Just as we were preparing this fourth anniversary issue of Wisconsin Gazette for print, we learned that The Onion will cease publication in Milwaukee, Chicago and Providence, R.I., on Dec. 12. The satirical news weekly had already ended its print edition in Madison, where it began, so the news was not surprising.
The Onion will be missed. It lambasted the news culture, taking journalism to outlandish extremes that often illuminated society more than the most carefully processed legitimate news. The Onion’s AV Club offered some of the most insightful cultural interviews and local performing arts content appearing in southeastern Wisconsin. Fortunately, that content will continue to appear online at avclub.com.
It would be wrong to dismiss The Onion’s action as another nail in the coffin of the print industry. There are many factors behind the failure of any business, and some of them are invariably the result of issues unique to that particular business.
While advertising at The Onion had noticeably declined over the past several years, new publications, including this one, have launched locally during the same period — and some appear to be thriving. We’ve experienced steady annual growth in distribution, gross and net revenue and industry recognition for each of the past four years.
In fact, the print publication industry as a whole is well-positioned for growth, which is why Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway has acquired 28 daily newspapers at a cost of $344 million during past two years. Highly niched and hyper-local news sources serve informational purposes that nothing else can fulfill.
Print publications, with headlines that scream at you from boxes on the streets, racks in grocery stores and the hands of the patron seated next to you at a coffee shop, remain an integral part of the informational landscape. They’re too convenient in format, intuitive in style and accessible to disappear.
But the most encouraging development for newspapers today is the variety of formats in which people access them. According to the Newspaper Association of America, 69 percent of Americans read newspaper media content in print or online in a typical week, or access it on mobile devices in a typical month. Mobile newspaper readership is growing fast — up 58 percent each month for 2012 over 2011.
We’re always searching for new ways to get WiG in the hands of the most readers possible, by offering features with broader appeal and expanding our accessibility through technology. We reached a print circulation high this year, distributing 20,000 copies of our May 31 Pride issue. We also launched an e-newsletter in the spring that’s already drawn nearly 7,000 subscribers. Our social media engagement has leaped upward this year.
As we begin our fifth year, we invite you to become more involved with WiG by joining us on Twitter and Facebook — and by registering for our newsletter and .pdf versions. If there’s a grocery store, restaurant or retail shop where you see the Shepherd Express but not the Gazette, the odds are good that we’ve tried but failed to convince the owners to join our distribution network. Let them know that you’d like to be able to pick up the Gazette at their establishment.
And please thank and support our advertisers. They make it possible for us to keep you informed about news that would otherwise go overlooked locally.