notifications and planning tools, the QuadCitiesDiningGuide.com Web site, and QCAToday.com, the local/state news release and headline aggregator.

Printed Monthly, Once Again

Beginning with this current edition, the Reader's print publishing schedule will go from every other week (26 editions annually) to 12 monthly printed editions per year.

When we started publishing in 1993, we were monthly for 23 issues. We then published weekly for 13 years before going bi-weekly in 2009. The Quad Cities' Dining Guide will continue to be published twice per year as a printed supplement.

We'll provide 15,000 printed copies each month to over 300 local businesses, schools, and institutions where readers can continue to enjoy a complimentary guide to what's new and going on in the Quad Cities.

Each monthly edition will have the events calendar listing approximately 400 events organized by 18 categories of things to do. The new monthly edition will also include excerpts from our Quad Cities' Dining Guide, providing more keys to this region's culture. And the quarterly seasonal guides will remain opportunities for cover-page sponsor packages.

Expanding What's Happenin'

What's Happenin' is expanding to include 8-10 Reader-staff recommendations every week online. We figure less lengthy, more frequent updates on the most compelling, and oftentimes mind-expanding, things to do in the Quad Cities will have more value to members.

You can subscribe for complimentary e-mail updates about new content and a weekly rundown of What's Happenin' at RCReader.com.

Your Anonymous Feedback

We're keeping guest commentaries; local-theatre reviews; Mike Schulz's movie reviews; columns from Rich Miller, Amy Alkon, and Rob Brezsny; images from the QC Photography Club; Art in Plain Sight; the crossword; and the Red Meat cartoon in print and online … until our readers tell us otherwise.

As you consider a $4.99 per month (or $50 per year) membership commitment, please give us your anonymous feedback. On a scale of 0 to 10, how important are these and other weekly online Reader features in regard to you becoming a member? You can complete a short anonymous survey, from any Web-enabled device, at RCReader.com/ask1.

Fun Form + Easy Function = Great Design

And to help mark our 25th year of being a key to the Quad Cities' culture, we're expanding the annual photo contest into monthly, themed photography and design awards. Check out the publishing calendar and deadlines printed on page 33 for a list of those themes and how to participate.

This expansion includes inviting Reader members to score the photography and design submissions every month along with the Reader staff. We're envisioning two sub-categories for each theme: imaging and design.

Great design can drive great experiences. But even the hippest-looking new dining spot will wither without good service and great food.

For readers who had a frustrating experience at our Web site prior to 2017, please give RCReader.com another shot. We've worked hard to migrate our 35,000+ original articles, and nearly as many news releases, to a new content-management platform that loads very fast and easy, on all devices. And we continue to enhance the Web site's functionality with a more valuable membership experience in mind.

Second to None

The Reader Calendar is second to none in this region, and is testimony to our Arts Editor Mike Schulz's 22 years of service and dedication that helped establish this publication as such a key to the Quad Cities' culture.

If you have not visited RCReader.com/calendar, please do so today. Many have tried to duplicate. All have failed.

Beyond its exhaustive thoroughness, our event calendar also has tools that allow you to create your own saved calendar of flagged events. After searching over 1,300 events or sorting from 18 categories, you can request e-mail or text notifications and share with friends. Mapping for each event's venue will be implemented in September, along with search-by-location, too.

The Reader's commitment to area theatre and movies is also second to none. Our Web site's theatre-review index includes coverage of (at present) 882 local stage productions. Schulz's movie-review index (currently) boasts 2,683 titles since 2000 – and for you Oscar buffs, his award coverage and “best of the year” picks go back 17 years.

Print Is Not Dead?

People still really appreciate a printed piece of information, and so do we. All the events and programming that you can search, save, and share at our Web site are also re-printed in the pages of this edition. To continue providing a printed edition of this calendar and more, we will continue to provide paid advertising space in the monthly print edition.

We will be partnering with our advertisers to provide even more value where it makes the most sense. For instance, in this Fall Guide, the full event descriptions are printed for all the venues that have advertised in these pages since 2016. We'll always remain agnostic and inclusive for event calendar information. Publishing hyper-local, accurate, and continuously updated data is one way the Reader can do what big social media can't.

Our readership's continued support for our advertisers is greatly appreciated. They continue to invest in reaching you with their message because you respond. Please continue to let the advertisers you see here know how much you appreciate their support for our Quad Cities' culture. A little bit goes a long way. Just as we value a direct transactional relationship with you, so do our advertisers. Thanking the advertisers you see in these pages is more meaningful than any number of “likes” on social media.

Is This What a Free Press Looks Like?

“What about our commitment to independent journalism?” some may ask. We've published hundreds upon hundreds of in-depth stories and investigations. We've covered more third-rail topics in 24 years than two daily papers combined in twice that time. And we can count on one hand the number of corrections we've had to print along the way.

The departure of our managing editor Jeff Ignatius, after 17 years, is a tough one. Very few can condense complex issues and data into understandable insights like Jeff Ignatius, and he will be sorely missed. But he left us with audio archives of over 500 artist and news-source interviews we intend to mine, and good ideas for new future content we think members will value.

In the meantime, we are struck by the words of Noam Chomsky, included below. Please heed them when and wherever you consider meaningful debate to be occurring.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

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