The year 2022 is ending on a depressing note for numerous people in the publishing business.
Case in point: the Barberton Herald, a weekly publication that has been serving the Akron, Ohio area for 100 years, is closing this month.
A front-page editorial explains that local businesses were “hit hard by the pandemic, forcing them to close or cut back on employees and expenses. The Herald lost many advertisers during that period. As revenues went down, costs soared. The rising cost of postage and printing are far too great to overcome. The Heraldwould have to double the subscription rates and advertising prices to make ends meet.”
Then there is the Commercial-News, a newspaper that has served the Three Rivers area in Michigan for 127 years: It announced earlier this month that it is ceasing publication.
Like the Bremerton Herald, the Commercial Newsfaced decreased revenues and lack of support.
“The reality became that we could not generate enough revenue to remain viable,” said Dirk Milliman, editor and publisher. “We do not have enough regular advertisers who use our products to promote their businesses,” according to the Commercial News.
Milliman added, “The prominence of social media has changed the whole dynamic of information sharing, of news and news reporting. And like many small businesses, we never really recovered from the pandemic. Unfortunately, it is just our time.”
Happily, the paper has been acquired by Mike Wilcox, owner of a Southwest Michigan group, and it is publishing news online. But, in general, the climate for local newspapers is “shifting from print to online and print subscriptions and readership dwindling, Clark Burns, publisher of the West Side Leader and South Side Leader, told the Akron Beacon Journal. Those papers plan to increase their coverage of the Bremerton area to fill in for the loss of the Herald.
"It's unfortunate we're losing another local newspaper," Burns said.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Debra and Chris Paul are closing two weekly newspapers: The Nutfield Newsand the Tri-Town Times. But they will still publish the Londonderry Times, Media Nation reports.
In addition to the normal financial pressures, the Pauls are fighting a First Amendment battle with state authorities.
In August, Debra Paul was arrested for allegedly running political advertisements that did not conform with state election laws—namely that they should be labeled as such, She was charged with six misdemeanor counts related to Penalties For Political Advertising.
Paul responded by saying that Attorney General John M. Formella’s office “has more important matters to deal with than to send press releases out on misdemeanors such as this. With multiple unsolved homicides over the past year, this seems a bit absurd.”
As if all that were not enough, there is bad news on another front: Eastbay, a mail order catalog that has been a resource for sneaker lovers, including many who read it like a magazine, since 1980, is shuttering at the end of the month. The business has been owned by Foot Locker since 1997.
Eastbay has posted an FAQ for customers about the closing, including suggestions how to manage their personal information.
Good luck to the New Hampshire publishers--that political situation sounds absurd.
I own a weekly newspaper in the U.P. of Michigan and we've had one of our best years in recent history. When I purchased the paper three years ago it was in a rapid state of decline and was a month away from being shut down. Fast forward to today and subscribers are coming back, advertisers are returning, and we're growing revenue not just in our paper, but by expanding into digital and social media. We're more engaged in the community than ever and I've not had to raise subscription or advertising rates. I hate to read of papers going out of business, but I do think that with a fresh approach to how the news is covered, and a open view of how to use digital, the revenue is there to keep things going AND grow at the same time.