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Why the Concurrent Stopped Using the Word "Conservative" in Our Branding

The Concurrent is a few weeks shy of its first birthday, a milestone that is not lost on me, but one that is obscured by my own birthday looming this Thursday.

When the publication was first getting started, I did what any good advertising professional would do - I ran a series of ads at the same time to performance test them against each other.

I ran six different ads with various phrases and graphics. The variable of text to visuals didn’t make a difference, however, one thing did: use of the word conservative.

Ads that identified the outlet as “conservative” outperformed their politically neutral counterparts 6:1 in terms of audience engagement. I ran it again, this time only using text-based (usually regarded as less engaging) ads that used the word “conservative” versus graphical ads that were politically neutral. Even ads that were just our logo text but that the caption used the word conservative outperformed their visually persuasive competitors 5:1.

The results were clear. To build the biggest possible audience, I should use the word conservative as much as possible.

I should have changed the name to the Conservative Concurrent and got a tattoo that said conservative on my forehead for when I recorded column reads.

But I did something else. I stopped using the word to brand the publication entirely. If you read the previous column, you may already be able to guess why.

Any outlet that primarily brands itself as the voice of an ideology is going to need to side with that ideology all the time or risk failing the audience’s ideological purity test. I foresaw this being a problem.

When issues arise in the county, I don’t ask myself what the conservative viewpoint is and take that position, I ask myself what I think is logical to the way I see the world. Roughly nine out of ten times, this outcome happens to align with conservative beliefs, but that one time in ten would be problematic for a true, pure conservative outlet.

Longtime readers of the Concurrent will know what I went with instead. The Concurrent pitches itself as a thought-provoking outlet, something that I may still fail you with on occasion, but a standard that I at least aspire to every time I press publish.

Other outlets, such as Citrus Eagle (“Your CONSERVATIVE news source” according to the verbatim language and formatting in their newsletter), have filled that niche yet I don’t regret my branding decision at all. I do, however, sometimes regret my tone.

Blogs the Eagle and 286 Sunshine typically take an anger approach, which then causes more community-oriented blogs like Just Wright Citrus to speculate why everyone can’t just be nicer to each other, as discussed in our last column.

The Concurrent aims for the thoughtful take, although with the addition of analysis that attempts to highlight the absurd through headlines, these quick hits can be less thought-provoking and more dumbed-down. An example of this was our own post titled, “Commission, Newspaper Propose Higher Fees to Simulate Business Growth.” The accompanying snarky Facebook caption added, “what could go wrong?”

This violates a philosophical concept that I hold dear called the principle of charity.

In rhetoric academia, the principle of charity states that a thoughtful person is obligated to receive “a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.”

Basically it says look for the best even when someone, intentionally or unintentionally, gives you their worst. I love this.

Had I been practicing the principle of charity, I would have accepted Commission Jeff Kinnard’s reasoning that raising the transportation impact fee from its current rate of 50% to 100% in order to provide stronger infrastructure for attracting businesses has merit.

This was one of the nine out of ten times my opinion aligned with conservative beliefs however. I simply don’t think the size of businesses we should be trying to recruit (small-to-mid) make or need these types of infrastructure demands that we can’t already offer at the current rate. So I mocked it.

But I could be wrong! The principle of charity has got the better of me. The president of the Citrus County Building Alliance Melissa Sutherland joins me on the podcast this week to explore what raising that impact fee would mean for the industry she represents.

I don’t know what the answer will be, but I do know it will be on brand as thought-provoking.


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