Paula Routly / Seven Days

Start Here Podcast | Episode #87 | 2/15/24

This week we sat down with Paula Routly, co-founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of the legendary Seven Days. This ex-ballerina, Middlebury College alumna, and beloved Vermonter has done it all. Tune in for Paula’s compelling career advice for young writers, thoughts on succession planning, and invaluable insights on how she has kept local journalism alive and well for nearly 30 years.




Paula Routly  00:00

There was this awful negotiation we, we came forward so we wanted to buy the newspaper that we had created but and they were willing to sell it but with all the strings attached, we ended up walking away. And it was very dramatic. They told us they were going to bury us. And we in six weeks we started seven days.


Sam RG  00:20

from Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies it start here a podcast sharing the stories of active aspiring and accidental entrepreneurs. Today we sit down with Paula Routley, co founder of seven days, Vermont’s beloved independent weekly newspaper. Welcome. This is Sam Roach-Gerber and David Bradbury recording from the Consolidated Communications Technology hub in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Hi, Paula.


Paula Routly  00:20



David Bradbury  00:32

Paula. I’m so stoked. You’re here.


Sam RG  00:50

I’m two for two I got Paul to do female founders and now the podcast that’s kind of a big deal.


David Bradbury  00:56

Gold Medal. Like literally no one gets that. So thank you for placing your trust in us and willing to share a little bit about your journey.


Paula Routly  01:03

Oh, absolutely and this is our one week off of the year. We aren’t actually putting a newspaper together so the timing is perfect.


David Bradbury  01:10

So had there actually been snow on the ground and something worth snowshoeing or cross country skiing, you would have canceled?


Paula Routly  01:17



David Bradbury  01:18

Okay. Alright, nevermind





Paula Routly  01:21

I’ve skied to work a few times.


David Bradbury  01:23

That’s so Vermonty.


Sam RG  01:25

Hopefully, we’ll get back there one day,


David Bradbury  01:27

I snowboarded down College Street once in college


Paula Routly  01:31

That can be dangerous, actually.


David Bradbury  01:33

A lot about those days are dangerous. But that was that was fun one. So Alright, so let’s get to it.


Sam RG  01:37

It’s amazing you’ve made it this far. All right, Paula, let’s just talk about life before Vermont. Tell me about you as a kid, what were you like?



I would say I was enterprising. Yeah. My parents were, they had this, their greatest fear was that we’d be spoiled. And so they instilled this work ethic. Early on, it was like anything I wanted, I had to basically pay for or pay half. So um, you know, from a very young age, I was trying to find ways to make money, which was, must have been alarming for the neighbors. But you know, I wanted to bicycle have to come up with 60 bucks or bicycle, better bicycle, you know, whatever, whatever the half the price was. And so I was, you know, selling Christmas cards door to door in the summer alone as a kid and


David Bradbury  02:41

Hold on who buys Christmas cards in the summer? Must have been very persuasive.



who feel sorry for this little kid who’s needed a bicycle ringing doorbell? Yeah, I mean, I remember, like, dragging a wagon around with, you know, junk from the basement and trying to sell that. But it was, you know, as I paid for these things, I was taught like accounting, like basic accounting, you know, payment, the balance gets smaller and smaller. So, I do think that was I mean, at the time, it was annoying, but now I appreciate it.


Sam RG  03:15

Yeah, but it felt like a little bit of an overcorrection on there.



And it felt I mean, it was kind of a game. It’s not like we were, you know, they could have bought me the bike. But, but it did instill in me this, I mean, a sense of agency, I guess like if you want something, you can for work for it. And I had that from a very early age. And then I actually got interested in ballet. And so as a teenager, I was devoted to that, go to school, and then the afternoon.  I would, you know, do my dance studies. And it was really intense. It’s, it’s more competitive than professional sports, there’s very few opportunities, professional opportunity. So I, you know, went to New York, when I was 17 and, um, was at the Joffrey school like, you know, sort of pipeline. But there’s a lot of people that are in that pipeline. So I made a decision at 17 that I was not going to do it professionally. Yeah. But it also like, instilled and you know, this drive in me. That has been helpful.


Sam RG  03:18

Not to mention just great posture lifelong, which I might look at. I can tell dancers on like, damn, yeah, I wonder hunched over here



Do you know any ballerina who’s now a publisher?


Paula Routly  04:47



David Bradbury  04:47

Have you ever met anybody else.



I do remember that. You know, Kevin McKenzie, of McKenzie meats. He’s one of the most successful male ballet dancers in the world.


Sam RG  04:58



Paula Routly  04:58

Yeah, most people don’t know that.


Sam RG  05:00

My god


Paula Routly  05:03

came back to and you know, had a presentation here and said, you know, if you want to hire a good employee hire an ex ballet dancer


David Bradbury  05:14

Can handle pain are committed.


Paula Routly  05:15



David Bradbury  05:16



Sam RG  05:16

certainly Dave and I also like hiring bartenders or like retail workers because, yeah, social work hard


David Bradbury  05:23

and deal with whatever walks through the door.


Sam RG  05:26

Totally. Okay.


David Bradbury  05:28

Where did you grow up?



I was born in California. We lived in Princeton, New Jersey for a while, but mainly I grew up in outside of DC.


David Bradbury  05:36

Got it? Okay. So in California, that’s why you can sell Christmas cards in July. It’s not like a snow changes season thing. Okay. I get that. And you’re midd kid? Yeah, right? You went to Middlebury.



I went to summer camp in the Adirondacks. And that was the only thing that I did. That wasn’t ballet. I was really, I love this area. And when I came to visit Middlebury, looking across the lake and seeing where I went to camp was a big selling point. I also really like languages and all those things.


