“Hyperlocal” is the new buzzword among newspapers heading for — or in — bankruptcy. The theory is that people are more interested in the local spelling bee champ than the Taliban in Pakistan.
But the demise of two community newspapers this week suggests it’s not entirely a panacea for what ails the business. The Stillwater Courier and Lake Elmo Leader have gone belly up.
Now, The Bridge, the “longest running community newspaper in Minneapolis,” has ceased publication and will go online only.
Hello Seward Listees,
As you can imagine, after twenty years, I’ve been profoundly troubled by having to pull out of publishing the newsprint version of The Bridge. Unfortunately, the 30% drop in advertising revenue this year made the move a bit more urgent — OK, a lot more urgent. The good news is, an online publication as a community-building device just makes a
heckuva lot more sense.
Hopefully, delivering The Bridge as an online publication will be a more sustainable model that can deliver richer content, and more opportunity to participate in the storytelling of our neighborhoods. I think you folks on this forum know that better than most.
About half of our budget, ~$8,000, goes towards printing and distributing what was amounting to eight (of 16) tabloid pages of content. Once a month. That’s nuts. Don’t get me wrong, the marketplace of ads plays an important role, too, but really, its the
journalism we’re after.
To make this work, we need to transition half of our average print advertising to online. This will be a challenge, but we are hearing encouraging reactions from many of the hundreds of advertisers who have supported us over the years and can now continue to do so, but less expensively. Also, we hope to find an uptick in financial contributions from users.
If we can bring in $8-$10k per month, we’ll be able to keep our editor and ad rep working the same hours and have some left over for content, admin, and web development. Triangle Park Creative will continue to cover shortfalls in overhead and website development costs as best we can.
The nonprofit Southeast Publications board (or a derivative of it) will continue to provide critical support and oversight. The board will also be trying to recruit members from all ten of our Bridgeland neighborhoods. We envision that each neighborhood will eventually have what resembles their own news bureau.
Yes, we will miss sitting with a paper in our lap, but we will not miss the limitations of eight pages of storytelling space once per month. And then there’s that increasingly harder-to-justify act of distributing 10,000 pounds of paper throughout the ‘hood. We’ve always dreamed of a more current publication, and now that is possible by shifting our resources to the internet and doing things like broadcasting weekly eNewsletters.
Honestly, in the twenty years I’ve provided publishing resources to the lineage of the Seward Profile, I’ve never been so jazzed about the potential of this publication to build connections within our community. Even though combining the Profile and SE Angle was
promising and bought us a couple more years of publishing, this could be a far more sustainable model for delivering hyper-local, diverse, participatory, and timely stories.
Also, as our core business at Triangle Park Creative is shifting to web design, we can better support the project in some extraordinary ways, just as we did with the paper version for half of its 40-year existence. I’m not sure we are ahead of the curve now, but with your help, we can turn this crisis into a remarkable model of web-based community journalism.
So, please, please, PLEASE help us register as many online subscriber/supporters as you can. Send your network to: www.readthebridge.info (.com, .net, .org) and ask them to create a user account. We’re not asking for money at this time, just a couple of check marks in boxes.
We think a key to success is gathering a critical mass of subscribers to leverage marketing, and frankly, justify the effort. What that number is, we don’t know. We’re guessing 7,500. Since you are on this list-serve, I suspect you already recognize the potential and how it will help what you are doing here, as well.
Let’s keep the longest running community news publication in Minneapolis alive.
One of the problems of community newspapers is there isn’t much “community” around anymore. Some neighborhoods and cities, of course, are closer than others, but fewer and fewer people identify with where they live.
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)