I remember him saying we were “developing an Internet strategy.” And I remember that the paper and the staff … kept shrinking. I also remember finding out, for the first time, as our print circulation shrank, what kind of numbers we were pulling online.
Surely, I figured, they must be big. Our readership was just moving from print to the Internet, right? But it turned out that a “big online story” for us translated to 1,000 or so readers.
The Digital Faerie was like an absentee god, content to leave us to our fates.
This reads like an obituary for a patient that’s still breathing. And the truth is, I’d bet that 10 years from now, every major city in America will still have an alt weekly.
But alt papers will need to recognize where they are.
Most advertising money still comes through the print product; and the print product is still forecasted to be the option this city’s less-moneyed residents are likely to choose. The urban poor are less likely to have computers and iPads. College students remain likely to grab us as they hustle from one place to another. That means two of our old bulwarks are still standing, and gives me reason to the think the future could keep alt weeklies in business.
We were always at our best trekking into this city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods and talking to their residents. We were always good at finding out who was on the verge of doing what. So youthful trend-followers and progressives seem likely to keep reading.
What this all means to me is that the license to print money might be long gone, but the opportunity to be a part of the city—that remains.
For those of us who worked in editorial, that was always where the romance was.
The money went to someone else. But that conference table, and a place in Philadelphia, that was ours.
The paper you now hold in your hands, PW, has been around for 40 years—more or less. Like most media stories, it’s a bit more complicated than that. No matter the changes, though, there is a through line in the paper’s history: a renegade spirit and a determination to give voices to the voiceless.
Letters to the Editor