Sam RG  06:10

Was that like a? I’m just thinking about, like, 17, 18 year old Paula, like, deciding to leave ballet and then like, what was that transition to like, Okay, I’m gonna go to Middlebury


Paula Routly  06:21



Sam RG  06:21

Yeah, I bet



I, I wrote my essay, my college essay about, you know, I had this dream, and it didn’t, it didn’t happen. But I was so young. It’s like, a strange experience to have something I wanted so desperately and basically had to give up. But it made me you know, a little more mature, maybe in some ways. Otherways, like, I’d never been to a college dance. I’d never kissed a boy. I mean, I was, in some ways,


David Bradbury  06:50

Oh and Middlebury was fine being runner up. And they said, Yes. Anyway, I love it.



I’m sure that sounds is runner up at all.


Sam RG  07:00

So tell me about like, what, you know, what, what was sort of transformative about your Middlebury experience? Why did you want to stay in Vermont?


Paula Routly  07:08

I loved I mean, what I loved about Middlebury and Vermont is that was I coming from a suburban Maryland, where, you know, things were developing really fast. So I’d fall in love with a landscape. And the next week we’d be like, staked for a housing development. So I loved being in a town, you know, sidewalks and, like a walkable place, basically a real community. I never, we never I’d never experienced that in Maryland. And so um, but I didn’t, I didn’t, I left the middlebury after I, after my freshman year, I didn’t think I wanted to stay there. And I went out west and hiked a big chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail, and went to New Zealand, biking. And I thought I wanted to go to a big university out west, but then I decided now I really like it. I like Vermont, I like, the landscape. I love the landscape out West, but coming back here, just felt like home. And it’s it feels like landscape is meant to be inhabited. So I came back, came back and started summer school. I did Italian summer school. And that’s how I got back in to the College Track. Took me an extra year, but then went to Africa. I mean, I just I was very, I had a lot of wanderlust, but I did finally finish and in ’83


David Bradbury  08:33

What did you, what was your degree in?


Paula Routly  08:35

French and Italian


David Bradbury  08:36

French and Italian. Oh, I wish I could speak either. I would have just


Sam RG  08:41

I know


David Bradbury  08:41

Given a witty reply


Sam RG  08:42

We can throw it in there.


David Bradbury  08:43

Can we dub that?


Sam RG  08:44

Yeah yeah


Paula Routly  08:45

It was a great way to take a lot of different things in those languages. But you know, I, if I could do it again, I’d probably major on something more practical.


Sam RG  08:57

I was just talking to a friend about man, if I could go back to college. Now, can you imagine


David Bradbury  08:59

what would you do?


Sam RG  09:02

I have a few different ideas. I’m working on it. I assume I’ll be able to do it at some point.


David Bradbury  09:09

Now you gotta give us a hint. Right. Weren’t you environmental studies


Sam RG  09:13

I did do environmental studies. Yeah. I feel like it’d be a really good investigator


David Bradbury  09:19

Oh it’s the murder podcast that she likes to listen to probably


Sam RG  09:22

I knew I was gonna get judgment here.


David Bradbury  09:24

Yeah okay. No judgment just, Well, I guess a little bit judgment right end of the year stuff. How’d you meet your co founder for Seven Days?


Paula Routly  09:33

Actually, that goes back to Middlebury. She remember the alibi. It was a bar in Middlebury back when the drinking age was 18?


Sam RG  09:43

No, but sounds like a great time.


Paula Routly  09:45

It was a roadhouse bar, amazing bar.


Sam RG  09:48

Also amazing name for a bar.


David Bradbury  09:51

Yeah, right.


Sam RG  09:52

My God, right. Yeah.


Paula Routly  09:53

And she, she’s 11 years older than me. She won’t want me to mention but her band The Decents played there.


David Bradbury  10:01

Oh, cool.


Paula Routly  10:02

And so I saw her on stage and I’ve written about this. But you know, I still think it’s so interesting that somebody tapped me on the shoulder at that moment and said, that’s going to be your business partner. It was literally she was like Chrissy Hind, you know onstage amazing performer


David Bradbury  10:22

Pamela Pulson should probably say her name. The legend, the legend. Hi, Pamela.


Paula Routly  10:29

\But I didn’t know her then, of course, I just saw. So that was the first sighting. And then later after milligray, moved to Burlington, and she was, I think she was the arts editor of the Vanguard then. And my first job out of college was at the Flynn, Flynn was just starting. So I had this great internship there. And I did membership, education, and marketing, and had to learn how to do graphic design. I mean, it’s just whatever they needed,


David Bradbury  10:59

all those things that probably came in handy along the way.


Paula Routly  11:02

And then I convinced them to hire me after the internship for you know, a job basically the same job, but I started writing dance reviews for the Vanguard. Because it was only thing I knew anything about. So I was writing PR stuff for the Flynn. And at the same time, I started writing reviews whenever there was a dance show. And that’s how I got into journalism. It was very unusual. Because being a critic is there was no one to quote, it’s not like you can


Sam RG  11:41

You really find your own voice.


Paula Routly  11:45

Yeah And I had the voice and the, the, the content is very, you know French terms for all the movements you have to make it accessible.


David Bradbury  11:55

Someone like me needs to be able to understand it


Paula Routly  11:57

Exactly and if you didn’t go to the show, you don’t know what the movements are called and yet have to make it make you want to read it.


David Bradbury  12:06

That’s, so did you write the review in Baryshnikov? Was it the Flynn? Were you still doing that?


Paula Routly  12:10

I think that it must have that must have been before I started doing this because he was done but then think


David Bradbury  12:17

I’ve been asked over the years like what’s a Vermont experience my greatest day. I snowboard in the morning shared a chairlift with Jake Burton carpenter. Came to work met with a cancer research team at UVM about a startup and that night sitting in like Row eight watched the Baryshnikov dance at the Flynn.


