Layoffs at major media corporations have dominated headlines, but small publications are feeling the effects of the faltering industry, too.
People who run community publications are facing the same paradox as national newspapers and broadcasters. They're under pressure to go online but uncertain about how to make their internet content profitable.
At the same time, publishers are starting to realize the internet is good at delivering local news. Websites can publish instant, low-cost breaking news and traffic reports. Media outlets can specialize in one geographic area or community, publishing stories readers can't find anywhere else on the web, and they can approach local businesses for advertising.
As a result, some big newspapers are starting to think small. One notable example is The Local, a project by the New York Times in which staff coverage is mixed with contributions from residents in a series of online community-specific blogs. Another is The Globe and Mail's decision to team up with local blog The Torontoist.
CBCNews.ca talked to three people who run community publications about how they're adapting their businesses to the internet. Two are trying to figure out how to make online content work with their magazine or newspaper. Another has been exclusively online from the start. All of them are trying to stay relevant and competitive.
Sybille Forster-Rentmeister, publisher of Echo-Germanica
Sybille Forster-Rentmeister used to be an artist, performer and micro-celebrity in the German-Canadian community. She was a columnist in the German-Canadian media before starting her own magazine. She says she was inspired by a barrage of mail begging her to go back to writing after she quit her job as a columnist.
Forster-Rentmeister's German-English magazine Echo-Germanica debuted in 1989. In 2000, she added a website. The magazine has a circulation of about 16,000, and she said the site gets about 2,000 visitors every day.
She talks about the challenges of balancing declining magazine sales with increasingly popular — but unprofitable — web content.
Forster-Rentmeister talks about finding a formula that works in this audio clip.
Deb Bodine, editor in chief of Toronto Community News
Deb Bodine is in charge of a chain of free newspapers covering a number of Toronto communities. She's not exactly a struggling independent publisher — the chain is owned by Torstar Corp., one of Canada's biggest media corporations — but like Forster-Rentmeister, she says she's trying to figure out where the web fits in her business model.
The newspapers Bodine manages run their own websites. This has led to a lot of variation in quality, Bodine said. Some have embraced the technology enthusiastically and added streaming video and interactive elements while others have struggled with the online format. The sites are getting a complete overhaul in July to give each paper's home page a similar look.
But as Bodine explains, her audience would be upset if she focused on improving the website at the expense of the print version.
Bodine talks about maintaining balance between print and online in this clip.
Howard Owens, co-founder of TheBatavian.com
While other journalists sweat about how to make money from the internet, Howard Owens is busy doing it. He and his wife run TheBatavian.com, an online-only news site covering the town of Batavia, N.Y. Owens says he's put in a lot of 16-hour days to get the site off the ground, but it has paid off: it's now his sole source of income.
How did he do it? By being creative, for one thing. Owens approaches local businesses about buying advertising space on his site. If they say no, he asks if they'll pay for the ad in gift certificates instead. Then he sells them to his readers at half price. He also hands out balloons and magnets with the website's URL at community events.
But Owens says the site's success is also tied to its philosophy of promoting small, local businesses. This goes against the traditional definition of journalistic objectivity, but Owens argues that, in his case, that's a good thing.
Owens talks about being an advocate for the community in this clip.