09 July 2017

Baltimore Just Got Smaller

It's alt-weekly, The Baltimore City Paper, will be closed down by the end of the year:
The Baltimore Sun Media Group plans to close City Paper later this year. No official end date has been announced for the alt-weekly, now in its 40th year.

"Like many alternative weeklies across the country, declining ad revenue at City Paper continues to be a challenge," BSMG's director of marketing, Renee Mutchnik, said in a statement. "It became clear to us this past fall that we would cease publishing City Paper sometime in 2017. Details about the closing date are still being discussed. This is a difficult decision and we are mindful of how it affects our employees, the readers and advertisers."

Editorial staffers found out about the news in June during a meeting with senior vice president Tim Thomas, who cited declining ad revenues and future projections for those numbers as reasons for the closure.

City Paper editor Brandon Soderberg offered the following: "This is Brandon Soderberg, City Paper editor reporting live from the deck of the Titanic. Yes, we're being closed by BSMG/Tronc/and so on. We were told this news last month and there isn't a clear date but what we've been told is no later than the end of the year. We were trying to hold off announcing it because, well, it's very sad, but also because I'm not sure about how this is all going to play out and I'm half-convinced this won't be the end of the paper and someone will swoop in and buy us."

The Sun bought the paper from Times-Shamrock Communications, which had owned the paper for more than two dozen years, in early 2014. In an announcement of the purchase, BSMG's then-publisher, president, and CEO Tim Ryan praised City Paper's independent streak. 
(emphasis mine)

That last bit, about The Sun is the most important bit: The fate of the City Paper was sealed when The Sun bought it.

As A. J. Liebling noted in his seminal book The Press, the only way to make money by buying a newspaper is to be a competitor in the market, and the profit comes from shutting it down, which allows the survivor to increase its own advertising revenue.

Even if only 10% of the ads in The City Paper go to The Sun, they will get a non trivial amount of revenue from this.

I think that Baltimore is too large and too dynamic not to have an alt-weekly.

I'm considering starting a crowd funding effort to buy them from the Tribune Company.

Any advice/aid would be appreciated.


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