Paula Routly  12:34

What year was it?


David Bradbury  12:35

I can’t remember but it was an awesome moment. Yeah, no, literally, burned in my mind. I like, that’s why I live in Vermont.


Paula Routly  12:41

I didn’t even know he had been here. You’re lucky that many people


David Bradbury  12:47

I feel fortunate. Yeah, it was a pretty. It was magic. I’m not really into ballet a whole lot. Until then.


Sam RG  12:56

So, So while you worked at the Flynn, sounds like you picked up a ton of different skills. Tell us about the start of Seven Days. That was ’95. Right?


Paula Routly  13:06

Yeah. Pamela and I were. So Pamela and I, our lives kept crossing in these weird ways like intersecting and crossing and


Sam RG  13:14

I love those serendipitous relationships.


Paula Routly  13:18

It’s too complicated to explain. But I ended up being the arts editor at Vermont Times, which was the successor publication to the Vanguard. And Pamela was freelancing for me. So we literally switched roles. She was writing for me. And I was editing. And the Vermont Times was sort of a flawed concept. It was supposed to be Chittenden County’s community newspaper. Chittenden County isn’t really a community. It has little communities, but


David Bradbury  13:50

Don’t tell them that.


Paula Routly  13:51

Well. I mean, they’re just, we wrote a lot about route seven. And there was this very lively Art section, but it wasn’t the arts and the news were very different animals. And so now Winthrop, who’s the publisher at the time, had this idea of splitting off the arts and making a separate publication entirely. And he asked me if I would spearhead that. And of course, I said, yes, it was like, it’s amazing opportunity. And I called Pamela who is very good at design, and like, you know, packaging. And so together we, we created this newspaper called Vox. You might not remember this, but it was very short lived. We loved it. We looked it was really funky and artsy, and it was all arts, of course,


Sam RG  14:46

Magazine ish?


Paula Routly  14:47

Kind of. And the calendar was in there and we felt like it was our newspaper because we had designed it and conceptualized it and and so we were selling it. We were out in the parking lot, shopping center parking lots put shoving in people’s bags. I mean, we were, we were doing much more than then writers usually do. And then we sort of got to sales and started nudging the salespeople. Like, why don’t you approach this record? Back in the old days when record companies bought ads, we started thinking like publishers, you know, we realized the only way this is going to work is if we get advertising to support it. So it was all going very well, until we found out the whole thing was for sale. So the whole company was for sale. And we had created this second newspaper for them. And there was this awful negotiation, we, we came forward, so we wanted to buy that newspaper that we had created, but and they were willing to sell it. But with all these strings attached, like, you know, we’d have to, we’d have to promise to not put news in the paper ever. Like, we would have to print with them for five or 10 years. I can’t remember which one it was. And they wanted, you know, money for it. So we ended up walking away. And it was very dramatic. They told us they were going to bury us. And we in six weeks, we started Seven Days. Did everything, raised all the money. Got in the office, hired the people, wrote the first issue, and we neither one of us had ever been in business. Yeah, outside of the sort of Christmas card thing. Yeah.


David Bradbury  16:35

Well, I mean, hey,


Paula Routly  16:38

yeah, like, basically take a chance on us, you know, us, you know, our names, people in this community, but as an advance, without seeing, the product.


David Bradbury  16:51

So it was like crowdfunding, in a way, right? Yeah,



back in the old days, and, and we knew that we had one shot, you know, like, we knew it was going to be free. So it was going to be out there. And if people consumed that, we were if people picked it up and liked it, we had a circulation. And if they picked it up and never picked it up again, we were done.


David Bradbury  17:15

So Wow. So I want to get to the why you and Pamela leaped into this. Was it just a love of the arts and a love of writing? And it was sort of just promoting that to Vermont? Or was it like, oh, wow, this is an awesome business. And, and this is our niche to own something and build something.


Paula Routly  17:39

We saw the niche. Maybe we didn’t see it quite like entrepreneurs at first. But it didn’t take long. We both we identified like a cultural consumer, this is this is this was the idea sort of market. The market research to the extent that we did any for Seven Days, we saw that there were people who had traveled to Burlington for arts, food, I mean, culture expanded beyond arts. And there are people in rural Burlington who would go out to rural spots if there was an amazing art show or something. So we saw these, this these people moving, consuming culture in Vermont, and there was so much of it, that we’re aware of. That was our that was our customer, I guess you could call it and businesses too were trying to attract, those are the the customers that would


David Bradbury  18:43

Of any of the owners or the arts hosts in Northfield, or Whitewriver, or


Paula Routly  18:48

Yeah so, it wasn’t everybody in Northfield, that might be interested in buying us it’s the destination advertiser. It’s not unlike Vermont public, sort of a, you know, educated cultural consumer. I think they target the same. That’s their listener to some degree. But I think we we were right, you know, based on the growth of the paper, and then at a certain point, so for seven years, we had no reporters, we panel and I did it  basically wrote the whole thing with freelancers.


David Bradbury  19:22

Sam, I told you, it could only be done with two and a half people.


Paula Routly  19:28

The hardest. The hardest moment was after the first issue came out. We realized, oh my god, it’s Wednesday. We have to do this again.


Sam RG  19:35

That’s what I was gonna say. So it was weekly from the start. Yeah, damn


David Bradbury  19:38

God that that like hamster wheel never stops. And there’s no one you take this week off.


Paula Routly  19:43

And there’s a weekend in the middle of our week. So we go to press Tuesday night. So right, Wednesday is the Planning Day or like, hopefully now, you know, most things were planned. But back in the old days, we would wake up Wednesday morning and not know what was going to be in the paper the next week.


David Bradbury  19:59

You published on Wednesday because a lot of weekend Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday? Yes.



