The digital-age demise of the print media has been greatly exaggerated
To hear some say it, the glory days of newspapers are behind us. In fact, it’s something I’ve been hearing since I got my first full-time gig as a reporter in Clemson back in 1999.
Back then, the internet was just beginning to emerge as the force that it is today. Would-be media moguls were launching flashy online news magazines in an effort to challenge big players like Time and Newsweek, and future Fast Company cover story profiles were pushing out niche e-commerce sites with much-ballyhooed fanfare and IPO flare.
Meanwhile on the print side of media, there were the dreaded conglomerates, the lumbering media giants who gobbled up daily newspapers across the nation with little to no concern about the communities they served. They consumed and consumed and consumed.
Those were the circumstances during the dawn of digital media age in which the one thing that gave newspapers and magazine their value — information — was now free. It had been taken away. Or so that’s what everyone thought at the time.
Flash forward to 2016. Many of the major players in the print media world have never quite recovered from the rise of the internet. Some folded or simply slipped away into the ether, while others, in particular daily newspapers, slashed staff, cut budgets and eliminated pages and pages of content. In-depth, local reporting disappeared, and generic wire copy on whatever celebrity was the tabloid fixture of the day took its place.
But some print publications have not only survived, they have prospered, especially those you might call mom-and-pop operations.
Take for instance the Charleston City Paper, the alternative newspaper I called home for the past nine years. One of the key reasons why the City Paper has succeeded while others have failed — including many in the alt-weekly world — is because of a hyper-local focus, a focus shared by the paper’s owners who called the Holy City home and who hoped to make Charleston a better place to live. Rarely did we write about anything that took place outside of city limits. Heck, you might even say that we operated under the belief that the much-celebrated Lowcountry city was the only one that mattered in the entire world. Of course, a huge portion of Charlestonians shared this sentiment, so we were lucky in that respect.
Coupled with that Charleston-centric approach, we transformed our paper from a once-a-week publication to an online-first organization that regularly beat the daily paper and the TV outlets with breaking news.
It wasn’t easy making that transition, but we did it. In part, it was because of our dedicated team, and in part it was because we were a small and nimble news organization, one that wasn’t hobbled by a burdensome bureaucracy and an adherence to bad habits. Our efforts paid off in dividends, as the City Paper earned a reputation as one of the country’s top alt-weeklies and a go-to news source in the Lowcountry as well as the entire state.
As for the paper’s online ad revenue, it increased dramatically. By the time I left the City Paper, it didn’t quite pay the bills, but it was pulling in its fair share. Business is good in Charleston.
Today, I’ve taken the editorial helm of the Greenville Journal, the Upstate Business Journal and GVLToday. I couldn’t be happier.
Greenville’s my hometown, and I was itching to return. More importantly, the Community Journals family was not just on my radar, they were my preferred destination.
I’d seen this mom-and-pop organization grow over the years, adding Upstate Business Journal and TOWN, the latter of which is just swanky. But in sitting down with Mark and Ryan Johnston, what impressed me the most was their desire to press forward, to expand the reach, influence and importance of their products. They see that despite all the naysayers out there, despite the doom and gloom that has infected the industry since the dotcom days, newspapers, both in print and online, can thrive under the right leadership, with the right approach and in service of a readership that expects the best from them every single day, whether they’re a daily or weekly. And to accomplish that, they’ve reinvested in the Community Journals’ entire team.
There’ll be some changes in the coming weeks. You’ll begin to notice that we’ll be adopting an online-first approach to reporting, and we’ll be expanding our coverage of the food and beverage world, retail and arts and culture. There’ll be more changes down the line, of course, but why spoil all the fun right now?
And so without further ado, I’d like to introduce the latest additions to the Community Journals family. I’m proud to work with each and every one of them. And together we will continue to be your top source for Upstate news.
Senior Business Writer
Senior Business Writer
Abby Moore Keith