The struggles of the daily newspaper business have been well-documented over the past 20 years or so. The internet and social media platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook began offering less-expensive marketing programs, and many advertisers abandoned print. It was a big problem, because covering and publishing the news — and printing a paper — is expensive, while building a website and taking content from your customers is cheap.
As a result, the old daily newspaper business model was devastated. Papers around the country began failing, and national chains began buying up those papers on the cheap, turning them into franchise operations, cash cows used to feed corporate profits for stockholders. They cut staff mercilessly. They reduced the size of their papers and the number of stories they covered. They out-sourced editing and design functions to far-away corporate headquarters.
In 2018, America's daily newspapers — most of them, anyway — are shells of what they used to be. This — despite what our current president constantly tells us — is a very bad thing for our democracy. The free press is an essential cornerstone of our republic — the institution charged with speaking truth to power and holding our institutions, office holders, and government agencies accountable.
The Flyer, which will be 30 years old next year, has managed to adapt and survive through all the upheavals in the newspaper business, primarily because we're locally owned and deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of our hometown. Throughout our history, we've never had a print-paper pickup rate of less than 90 percent. Our weekly page-counts are down from the early 2000s, but our website is thriving and we post several stories a day, most of which don't get into the print edition.
Bottom line: Memphians still read the Flyer. And because of that, our loyal advertisers keep coming back and new ones keep buying in. Without them, we wouldn't be here. In short, we're doing okay, despite the winds of change all around us. Thank you.
But we want to do better. We want to print more pages and hire more journalists. We want to expand and enhance the news, politics, music, film, food, and opinion coverage you've come to rely on. And we want to continue to do it for free. We think that's important, especially in a city like Memphis, where poverty affects so many. Access to news and information shouldn't be constrained by a lack of money. That's why the Flyer will never put up a website paywall, and it's why we'll keep our print edition free.
We do have a proposal, however. We'd like you to consider joining our newly created Frequent Flyer membership program. For as little as $5 a month, you can help support the Flyer's journalism — and get some nifty perks. Depending on at which level you pledge, you'll receive a window decal, a snazzy Memphis Flyer lapel pin, a T-shirt, and more — plus, invites to some of our events.
We're also going to begin holding "mobile newsrooms" in our advertisers' venues, where you can have a drink, meet Flyer staffers, and even pitch story ideas. (Or just have a drink and heckle us.) And we'll run a full-page thank-you ad in the Flyer every three months, listing our Frequent Flyer members (unless you prefer to be anonymous). You'll also get emails giving you advance notice of our events and other news.
For all the details, go to: support.memphisflyer.com. The site goes live Wednesday, May 2nd.
End of pitch. Onward. We're Memphis born and bred, and we're here to stay, whether you become a Frequent Flyer or not. We'll continue to celebrate all things Memphis, and we'll continue to speak progressive truth to power, without fear or favor. After all, if The Memphis Flyer doesn't do it, who will?
We hope you'll join us.