Okay. Yeah, um, a lot of lot of alternative weeklies that were similar to ours around the country would would come out on Thursday. But we thought Wednesday was better. Because not everybody wants the weekend.


David Bradbury  20:19

I grew up like the Boston Phoenix, right.When that was around. That was a really cool.


Paula Routly  20:22

So many of those papers are gone. By the way. We’re like the unicorn left standing.


David Bradbury  20:27

We’re gonna get to the asking you why.


Sam RG  20:30

Sorry Dave. I just


David Bradbury  20:31



Sam RG  20:31

yeah, sorry.


David Bradbury  20:32

Your turn


Sam RG  20:33

Dave is getting a little excited over there.


Paula Routly  20:35

Remembering the Boston Phoenix. It’s right. It’s exciting. It’s exciting.


David Bradbury  20:40

There was something there.


Paula Routly  20:41

Pulitzer Prize winning, you know.


Sam RG  20:44

I just wanted to know, like that the first, you know, seven years when it was just the two of you, you know, and some freelancers, what was the paper like? Like, what was the kind of the core of it?


Paula Routly  20:52

Well, I was gonna say, we also had Peter Frane, who you may not remember. He was, it was we had a political column, and he wrote it and that was why news people picked it up. And he told us, he reminded us every week of that.


David Bradbury  21:09

Was that intentional on your part, or did he just show up today, I want to write something.


Paula Routly  21:13

No it was intentional, he had been writing for Vermont Times and hadn’t gotten along with the publisher. I mean, he was a very complex and difficult person. But we all we got along with him. And I think it was a couple weeks, it took a couple of weeks, he waited to see if we were actually going to be able to put out that second issue. And then he came over. And it was a really good relationship. He was, you know, he had his warts, but he never missed a deadline and the column was, he made politics accessible, and fun. And it was essential reading and before the internet. It was, it made total sense. You know, it was, he’d have, he’d have a scoop and he could hold it until Wednesday.


David Bradbury  22:04

Wasn’t going on on Twitter immediately. Point counterpoint. It was as really valuable and insightful and fun.


Paula Routly  22:11

And he, to his credit, he did adapt, you know, he, he evolved and embraced the internet, when when he died in 2009. But he, he kind of loved the internet, even though it was, it made his job a lot more difficult. So he’d have to decide, do I blog this, as we call it done? You know, do we do I blog this now? Or can it hold until the print the print product? And that? I mean, you know, generally that that that struggle, has made publishing much more difficult for not just for us, but for everyone.


Break  22:54

You’re listening to start here, a podcast from Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. VCET is a public benefit corporation serving Vermont businesses from start to scale. We provide no cost strategic business advising for any business owner, regardless of stage or industry, as well as venture capital for early stage tech or tech enabled businesses. You can find us online at That’s V C E T dot co. If you like what you’re hearing, please help us out and rate review and subscribe to our podcast today. Now, back to the show.


David Bradbury  23:35

So um, your staff photo. We just saw that recently. Can you talk about why that is and how that is? I don’t know. Built your culture or part of your culture.


Paula Routly  23:48

The first one, I think there were seven of us,


Sam RG  23:50

they’re so good. It’s so fun to look back


Paula Routly  23:54

And that’s, you know, our anniversaries. We timed the start of the paper. Well, I mean, it was September beginning of September. So fourth quarter. Fourth quarter used to be the best business it’s changed a little bit but yeah, it’s just fun to we try to find these weird locations and and it’s it’s nice to have this physical evidence of how the staff has grown. Matt Thorson, who the late Matt Thorson used to take that photo so he would always run into at the last second extreme in the front. So I’m glad we have that we haven’t done a very good job of of documenting the history but but the photos are good reminder.


David Bradbury  24:43

Really really neat.


Sam RG  24:46

Yeah, I just I went back through and looked at them and it’s it’s a really, I don’t know it was more powerful than I anticipated It being. Like just seeing the way that your team has stayed the same and my any regards and, and changed a lot. And I think, you know, sometimes you forget to do that. And I don’t know, I think I just it really struck me.


Paula Routly  25:10

I just wrote a, I wrote these publisher notes every week, and I just noted three people who’ve been with us for 25 years. And there are more actually, I didn’t, I didn’t put them all in. And I mean, thank you for noting the, the photo, the photo, gives you some indication of the corporate culture, which is really strong, I think it’s one of our greatest assets. It’s not just like, it’s not top down. It’s, you know, there are leaders within the, the team and and it’s a really fun office environment, people. And people really like coming to work, I hope.


Sam RG  25:51

I feel like you can’t turn something out weekly when you don’t have that atmosphere. Right. Like, well,



it is like trench warfare a little bit. Totally. Yeah. And, and, you know, coming from a ballet background, it’s, it’s, I guess it’s similar in a way you’re kind of, you’re an individual, but you’re also a part of this dance, you know, it’s bigger dance. It’s, it’s a great, I love working on a product with other people. And then it comes out. And it seems like, there’s no way we’re gonna make it on time. And



All that on a week by week basis.


Paula Routly  26:27

There’s so many things that can go wrong and do. And, you know, we’re making it from scratch every week. It’s not like you, you come up with a beer recipe, and then you’re producing beer more and more efficiently. Right? It’s it’s a, it’s handmade handcrafted every week


Sam RG  26:48

You can tell for sure. And it’s always on the table in the VCET kitchen. So tell us a little bit about you know, you talked about sort of your revenue model from the start with with advertising, but how has that business side of things evolved over the years?


