Alternative weeklies

Local reporting is suffering from a ‘gradual erosion’

The Washington Post | Association of Alternative Newsmedia

Local reporting is suffering from a “gradual erosion,” Paul Farhi writes in a piece bouncing off Pew’s new State of the News Media report. The economics of digital publishing are especially brutal to local news, Farhi writes:

In drawing readers and viewers from a relatively small pond, local news outlets struggle to attract enough traffic to generate ad dollars sufficient to support the cost of gathering the news in the first place. Conversely, sites that report and comment on national and international events draw from a worldwide audience, making it relatively easier to aggregate a large audience and the ad dollars that come with it.

Publishers that cover national and international news account for 60 percent of new jobs in digital publishing, Farhi writes, while newspapers continue to cut jobs, usually from their local staffs. Read more


Baltimore Sun buys Baltimore City Paper

The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore City Paper

The Baltimore Sun Media Group will buy the alt-weekly Baltimore City Paper, the Sun reports.

The move brings together two of the Baltimore area’s most well-known news organizations. The 37-year-old City Paper will operate its newsroom and sales team independently of the Baltimore Sun Media Group’s other editorial and sales functions, the companies said. City Paper, which is published each Wednesday and distributed free throughout the Baltimore area, has a circulation of just over 50,000 a week; about 200,000 monthly unique visitors use its Web and mobile sites.

On Twitter, City Paper’s Joe MacLeod promises next week’s “Mr. Wrong” column will “BE 100% F-WORD

Times-Shamrock put Baltimore City Paper and several other alt-weeklies on the block last August. Read more


Circulation & readership up at some alt weeklies

The New York Times | Association of Alternative Newsmedia
Alt-weeklies would take risks “that I don’t think a daily paper ever would,” former alt-weekly editor David Carr says in a video discussion with A. O. Scott about the plight of alt-weekly papers.

“You’re describing the Internet,” Carr tells Scott when he talks about the papers’ old core functions: Connecting likeminded members of a community in various ways.

Those functions aren’t a complete business model anymore, Rachael Daigle writes, but many alt-weeklies see a way forward by becoming digital ad agencies and event presenters, too. Some small alts, Daigle writes, are even growing: Read more


Circulation down, challenges up at alt-weeklies

Pew | Reuters

The alt-weeklies chapter of Pew’s State of the News Media 2013 report provides daily newspaper publishers with one of their very few opportunities for schadenfreude: At these papers, which regularly take shots at their bigger rivals, circulation is dropping, staffers are losing their jobs and “monetizing the online business remains largely an elusive goal.”

Circulation is falling at many alts. (Click on the chart to view a larger version.)

Smart phones have robbed alt-weeklies of one of their killer features, Jack Shafer writes: Alleviating boredom.

How does a wedge of newsprint compete with an affordable messaging device that ferries games, social media apps, calendars, news, feature films, scores, coupons and a library’s worth of music and reading material? Ask a young person his opinion and he’ll tell you that nothing says “geezer” like a newspaper, be it daily or alt-weekly.

Read more

Columbus’ Other Paper will close later this month

The Other Paper
Columbus, Ohio, alt-weekly The Other Paper will close at the end of January. It’s owned by the Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes the Columbus Dispatch, as well as an A&E paper called Alive!

“In viewing the research of who reads the two publications, and after hearing from the local advertising community, it became more and more obvious that one publication would better serve our readers and advertisers,” said Michael Fiorile, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Dispatch Printing Co.

The Other Paper was sold to the Dispatch Printing Company in 2011.

Related: Two former staffers at Albuquerque, N.M.’s Weekly Alibi start a nonprofit news site after one of them gets laid off (Santa Fe Reporter)

Previously: Sun-Times ownership of Chicago Reader would be unusual in alt-weekly world Read more


How can alt-weeklies survive if they’re no longer an alternative?

Salon | The Phoenix
Will Doig writes that “the way we create our own communities now” has helped hasten alt-weeklies to their grave:

People will always identify with their cities, but the congregation of loosely affiliated urban tribes that alt-weeklies used to collect under one umbrella are now reaching out to each other across the globe instead.

He then zeroes in on what those papers can still do well:

It was L.A. Weekly’s Christine Pelisek who learned, after months of dogged reporting in low-income neighborhoods that rarely see a reporter, that a series of murders in the city were in fact the work of a serial killer. The Stranger, Seattle’s alt-weekly, won a Pulitzer Prize this year for its haunting story of a rape and almost-double murder — the reporter later said that an alt-weekly was “one of the rare and lucky places” that would accommodate such a piece.

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Morning media roundup: Awaiting Philadelphia Media sale; men in suits discuss media

• The news everyone is waiting for: the sale of Philadelphia Media Network, which could happen today. Inquirer reporter Paul Nussbaum reported Thursday on an insurance payback deal orchestrated by George Norcross, one of the investors that may buy the company. He told Amy Chozick and David Carr that the possible sale “won’t change the way I do my job.” Well, “it could change my job, I guess. I could end up as greeter at Walmart next week.”

• Dudes in suits discuss media: That happened Thursday, as Ken Auletta, Walter Isaacson and Marcus Brauchli appeared at an Aspen Institute event called The Future of Content 2020. Here’s a video. Part of my job is blogging about the future of content, so I watched only as far as Brauchli talking about the future of a new Washington Post product called Personal Post: “Ideally what we’d like to be able to do is give people who are interested in that, a front page of content that they’re most likely to be interested in based on their past habits or what they’ve told us they’re interested in or, including, what their friends are interested in.” I’m sure some nuggets from this thing will pop out today. Read more


Alt-weeklies can’t define themselves in terms of newspapers anymore:

“It makes no more sense for alts to define themselves against dailies or other mainstream press in 2012 than it does for the United States to define itself against the Soviet Union. The game has changed. …

“It’s hard to be an upstart outsider at anything for 35 years. In its longevity, its history, its institutional heft, its ongoing newsprint presence, City Paper now has as much in common with the Sun as it does with any of the various actual upstarts that now compete for eyeballs in Baltimore.”

Lee Gardner, Baltimore City Paper


What, exactly, are alt-weeklies an alternative to these days?

John Mecklin
“It used to be the monopolistic daily newspapers in their towns,” notes former SF Weekly and Phoenix New Times editor John Mecklin, “but both the city dailies and the city weeklies have literally been taken apart by the digital revolution, with whole classes of advertising migrating online where, by and large, dailies and weeklies have been late to the revenue and technology party.” Mecklin questions whether alt-weeklies will be able to continue to fund “the kind of long-term hanging around” that distinguished narrative journalism requires.

The alt-weekly staff cuts just keep coming and coming — I doubt the world will again see an alt-weekly fund a 13-month investigation — and one wonders how long those long, long alt-weekly stories will keep flowing, particularly as more of the business moves online, where revenues are low and the 5,000-word story is often viewed as not just uneconomical, but ludicrous.

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Creative Loafing sells its papers in Tampa and Charlotte

Creative Loafing
Thomas Wheatley reports that Creative Loafing has sold its Charlotte and Tampa papers to SouthComm Inc. and that CEO Marty Petty, former publisher of the Poynter-owned St. Petersburg Times, has resigned. SouthComm, based in Nashville, Tenn., operates several niche publications, including Nashville Scene. Wheatley has a memo from Creative Loafing that says the company will focus on “brand value, audience and revenue growth for its flagship publications: Chicago ReaderCreative Loafing Atlanta and Washington City Paper.” Read more

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