Reading Between the Lines

By Mark Hanzlik, Executive Director

Poynter is taking stock of the alt-weeklies again and with the recent sale of The Village Voice, declared the altmedia industry is sliding at a particular angle that seems to be measured only by the performance of its largest markets.

It’s hard to deny the decline across-the-board in revenue, staffing, printed pages, and readership.   That’s apparent with nearly all print products in some form or another these days.   Certainly the daily newspaper industry has taken a larger hit, as have some magazines and classified-shopper publication with aging reader base and advertisers becoming more difficult to count on.   For Altmedia though it has been a mixed bag with property sales of many larger publications taking most of the negative spotlight.   The larger altmedia properties were dealing with declining economies of scale as their ad base contracted.  Many smaller publications already operated with less resources.   As they say, the bigger you are the harder the fall.

citypaperWhile there were a lot of publications changing hands in 2015, Philadelphia City Paper was the only casualty, publishing its’ final issue a week ago.   Philly Weekly and City Paper competed for Philadelphia readers for more than 20 years in one of the closest contests within the Altmedia industry.

After the closure of Philly City Paper,  five AltMedia major markets with two competing weeklies remain publishing in the U.S.

In Portland, Willamette Week and Portland Mercury are as different as The Seattle Weekly and The Stranger are in Seattle.

Farther South, San Diego still has two weeklies providing coverage; the long-standing San Diego Reader and no-longer-an-upstart San Diego CityBeat still printing every week.

Also in the West, Las Vegas where there have been as many as five alternative publications publishing at once, Las Vegas Weekly nearly stands alone with Vegas Seven still breathing, though neither is alternative by yesterday’s standards.

Finally, Chicago still supports two venerable weeklies in their own right, The Reader and smaller yet still feisty Newcity.

Altmedia properties in mid-size and smaller markets have faired much better and particularly those bolstered by a strong college base or State Capital.   There’s plenty of good news and life left in AltMedia across the country.  The health of this industry can’t be measured in the closure of one weekly in over-crowded two paper markets or with the sale of publishing properties previously owned by Village Voice Media.


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