Alternative papers rising from the ashes
Dan Kennedy wrote an interesting piece on the rapidly changing "alternative weekly" landscape for MediaShift, titled "Alt-Weeklies Struggle to Reinvent Themselves for the Digital Age."
Kennedy covers the decline and occassional rebirth of alt presses, noting:
"As it turned out, the alternative press was just a few years behind the dailies -- and when the Internet apocalypse hit, it hit hard."
He also points to The Phoenix (an appropriately named rebirth of The Boston Phoenix) as a prototypical example.
It seems to me that if alternative weeklies are going to survive and thrive, they need to play to their traditional strengths -- progressive politics, long-form narrative journalism, and deeply intelligent coverage of the arts -- while seeking out new ways of making money. Reinvention as a glossy magazine, the route The Phoenix has taken, is one way, even if the new publication can no longer be considered an alt-weekly in the strictest sense. Separating the journalism from the adult ads, as the Village Voice and its sister newspapers (and The Phoenix) have done, is another.
Half a century ago, the alternative press represented something fresh and exciting. The excitement is long since gone, but the need for a diverse range of high-quality local media is as great as ever. Alt-weeklies -- or whatever we should call them -- can still be a vital part of that. I hope they are.
Read the full article at PBS MediaShift, and keep abreast of changes to alt-weeklies across the nation with the continuously updated Newspaper Media Advertising Source from SRDS.