Paula Routly  27:06

Good question. It’s, it’s a hustle, the whole thing is a hustle. So, you know, when the reporters are going out chasing stories, or salespeople are chasing the money, and we have to raise enough money to put out the paper every week. It’s it’s very sobering. But, you know, over the years, we’ve, I guess, the overarching goal is to be useful in multiple ways. So we try to, you know, in terms of the content, you know, we recognize there are young parents like, are we speaking to them? There are people in the tech industry? Are we are we doing enough for them, you know, and similarly, the small businesses that support us, we want to be useful to them and to, to help them get their message out, whatever, whatever form that takes, you know, so. So it might be retail advertising, as we call it, it might be employment advertising, where people are looking for employees. It might be an event like that Restaurant Week,


David Bradbury  28:24

Tech Jam, which we know intimately.


Paula Routly  28:27

Yeah we do,you know, whatever people need, basically. And, and that has changed over the years. Obviously, we have all these digital products, and but bottom line, we we have this we have a symbiotic relationship with the business community that we also write about. And sometimes there are conflicts and problems.


David Bradbury  28:55

Controversy. How do you handle that? Like, what’s the, you know, display for it? Well, yeah.



And, you know, I’m publisher and editor in chief now, which is both that’s both sides. You know, there’s this firewall between them, but you know, I see, I do see both sides. And you it’s, it’s a little bit the media literacy is challenging. Sometimes people don’t like they don’t they understand that the New York Times might write a critical story about something but also have an advertisement from that company. But they don’t, they don’t like you want a local newspaper does it?


David Bradbury  29:35

But what why? Just because we’re more accessible than the New York Time readers.


Paula Routly  29:41

I mean, we do so I do feel like we promote the place. It’s not just by virtue of, you know, gathering all this information and we have all these free listings, and I’ve always said, I feel like Seven Days makes this look like a bigger city than it is, you know, you look at it, and it just looks really cool. It’s not like we are, it’s not like we’re doing that intentionally. It’s just the effort of getting all this intel and bringing it together. So I do think it’s a great advertisement for the place. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to talk about what’s happening in Burlington, or you know, and I mean, that shouldn’t be part of the conversation. It’s just, it’s what we do. I think people I think most people understand it. But it’s, you know, it’s tough.


David Bradbury  30:42

What night of the week do you like sleep well? Is it like Tuesday night when it’s all done? Or?


Paula Routly  30:47

Well, actually, when you’ve written something, Tuesday nights are really awful. Because we often wake up and you’re like, Oh, my God, did I fact check that? You know, is that does it go back and look at the website or VCET to make sure that I got the founding date? Like, there are things to worry about a Tuesday night, it’s too late. But, uh, wow. But what night? Do I sleep well?


David Bradbury  31:14

I was gonna be an easy answer. I hadn’t thought of that. We do something. We walk across the street to J skis, and we have a little celebration. I


Paula Routly  31:21

That’s good.


Sam RG  31:23

Yeah. And you live in the community, right? Like you’re in, you know, it’s your family’s here. And, you know, I’m sure that makes your job easier in some ways, but also more difficult. There’s no escaping your readers, right. They’re everywhere.


Paula Routly  31:37

Yeah, my my only role is like, don’t pitch me a story when I’m, you know, at the Y working out. But I’ve seen that has happened.


David Bradbury  31:48

Guilty, note to self.


Sam RG  31:49

Right. That’s, that would be a day of 100% on the treadmill next to you.


David Bradbury  31:53

So how do you how do you? Or what do you attribute that balancing of the things you need to talk about versus the pressures from advertisers or the model? Like, you know, you have to make those decisions? And what part of the company culture we talked about a moment ago really enforces or gives you the support the trust to make those tough calls, because they’re not the, that’s probably half the decisions you make?


Paula Routly  32:21

Well, I mean, there are editors in place who are making decisions about stories, and the news team has its own editing team. I read, I read pretty much everything before before it comes out in the paper, but I’m not making I’m not signing stories anymore. So that’s, that’s part of that’ll be part of the firewall. Distance. Yep. And, you know, same for for seven years, we didn’t have a reporter and then we got Ken Picard came in, was it 2002. And he was doing, you know, a little bit of everything. We started, you know, starting, like, staff writer, so our first staff writer, and then it was during the recession, that we really started building the news team, when the free press, like, inexplicably just shrunk. It almost felt like they just willfully shrunk during the recession. It gave us an opportunity to, to,


David Bradbury  33:30

Profiles on companies have been great. We know from our portfolio companies and folks here that co-work like it really means a lot when they we can do their story to somebody and they can use it on their website, or they show their employees or people go home and show their partners, hey, this is why I’m not here, you know? And it’s sort of like evidence, rationalizing.


Paula Routly  33:53

Well, the tech, the tech sectors unique because they aren’t necessarily looking for publicity. You know, the companies are looking beyond Vermont. So we have to find those people in those stories. And that’s one of the reasons we do the Tech Jam is that stories are so compelling. And nobody knows about it. You know, we’d like to do a better job of covering all of that, but we haven’t quite found the right writer


David Bradbury  34:26

There;s an amazing podcast put out by VCET called Start Here, which is something you might want to check out.


Sam RG  34:32

Yeah, it is hard, though. We I mean, you’re right. Like I think we also all got used to like companies, like aggressively looking for coverage, that now that there’s this kind of shift of these tech companies that you said, looking beyond Vermont that don’t necessarily need it. You know, we’re the ones that are reaching out. But you know, we in the past year, I mean, it’s been around since 2005. And we literally just started doing company profiles with actually a journalism student from Middlebury College, so, you know, that’s been and people have responded that so well, and companies are psyched. You know, startups are notoriously bad at seeking that kind of coverage, but they’re so psyched when they get it.


Paula Routly  35:11

So they’re sometimes reluctant. Right? Yeah. Well, they’re the last two keynote speakers. Sarah Khalil. Yep. And Rachel. I mean, they’re, they’re nervous to say too much because they’re right at that crucial moment. And, but that’s when we want them. That’s why it’s so exciting.


David Bradbury  35:35

We’re investing in it, you know, with with Blaze Cipher, who’s the writer and, and some of the programs we put on because when it gets it’s another element of founder and company training, yeah, they get comfort, they learn how to talk what is too salesy, right, or so obviously salesy, and, you know, coaching and working is like the the formal plush pressure release stuff just doesn’t work as much anymore. So it’s got to make a connection. Why am I reading this? Why do I care? And that I think sets them up for as they scale and grow, and talk to papers and radios and bloggers all over the world, it can be helpful.


Paula Routly  36:13

Storytelling, yes, I mean, people, it’s kind of a catchphrase now. But it’s, it’s what we do. And I still, I still believe in it. And even, you know, even if it’s an obituary, you know, we, we are getting a lot more obituaries than we used to. And people will email and say, like, we don’t even write them, but we help we proofread them, and we edit them a little bit. But everybody has a story, you know, and it’s really gratifying to be able to, to tell them.


David Bradbury  36:49

Well, I mean, again, you’re making connections and creating connective tissue and community around arts around employment and student opportunities. And then even remembering people like Joan Robinson, you wrote up who she was at the Flynn when I was on the Flynn board for five or six years, and just, you know, what a magical moment to just read and remember, so.


Sam RG  37:12

It’s helpful to like, you know, you all have been around for a long time here. I’ve been here since 2013. So there are so many people that are referencing, I’m like, who’s that? And I’m like afraid to ask, right. And so you all do a great job of sort of telling the story of our community as well. And kind of tying those things in.


Paula Routly  37:30

I hope the archive search works for you. Yeah, I’ll give it a lot of in that archive.


David Bradbury  37:36

Yeah, that could be kind of fun. Oh, yeah.


Sam RG  37:38

Really deep dive. So, you know, I want to address which is probably, like, at this point, an annoying question for you, but sort of the elephant in the room, which is, you know, the future of journalism, and how you are remaining optimistic with the changes that has happened the last, you know, decade, and also the emergence of AI, and, you know, all of those things that are contributing to massive changes in your industry?


Paula Routly  38:07

Yeah we’ve been, like, thoroughly disrupted. Yeah, that’s for sure. Yeah. I was, I was trying to be reflective last night thinking about, you know, to the year 2000, when the Internet, the Internet, just changed our business completely. And it you know, the iPhone and the iPad came out, like, very close together, you know, the end of the few, the failure, I was trying to think of the failures, some of the some of our failures, were trying to create, you know, techy products that were basically competing with Google and just thank goodness, we didn’t spend too much money on them or, or tried for too long. But one, we do, it does seem like we’re fighting a lot of dragons, you know, from Amazon, you know, just the retail sector is struggling. And we have all these competitors for employment advertising. The personals. It was like, a ton of them, many of whom many of which are gone already. But we, I do think remaining useful and accurately reflecting the community. Being an authentic voice in the community living here. A lot of people have encouraged us to chain you know, to do something in Southern Vermont or in the Upper Valley. Pamela and I both know, it’s tempting, but unless we had someone down there who really knew the community, we just, we know it would, it would look fake. And, and one of the positive trends is people are starting to appreciate it’s a hard thing to imagine not having media but It’s happened in a few places. And I think Vermont is unique in that people do appreciate local media and do support it and are doing everything they can to keep it strong and healthy. So what I’m trying to say is where we’ve lost some business, we have gained voluntary subscribers, people who are giving us money. There’s a whole philanthropic element that we didn’t used to have, we never asked people for money, and the paper has always been free. But in the beginning of the pandemic, we we felt, okay, about asking for help, and people responded. And that’s continued. It hasn’t grown. I was afraid, you know, at some point, they’d all everybody would cancel their super reader


Sam RG  41:01

2021-2022 oh god


Paula Routly  41:04

It’s just, it’s just they’ve just, it’s just increased. Yeah, it’s been. So I think people are hearing that journalism needs support, and and they are evaluate and they’re paying for it. For some cases, for the first time ever.


David Bradbury  41:21

Really fortunate. And again, you have trust, you have authenticity, you have expertise, and, and, and time and commitment, like those are, those are all things that take a long time to earn. Yeah, not a lot of time to get rid of or lose. And you’ve been able to maintain that with your team.


Paula Routly  41:43

And, you know, the paper papers, like we’re not really an alternative weekly anymore. Although we still belong to the association of alternative alternative news media. We have much bigger market penetration, much greater apartment than some of these urban weeklies that there’s, there’s a lot of competition in this in big cities to get people’s attention. And because the Free Press has declined, you know, we had this opportunity to become, you know, like the largest print circulation, we


David Bradbury  42:22

Look how thick it is, it’s like six times thicker than anybody else’s piece of paper out there.


Paula Routly  42:28

That’s the sound of the newspaper. Yeah.


David Bradbury  42:30

Right? I mean, that’s how you judge success. It’s not just because it’s the December issue, either.


Paula Routly  42:36

It’s not the Sunday Times, but we’re pretty happy


David Bradbury  42:39

Hamburger week, or whatever that thing is like, Yep, I love it. No one in my social circle knew anything about it. So like, literally, I bet you’ve just scratched the surface on stuff like that.


Paula Routly  42:50

That was a little bit of a test to see. You know, we stopped doing restaurant week during the pandemic, and we still feel like the restaurant, the restaurants are just, they don’t, they’re not ready for it. They don’t have they don’t have labor. So it was kind of a, let’s try a little something and see how it goes and see if they, if it works for them. So that’s a good example of how we’re trying to be helpful, useful.


David Bradbury  43:15

I just thought you were pairing that up with some sort of cholesterol manufacturer to work both ends here. But


Sam RG  43:21

Well I think that’s, you know, you know, that’s a perfect example. And your business model, as well as just like your readers and your community are feel like they’re part of Seven Days, right. And I think that’s a huge piece of what’s made us successful, what’s made it sustainable. It feels like a representation of our community. And I love that that has sort of threaded through what you write about why you write about it, and the business model behind the paper.


