The Village Voice, the oldest and best-known of the alternative weekly newspapers, announced today that it will no longer publish a print edition.
The decision was made by new owner Peter Barbey, who emphasized that this isn’t the end of The Voice itself — the company says the publication will “maintain its iconic progressive brand with its digital platform and a variety of new editorial initiatives,” plus “a full slate of events that will include The Obie Awards and The Pride Awards.”
The Voice has changed owners several times in the past decade-plus. Its parent company was acquired by rival New Times Media back in 2005, which then sold the newspapers to a new holding company called the Voice Media Group in 2012. The holding company, in turn, sold The Voice to Barbey three years later.
No doubt we’ll see many eulogies for the printed paper, which was founded in 1955. In my case, The Voice and its sister paper the LA Weekly were the publications that made me want to be a journalist in the first place, and where I fantasized about working all through my high school and college years.
While the announcement is being greeted as the end of an era in journalism, Barbey’s press release warns against nostalgia (“to which even he admitted to being prone”). It says print distribution has increased to 50 percent since Barbey became owner in 2015, and that the website has been since monthly growth in the double digits since a redesign in May.
So why shutter the print edition? Well, it’s no secret that ad-supported journalism models are under stress, and the release alludes to one of the bigger challenges for alt weeklies — namely their reliance on sex- and escort-related ads, which Barbey eliminated when he took over.
“I first read The Village Voice in print as a student in the 1970s — that was how I first encountered it and how it became as important to me as it did,” Barbey said. “But the most powerful thing about the Voice wasn’t that it was printed on newsprint or that it came out every week. It was that The Village Voice was alive, and that it changed in step with and reflected the times and the ever-evolving world around it.”
For readers like me, who mainly read The Voice online, this news may make more of a symbolic difference than a practical one (like the newsroom’s move to Wall Street a few years ago). But while the announcement doesn’t include any details, it will almost certainly come with cost-cutting and layoffs.