Commentary

40-Year-Old 'City Pages' Is Shuttered

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's publisher last week shut down City Pages. The 40-year-old arts publication first made its name covering the city's music scene, as performers like Prince were rising to global fame. It's remarkable the publication held on as long as it did, considering other alt-weeklies, such as The Village Voice,shuttered two years before the pandemic.
“Since City Pages revenue is 100% driven by advertisers and events — and those investments have dropped precipitously — there’s no reasonable financial scenario that would enable us to continue operations in the face of this pandemic," Paul Kasbohm, CRO of Star Tribune Media, stated. "Unfortunately, we foresee no meaningful recovery of these sectors or their advertising investments in the near future, leaving us no other options than to closeCity Pages."
That's a realistic assessment as the pandemic drags into its eight month.

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The U.S. is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors. Apparently, that time is not being spent in complete isolation, with dozens of states seeing new one-day highs in reported infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

For publications that depend on advertising revenue from local bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters and cultural institutions, it's hard to fathom how quickly they will see a recovery. About 39% of U.S. adults said they're comfortable going out to eat, while only 16% would contemplate going to a concert, according to a tracking study by researcher Morning Consult.
Those levels have held steady since the early summer, along with how people feel about doing activities in the next few months. A significant portion of people said they wouldn't feel comfortable going to restaurants, museums, concerts or theaters for at least another six months.
The hesitancy likely reflects their caution until there are signs the pandemic has subsided, or perhaps controlled with a vaccine. For more insights on the progress of a vaccine, check out The New York Times' vaccine tracker. It provides updates on the status of the 50 vaccines currently being tested on humans.
As of this writing, the tracker shows zero vaccines approved for full use, with only six approved for early or limited distribution. Even as more vaccines are approved by next year, it likely will take longer for more people to feel comfortable with them.
Now that election season is over, consumer confidence in a vaccine may start to reverse after declining in September as President Trump promised a treatment by the end of the year. People saw his claims as an election ploy, rather than a realistic appraisal of the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine.

Until the health crisis abates, it's hard to fathom a recovery in consumer spending on businesses and cultural institutions that support local arts publications.
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