Two weeks ago, a daily newspaper in Ohio announced it would be stopping the presses for good this summer.
Why does that matter to Gainesville? Because the 64,000 people who live in Youngstown, Ohio, where The Vindicator newspaper was established in 1869, will soon be without a daily outlet reporting what leaders are doing with their tax money.
And we are relying on the free market to keep that from happening to you.
Journalism insiders have pointed to The Vindicator’s announcement as a sign of things to come, because one of the factors that ultimately sank The Vindicator affects every news outlet: falling advertising revenues.
Businesses large and small are increasingly turning to online advertising to get the word out about their goods or services. And why not? So in response, newspapers all across the country have offered digital advertising services for more than two decades. But as Google and Facebook rose to prominence over the last dozen years or so, they’ve attracted the lion’s share of the digital advertising market, leaving local outlets — the websites run by newspapers and TV stations as well as other institutions you value — with a tiny piece of the pie.
In other words, just two companies now receive 59 percent of all online advertising revenues, and neither one actually cares whether you can still get news about your city council or county commissioners’ court.
So where does that leave local newspapers?
It means that subscribers are more important than ever.
See, the Register and almost all other news outlets still take a free market approach to keeping tabs on the government. Journalism takes work and resources, so we are run like a business, relying on advertising and subscriptions to fund that work. Unlike NPR, the BBC or certain other media outlets, we do not receive government funding of any sort, nor do we get private grant funding.
Essentially, newspapers are the ultimate capitalist solution for government oversight. But beyond that, a newspaper’s independence from government funding is critical to its mission of making known the things that officials would rather keep quiet. A newspaper that’s supported by the free market will still be able to do its job no matter which politicians hold the government purse strings at the time.
And that’s the catch, isn’t it? Will the free market still support the work of journalism?
We truly hope so.
We’re grateful to all our subscribers who help us keep doing what we do. If you’d like to join them and invest your resources into our reporting, you can subscribe to the digital edition starting at $6.99 a month, or get a combination print-digital package beginning at $8.09 per month, by visiting gainesvilleregister.com/subscriptions or calling our offices at 940-665-5511.