How the Idaho Statesman Screws Local Small Businesses
We know. We’re one of them! It all started back in the Summer of 2018…
As a local marketing and publishing company (Inbound Systems), we took a look at the Treasure Valley’s “best of” contests and thought something was lacking. Each one was basically a popularity contest and not necessarily indicative of who local residents thought was truly the best.
So, if your competitors had more employees than you, good luck! It’s easier for them to get more votes, regardless of how well they take care of their customers or not.
Online reviews, on the other hand, are much more difficult to fake and manipulate. Sure, it still happens, but it’s just not as easy, right?
This is why we decided to start a “best of” contest that incorporated online reviews and legitimate votes to determine the Treasure Valley’s best companies.
The Best of Treasure Valley Name
We searched high and low for just the right name for our contest. From the start, we debated between Best of Treasure Valley and another name. We even registered both domain names just in case.
Our favorite was Best of Treasure Valley because it incorporated the entire Boise Metro area. However, the Idaho Statesman had run their own contest under that name for several years before. But since we were in the second-half of 2018, and they hadn’t run their contest yet, we wondered if they gave up on it.
To find out, we called the Idaho Statesman on the phone and asked! Sure enough, they had abandoned the Best of Treasure Valley name after their 2017 contest. It turns out that they had been losing money on their contest and were not going to do it again.
With their reassurance, we registered the business name. The State of Idaho even awarded us the trademark. The Best of Treasure Valley name was ours.
The Most Successful Best of Treasure Valley Contest Yet
From the get-go our Best of Treasure Valley contest was a hit. It garnered over 100,000 legitimate votes. It incorporated online reviews so that only the Treasure Valley’s best companies would rise to the top. In the eyes of local residents (and not just employees), it revealed the truly best companies offered by the Treasure Valley. The Awards Banquet was the hottest ticket in town and sold out in just 80 minutes. The first-class Best of Treasure Valley Magazine was distributed to more than just paper newspaper subscribers.
We could go on, but the credit should really go to the Treasure Valley community! We couldn’t have asked for better participation amongst local residents and businesses.
At the same time, we were confused as to why the Idaho Statesman abandoned such a worthwhile venture!
Not Everyone Was Happy
Sure, there were a handful of participants who preferred the Idaho Statesman’s contest over ours. It turns out, these companies tended to be vote manipulators, spamming our system with countless numbers of frivolous votes.
As an example, one contestant had votes coming in from the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer ([email protected]) and other despicable creeps. It turns out they had an in-house employee trying to spam our voting system. While the Idaho Statesman awarded these companies with wins in their contest, we disqualified them in ours.
Working with the Idaho Statesman
Rebecca Poynter, publisher for the Idaho Statesman, called me one day during our contest in November 2018. With her not-so-peachy personality, she wanted to ensure that we weren’t using language to imply that we were running their contest for them.
We complied with her requests, even in ways that seemed over-demanding on her part. But that’s okay, I thought. Boise is a small market and I didn’t want to step on any toes.
Our conversation then turned into how we can work together. In the end, we paid for an announcement in the Idaho Statesman print newspaper to be published immediately after we revealed our winners.
I just want to quickly show where we are at this point…
- The Idaho Statesman didn’t run a 2018 contest.
- The Idaho Statesman told us they abandoned the Best of Treasure Valley name and contest.
- We registered the Best of Treasure Valley name.
- The State of Idaho awarded us the Best of Treasure Valley trademark.
- The Idaho Statesman took our money to print our Best of Treasure Valley announcement in their paper.
- Rebecca Poynter, the president of the Idaho Statesman personally approved our ad.
In a nutshell, we were upfront with the Statesman and they knew what was going on with our contest. Let’s see how they returned the favor.
Fast forward to July 2019… Not to be confused with our contest, the Idaho Statesman started their own Best of Treasure Valley contest again.
No phone call.
No notice of any kind.
The least Rebecca could have done was given me a phone call like she did late last year. But should I really be surprised? She’s barely lived in Boise for a year and probably doesn’t understand our small-town atmosphere yet.
At best, the Statesman could have gone with the name “Reader’s Choice Awards” or something that doesn’t conflict with our contest. Now they’re calling their abandonment a “hiatus.”
Tell me Statesman, how does a hiatus not hurt your credibility?
How does this not cause confusion within our community?
How does this not screw us when we were so transparent and upfront with you?
How does it not screw the small businesses that were counting on your 2018 contest for promoting themselves?
Upon hearing of the disrespectful path taken by the Statesman, I immediately thought about our legal rights and how they were being infringed upon. After personally speaking with several specialized attorneys in this arena, it turns out I was right.
However, being right isn’t enough. Our attorneys also helped me to realize that we didn’t have enough money to fight the behemoth California corporation that owns the Idaho Statesman. (Our “local” paper isn’t even local any more!)
Even if we won in court, we would still lose overall. As much as I want to stick it to the Idaho Statesman based on principle, we’re not going to.
At the same time, it doesn’t make sense to have two Best of Treasure Valley contests. So Idaho Statesman, you win. The Best of Treasure Valley name is all yours.
An Olive Branch
If you can’t beat them, join them, right? I tried to do this too.
I emailed and called Rebecca Poynter several times over the last couple of weeks. My goal was to team up with the Idaho Statesman and package our successful contest for them to buy.
We’d show them how it really needs to be done. We’d show them how to offer better value to local businesses. We’d show them how to run a contest that rewards local residents and local companies with true winners. We’d show them how to host an awards banquet that would be the hottest ticket in town.
We’d show them how to do all the above, without losing money.
After all, we accomplished this our very first year while they failed at it even after several decades.
Eventually Rebecca did reply once with a curt response. Basically, she had everything figured out and wasn’t willing to admit that we could help them out.
This made me laugh out loud, actually. She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know!
Case In Point: Their 2019 contest nominees are chosen by Idaho Statesman staff rather than Treasure Valley residents. I’m confused… Is it the Best of Treasure Valley or Best of Idaho Statesman??
Case In Point #2: The Statesman calls their contest the “gold standard of area ‘Best of’ contests.” Again, I’m confused… How can you be the gold standard if you take a year off??
The Future is Still Being Written
If you’ve ever rebranded a company, you understand how difficult and time-consuming it is. That is the choice we’re up against now.
Do we move on? Or do we run the contest under a different name?
Well, we’re in the middle of researching all our possibilities and consulting our contestants from last year. Stay tuned, as we will be making an announcement very shortly.
Why Did I Write This Article?
I realize my explanation/rant/announcement isn’t going to sit well with all people, especially those over at the Idaho Statesman.
At the same time, I feel we were very disrespected by them. We were amicable, but our transparency wasn’t reciprocated in the least. So, the first reason was to reveal what the Idaho Statesman did. I felt I needed to share my thoughts and opinions of their self-serving actions.
Most importantly, we have a very active and inquisitive following! I knew we would receive a lot of questions about why we weren’t running the Best of Treasure Valley contest any longer. I simply wanted to pre-empt those questions as a courtesy to our followers.
Third, we have a bright future and I wanted to share our optimism about it. Whether or not that includes running the true gold standard of “Best of” contests here in the Treasure Valley, only time will tell.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!