Free Planet S, Prairie Dog now offering paid subscriptions

In an increasingly challenging media environment, the publisher of Planet S and Prairie Dog is turning to a crowdsourcing model to help keep the free alternative papers viable.

Sask. alt-weeklies' publisher experimenting with subscription model to offset declining revenue

One of many spots where Planet S is freely available in Saskatoon. (Josh Lynn/CBC)

To offset diminishing advertising revenue, readers of Planet S in Saskatoon and Prairie Dog in Regina can now opt to purchase paid subscriptions.

Our readers who value our paper ... should have a clear and concise opportunity to support us directly.- Stephen Whitworth, editor

"We looked at our finances and we've continued to lay people off and we've shrunk about as far as we can shrink at this point," said Stephen Whitworth, who serves as editor for the pair of alt-weeklies. 

The papers, produced biweekly by Hullabaloo Publishing, will still be freely available in their traditional coffee shop, pub and street box locations.

But, by taking a page from the crowdfunding playbook, Whitworth is hoping to keep the printing press humming. 

"Our readers who value our paper, and seem to like us from what we can tell, should have a clear and concise opportunity to support us directly," said Whitworth.

Subscriptions start at $9.99 for every two issues. There are increasing tiers of paid support that include perks for readers wishing to contribute more.

Subscribers will have their copy of Prairie Dog or Planet S delivered by mail. 

"What usually happens with free weeklies is that they go out of business. Over the past five years, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal have lost four papers between those three cities," said Whitworth. 

The editor said Prairie Dog and Planet S offer something unique in the province's largest urban centres that is worth keeping in the media mix.

"I think [we] can do a good job of being a little bit weird and funny, as well as focusing fanatically on fact-based, reality-based and entertaining-to-read news," said Whitworth.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning