Calgary

Calgary publisher bucks trend with growth in hyperlocal newsletters

Local newsletters are proving to be big business in Calgary, flying in the face of the economy and bigger local and national newspapers that face a constant struggle to bring in advertising revenue.

Great News Publishing now prints 84 different newsletters to 140 communities

Great News Publishing produces lots of Calgary's neighbourhood newsletters. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Local newsletters are proving to be big business in Calgary, flying in the face of the economy and bigger local and national newspapers that face a constant struggle to bring in advertising revenue.

The printing presses and folding machines at Great News Publishing in Calgary's Shepherd Industrial Park run eight hours per day, five days per week.

Mike Russell left San Francisco's tech sector and moved back to Calgary to take over the running of the company in 2009. (Dan McGarvey/CBC )

President Mike Russell says he's now publishing 84 newsletters to more than 400,000 households in 140 communities in the Calgary area.

"The publications have real important local content and it's essentially a celebration of communities," says Russell. "People also still like to physically touch a magazine and go through it."

Great News publishes newsletters for community associations at no cost to them, making money through advertising, which is cheaper and more appealing for small businesses than buying space in newspapers.

Great News Publishing produces titles such as the New Brighton Buzz, Oakridge Echo and the Parkdale Post. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"The product is now beautiful to look at and very readable and our audience is responding to it."

Russell says the community association members put the articles together and the content is getting better all the time, providing a "hyperlocal" level of news and information that traditional media can't match.

"I absolutely think that's what people want to see and we're pushing and trying harder and harder to give that to the residents," he said.

Despite more focus on digital, Mike Russell thinks there's still a market for monthly community newsletters, which offer something totally different than other media. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Assistant journalism professor at Mount Royal University, Sean Holman, says there's even some scope for community newsletters to start publishing more journalism content.

"As the capacity of the mainstream media declines I think we are going to see journalism move into other areas," says Holman. "In Edmonton there's actually a community association there that's publishing a magazine called The Yards and it is very much journalism."

Mike Russell has plans to expand his printing business, hiring two more full-time positions and working to get more communities on board.

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