Paula Routly  43:55

That’s really perceptive. And I mean, the other thing that I think I hope it does is I hope it encourages people to engage, you know, whether it’s going to an art show in Rochester or going to the Flynn or going to a protest or, you know, a city council meeting. It’s the idea is to show, you know, show the community, you know, accurately and, and inspire people to, to do something, to act.


David Bradbury  44:35

So, we have a few minutes left here for a couple questions for aspiring or young journalists, what what pieces of advice are you sharing today?


Paula Routly  44:49

It’s just, it’s the best. It’s not you won’t get rich in journalism, but everyone who has done it I will say it’s the most fulfilling career. It is, it is such a, such a great way to engage, you know, with, with the world and like, you have to be curious it to be a good reporter. And if you’re naturally curious, it’s just, it’s, it’s a great, it’s a great job. You just, you’re just paid to learn, learn how things work, and you have access that no one else has. And you know, there’s a grind aspect to it, you have to keep doing it over and over again. But for the people who are wired that way, it’s just there is nothing better. I wish I worry that that, that young people aren’t going into journalism, we’re not seeing, you know, the resumes that we might expect, given how long we’ve been around. And I think it’s too bad. I mean, they they’re going into whatever digital marketing things like that. There’s, but we do have a couple of really good Middlebury has been a great pipeline. Sabine Kooks who’s at Fremont public now she was an intern with us. You know, we’ve been around long enough that our alumni are everywhere. They’re at Public, they’re at Digger. They’ve gone, you know, beyond the state, and I love seeing that I love. I love that, um.


Sam RG  46:35

That must be really gratifying to seeing a byline of someone that you worked with when they were in interns.


Paula Routly  46:40

Mike Ives is at the New York Times. And there’s a couple of couple of other ones.


Sam RG  46:48

That’s really cool. So, you know, speaking of being proud of people you’ve worked with, you know, you’ve been at the helm a really long time here and doing amazing work. When you think of the future of Seven Days, what, what is your hope for the leadership and the vision of the paper?


Paula Routly  47:07

I hope that people, the owners that we have, I mean, we have 16 of our employees are owners. I hope they can continue it, I hope, you know, to be able to slow down and step back and slowly back out of the round. Yeah, it just it feels like a community resource. I’m not looking to sell it or make a ton of money or anything like that. I’ve been mentoring people pretty openly at the paper, and we have three owners who own 12% each. Cathy Resmer, Colby Roberts and Don Eggert. And that succession plan started more than a decade ago. And then in 2019, when Pamela, Pamela sold her stock, and we added 13 More people at 1% each. So together, they’re 16 the pandemic kind of interrupted the planning for that, but it’s, I think it was a good strategy. I just not quite sure how I’m gonna exit yet. That’s gonna be tricky, but but the goal is to keep it going and to hand it off to the next generation. Yeah.


Sam RG  48:23

I love that you’ve started it so early and saw that vision and I’m sure Pamela leaving helps kind of encourage that. But I think so many companies, businesses we work with, don’t want to think about that or wait too long, or,


Paula Routly  48:37

Or very early on. Yeah. And so the leadership saw that there were leaders coming up. Yeah. And, and, you know, because it’s not the most lucrative business. What’s gonna keep them motivated? It’s gonna get them here. Yeah, I want to pay them to have a sense of ownership. I think everybody does at Seven Days. But, you know, having that piece of paper is nice. Yeah.


David Bradbury  49:05

Well, again, think like an owner is what we want everybody to feel like in an organization and we’ve known to work with with Kathy Resmer for a long time on Tech Jam and all the rest. Like we’re thrilled that technology is a word, word that’s used. Yeah. Right, just from our lens, right, which is exciting, and hopefully brings a lot of promise and opportunity around Vermont. So wow, Sam, could go on and on \


Sam RG  49:30

I know, right.


Paula Routly  49:31

There’s one thing I want to say which is I wish you guys have been around when we started. Because we didn’t. We assumed rightly, I think that no bank would give us a loan. This business is so volatile. So we borrowed money from Middlebury  friends. I mean, there’s a bunch of people but the biggest loan came was a loan came from two people I went to Middlebury with and You know, we asked, I remember the ask going in and asking your friends for money. It wasn’t that much. We started the paper with $68,000 and paid it all back in three years at 5%.


Sam RG  50:13

Damn, that’s pretty good and really unexpected.


David Bradbury  50:17

You talk to your members like the number, the rate, the duration. Yeah. Like that sort of hustle mentality that you got to have on a founding team.


Paula Routly  50:25

Yeah but the the only advisor we had was Angelo Lin, who is the publisher, the as an independent. And he was just, it was just the right amount of, you know, he didn’t scare us. But he picked up the phone when I called. So if I said, I might call and say, What is worker’s comp insurance? I don’t think we have it amazing. He’s like, Well, aren’t you glad you haven’t been paying for it? That kind of thing. So you know, too much instruction can be daunting, but but just enough would have been? I mean, it would have been helpful to know a bit more before we started, and it feels like that ecosystem is much more has evolved a lot. The startup ecosystem and and I’m glad.


David Bradbury  51:18

Yeah I mean, it’s it from our lens. It’s humming, right? We’re busier than ever, over 300 people meet with us one on one a year. And I don’t know, we just feel so I think humbled and appreciative that folks place their trust to come talk about really vulnerable or exciting moments in their life and work with them for a day or for literally 12 or 13 years. Now, some of these founders.


