Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Houston Press ends print publication

The latest victim of print media's slow-but-steady death spiral is the local alt-weekly:
Print is dead. Long live digital. Long live the Houston Press. In dot com form.
As of today and going forward, there will be no more print copies of the Houston Press. We’ll be online-only at houstonpress.com, a business decision brought about by declining advertising revenues seen throughout the print newspaper industry and more specifically for us, the mini recession caused by the downturn in the oil and gas industry that did nothing good for the Houston economy.
And then, of course, there was Hurricane Harvey. That was the topper. The massive flooding destruction it caused appeared to directly target restaurants and the arts community – some of our biggest advertisers – who faced with declining revenues of their own found they had other, more pressing expenses to consider.
In addition to scrapping its paper publication, the Press also laid off its entire editorial staff, with the exception of Editor-in-Chief Margaret Downing (who wrote the article linked and excerpted above.)

As a long-time reader of the Press, this really isn't a surprise to me. The print edition of the Houston Press had steadily been becoming thinner over the years: fewer stories, fewer restaurant, theater and art reviews, and (most importantly) fewer revenue-producing advertisements. It had been awhile since I had even picked up a paper edition of the Press.

It remains to be seen if the Press can continue as an online-only operation for the long haul, given the current state of the digital advertising market. It's hard for publications to sustain themselves on digital advertising alone, especially since so much of it is consumed by just two companies. I'll be rooting for the continued survival of the online-only Press, because locally-focused journalism is both critical and severely threatened. But, sadly, I can't say I'm optimistic.

The publisher's official explanation for the move is here. Kuff and Jeff Balke have some thoughts of their own.

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