Will alternative print newspapers survive the economic downturn? What will arts aficionados read in the years to come? Has the rise of online periodicals and cultural blogs eroded arts reporting? These were some of the questions posed last Thursday evening when Village Voice Publisher Michael Cohen, Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega, Alana Taylor of Mashable.com and Jake Dobkin, publisher of Gothamist, discussed the current state of arts and cultural journalism at 92YTribeca. Moderated by Daniel Gallant, Director of Theater Programming there, the hour long discussion was heavy on talk of the news print industry and the drop in advertising revenues, online and in print.
In the video clip provided, Dobkin and Ortega offer differing views on the state of the news print industry, and what lies ahead in their future. It was clear during the discussions that the Village Voice feels pressure to change and adapt to a new media, and is plowing their resources into the web. Can they survive and prosper as a print publication? They are optimistic.
Though it’s no question that the news print industry is in serious decline, Dobkin thinks it is a business model problem, not one of advertising revenues. “Newspapers haven’t changed, the market has,” he said. And the advertising revenues are following the market to the web. He asserted that finding advertisers for Gothamist, which is his primary role there, “is easy”. And shedding some light on Gawker’s profitability, he went on to say, “from what I understand from talking to Nick [Denton] and the guys who run it...Gawker is printing money.”
Not to be misunderstood, Jake pointedly declared it is “inevitable” that the Village Voice will be forced to shut down their print operation. A business such as the Village Voice or New York Times, successfully grown organically over decades to serve a certain niche in print—with all those resources and capital dedicated to such—can not seriously be expected to just turn around and become a successful online venture, no matter how much you cut from the operating expenses. “It’s like asking a cow to fly, it’s just not going to happen...every newspaper is going to go out of business,” he said. “None will be spared, not even the New York Times.”