Change continues in the city of Columbus, Ohio, where the once-family-owned news publisher used to be a centre for innovation.
Publisher Gannett has announced it’s closing the ThisWeek chain of community newspapers in the city, having sold the Dispatch building on Capitol Square last year.
It’s a couple of decades since we were writing about the innovative triple-circumference print technology being developed in Columbus with a cluster of vendors: multi-sectioned broadsheets economical enough to attract the publisher of USA Today as a print client, in fact.
But then things started to happen, fall apart if you like. The following year, Gatehouse was buying the Dispatch Media Group from the Wolfe family for US$47 million, and soon a merger made them part of one of the country’s largest newspaper groups.
Except that “newspaper” is not a term you’ll see mentioned much these days.
According to co-director of Auckland (NZ) University of Technology’s journalism, media and democracy research centre Merja Myllylahti, they see themselves as a “subscription-led and digitally focused media and marketing solutions company”.
The last of the hyperlocal ThisWeek editions will be printed on January 26.
Fewer print editions with the longer deadlines that come with out-of-town production are increasingly a fact of life in regional US markets, as they had been at home in Australia until many of the mastheads were simply shut.
Gannett also announced the closure of another print centre this week, this time in Greece, New York, saying the decision – which leaves some independents looking for a printer – was “strategic to ensure the future of local journalism”.
In an INMA media research blog, Myllylahti wonders why news publishers are not “making noise” about their point of difference when trust in news is declining and audiences “struggle to differentiate between news media and social media”.
Does news media companies’ digital transformation, revenue diversification and content bundling, she asks, “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Valid point.