Paula Routly  51:42

And I think remote is a great laboratory for startups, I think it’s a great place to start a business because it’s small enough that people know you and are rooting for you. But it’s big enough that you can do some business. Our business is not really scalable, like some other peoples are. In a small place. I mean, you, you that’s where I find like, I kind of wish, I wish there are more people here where we’re selling, maybe not. But as a business, you get to a point as a business owner, you realize, wow, there’s really not a lot of people here and we’re doing


David Bradbury  52:22

So many tickets for all these events. Yeah. Or donors. And yeah, yeah.


Sam RG  52:27

Well, the tenacity is there right, you turns out you weren’t buried in six weeks? Exactly. nearly 30 years later.


David Bradbury  52:35

I love I love that you remember that? Oh, I mean, I’ve had people say things to me personally over the years that I’ll never forgive my third grade teacher for something he said. And that’s been motivating. And well, one thing I learned is telling him the piss off at one point was really validating for me. Yeah, don’t


Paula Routly  52:51

say that to anyone else. Because it’s very, it can be very motivating in a positive or negative way


David Bradbury  52:57

negative energy clear that I’m still working out. But


Sam RG  53:01

Do you guys have some more time for Dave to talk off air?


David Bradbury  53:05

Thank you for the therapy here. Oh, my God, I have more questions and stuff. Okay. If you weren’t doing what you do today, what would you want to do as a career?


Paula Routly  53:15

I think I’d want to be a therapist.


David Bradbury  53:17

You are you just got me talking.


Paula Routly  53:20

I really love. I love strangers I love. You know, I am naturally curious. And I’m the person on the plane, you know, who strikes up a conversation and then, you know, eight hours later, the plane lands. I just, I love talking to people.


David Bradbury  53:40

Let’s build an app. And maybe you can specialize in therapy for journalists. Right, there’s probably some aspects of that and digitally.


Paula Routly  53:50

So yeah, it’s just another form of storytelling, I guess. But I also love turning the story into something that other people want to consume. So that’s therapy, that that doesn’t happen in therapy, but so listening to the story, and then trying to turn that into a tale that is going to hold the attention of someone else.


Sam RG  54:13

Oh, great. I think we need you do advise some of our startups trying to pitch don’t build me a watch. Tell me the time you know.


Paula Routly  54:23

Yeah, some people are better than others. Yeah.


David Bradbury  54:25

Again, but you know, we the bar to like come talk to a venture capitalist or, you know, a facility with people in a you know, like ours is pretty nice and or Hula’s or, or some of the others it can be intimidating. And you know, we we’ve had to work really hard to change our language and approach basically has come as you are with what you got, we don’t care. Don’t pitch us, we just want to talk. And that’s really made a difference of the last couple years. And you know, hopefully there’ll be some really neat scalable companies out of that, but at minimum, there may be a little up business, you know, therapy, business advice, connection that, that results. So that’s all good. Totally. Sam, you want to do the outro? Never done it?


Sam RG  55:09

Well, I’d like to start with the magic one question. If you don’t mind, just don’t forget. Yeah. Okay, if you had a magic wand, and you could change one thing about Vermont today, what would you change?


Paula Routly  55:25

It’s kind of obvious, but the housing problem, you know, my employees can’t afford to live in Burlington, you know, the city that they are covering, and they certainly can’t afford to buy in Burlington. And you know, I don’t know if the answer is to just build more housing, but I think I know, we’re not the only company saying this. But it’s, you know, we hire someone and then we we start emailing, like, does anyone have a, you know, mother-inlaw? Yeah. an ADU? That that’s open. And it’s just, it’s really an impediment to economic development. But and in our case, like, you know, covering what’s going on here properly. Like I said, I don’t think it’s just a matter of building more, it’s a matter of, you know, cracking down on bad landlords and maybe looking at Airbnb regulations and making it easier to build an ADU that kind of thing. But, um, we definitely are feeling it. And it’s, I’ve got people who live in, we have a reporter who lives in Marshfield. Wow, she gets a lot of stories. Yeah, better. But you know, it’s a long way to drive in for meetings and just makes it really difficult.


Sam RG  56:56

Yeah, not sustainable.


David Bradbury  56:59

Okay, thank you. That was awesome. Wasn’t it Sam?


Sam RG  57:04

The best, I could talk here for hours.


David Bradbury  57:06

Like I think this our last taping for the this calendar year, I bet. I’m ready for the snow to fall. But it’s not about me.


Paula Routly  57:15

What’s the winter term course that you’re teaching?


David Bradbury  57:18

Middlebury entrepreneurs that Sam and I and I guess instructs the word we use. Oh, and it’s been around for probably close to 15, years,  13 years. And we’re now in year 11. And we have 20, 20 students showing up early


Sam RG  57:35

Yeah 18, 20.


Paula Routly  57:36

And it’s a course, or is it in addition to the course?


David Bradbury  57:39

It’s a J-term course it’s actually in the syllabus. So they this is they pay tuition to attend this course. So it’s really fun to


Paula Routly  57:47

You know, when I was there. I’m reading Dante, you know, it was very scholarly, and I loved it. But I’m glad that they’re just offering some more practical.


Sam RG  58:01

I think that’s why why our course appeals to a lot of them. It’s so different than anything they do. And they’re I mean, they’re all way smarter than Dave and I and it’s humbling and and fun to learn from them as well.


David Bradbury  58:14

Yeah, really, it’s an they can be fearless, learn those skills that you learn carrying your wagon trying to sell Christmas cards in July, California to love. And, and often, you know, every year there’s one or two that actually form up and become companies that that, you know, give them their first chance of ownership and growth. It’s really a neat opportunity. And we can say the word entrepreneurship on campus, which you know, I couldn’t do that six years ago. All right. This has been started here. Podcast sharing the stories of active aspiring and accidental entrepreneurs. This series is supported by the Vermont Technology Council and consolidate communications. Alright, Sam was glad to Happy New Year. Thank you again. Let’s go make stories.