Venue saved! Local media still in crisis!

20Mar11

Sorry. This blog has gone all quiet lately, which is unconscionable of me given the huge number of hits it was getting over the planned closure of Venue magazine. Sorry about that. I have several excuses.

So anyway, as of right now the plan is that Venue will continue publishing for a few weeks more, and then it will become a monthly freebie, combined with the firm’s existing lifestyle glossy, Folio.

This is very good news in the sense that the title will continue, and good news insofar as there will now be fewer redundancies than expected. It’s also good news in that you can do a hell of a lot of good stuff in a 150-ish page magazine. It has great potential.

That so much has been pulled out of the fire at the last minute is testament to the astonishing upsurge of support for Venue when the closure was announced. Facebook and Twitter campaigns, not to mention a few events, have all demonstrated the huge amount of goodwill that’s out there. It’s all been very encouraging and sort of humbling, too. It’s been an astonishing couple of weeks.

That’s the good bit.

Obviously, the wider situation is far from ideal; some people are still being laid off, others are going part-time, and you can’t provide the same level of coverage in a monthly magazine as you can with a weekly one.

Venue is the last surviving magazine of its kind in England, outside of London. There’s Time Out in London, of course, and The List in Scotland (now monthly, as well I believe), and that’s your lot. There were loads of them back in the 80s/early 90s, even in places like Southampton.

These are all now long gone.

Venue’s survival in one of the UK’s smaller cities was due to a number of factors; our own journalistic brilliance, of course, but more crucially Bristol’s unusual demographic – a large population of young educated types, many of them moving in from elsewhere, in need of something to show them round.

A listings magazine on paper paid for by sales, and adverts from local businesses may no longer a sustainable business model. But really this is only part of a bigger local media crisis.

Across the UK, and elsewhere in the western world, local TV, local radio and local papers are all in their different ways facing financial challenges. Venue’s problems are dwarfed by those of the Evening Post, which has the same problems as regional papers everywhere else.

At the same time “new media” don’t as yet come anywhere close to providing a decent, credible and wide-ranging local news service – though there are some contenders to look to for the future.

Likewise, there are some excellent bloggers, but there is not as yet a critical mass of “citizen journalists” out there.

There are a lot of conversations taking place about the future of local media at the moment. If enough people in this town want objective, informed reporting on local news and issues, on arts, culture, sport, the lot – not just re-heated press releases – then we have to work out a way of paying for it …

… Or maybe it all gets done for little or nothing by a growing band of unemployed hacks. Big society and all that.

Something will eventually emerge, something that is financially as well as journalistically sustainable. And when it does, it will happen from the ground up; it won’t be something imposed from a corporate office.

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4 Responses to “Venue saved! Local media still in crisis!”

  1. 1 Pascal Raabe

    “At the same time “new media” don’t as yet come anywhere close to providing a decent, credible and wide-ranging local news service”

    Not sure if I’d agree with that. If that’s the case, why is ‘old media’ in crisis again? Where have all the magazines from the 80s and 90s gone? I can’t help but thinking that there is simply no demand for them anymore. For anything other than sentimental value, it’s probably not worth keeping them alive artificially.

  2. If you’re talking about local listings mags of the 80s and 90s, most disappeared because there weren’t enough readers and advertisers to support them, and in most cases it was before the emergence of the internet.
    I never suggested anywhere that anything should be kept alive artificially. What I am saying is that if you want a proper local news service in the Bristol area, you won’t find it online. Whether or not enough people *do* want it, and are prepared to pay for it is something we’re going to find out in years to come.

  3. 3 Pascal Raabe

    Wasn’t Venue exactly that, a local listings mag that is now no longer needed? To be honest, for a long time I thought Venue was just a free voucher mag that they hand out to freshers. But even when I discovered that it had actual content, I was still puzzled about people buying this when all it did was advertising local events and clubs. I don’t want to argue, I’m just not particularly surprised that it doesn’t find a large readership anymore.

    • It may well be that a local listings mag is no longer needed. That’s kinda what this entire post was about.
      I do think, though, that most Venue readers anyway would dispute that “all it did was advertising local events and clubs”. I’d suggest there was a lot more to it than that; perhaps you ought to read the last few weekly editions. They’re sure to be collectors’ items.


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