R.I.P. Venue magazine

15Apr12

After 30 years almost to the day, Venue magazine will cease to be a print edition as of the next edition, out at the end of this month. It will continue as an online listings guide, and will provide the what’s on content for Northcliffe’s other titles locally, including the Evening Post, Bristol Observer and the local Metro.

This is a hell of a wrench for several people. Some Venue staff and freelancers will now be laid off. There certainly won’t be much room for me in this new scheme of things, but heigh-ho, we had a damn good run at it. It was a great laugh, I became lifelong friends with some wonderful people and I think the old rag probably did Bristol a lot of favours down the years. Didn’t do much harm anyway.

This latest move comes a year after Venue went from weekly to monthly publication, and is part of a wider reorganisation of what remains the Northcliffe empire locally. The Evening Post now becomes The Post (since it’s actually been published every morning for years). It will no longer publish a Saturday edition, and 19 people will be made redundant – about a third of the remaining staff. Casualties will include the Post’s underappreciated staff photographers, who get offered freelance contracts instead.

So then, another footnote in the long, slow death of Britain’s regional press that’s been going on for years now. And frankly a catastrophe for local democracy, ‘specially at a time when we’re talking about changing the system so’s we give huge amounts of power and influence to an individual in the form of an elected mayor.

Remember that what most of what passes nowadays for news in the local media, print and broadcast, has originated as a press release from your local council, local constabulary, or from a business. This trend will continue to the point where virtually all control of your local news agenda is in the hands of large public and private organisations.

We’ll share out the blame some other time.

The Venue-sized gap in my schedule and the death of print generally means I’m running out of excuses to avoid the Big Project I Wasn’t Going To Start For Another Ten Years Should I Live That Long. Damn!

I’m going to miss Venue and its people, and it’s looking like I won’t be reporting/investigating any local news and issues anymore, aside of course from the occasional grumpy and semi-informed blog posting, most of which can probably be filed under the generic headline COUNCIL DOES SOMETHING STUPID. Exactly the sort of thing the local press used to do.

Meanwhile, I’ve a few very talented former colleagues who will be looking for work. If anyone needs a journalist – and let’s face it, there are times when we all need a journalist – give them a shout down at Venue and the Post.



11 Responses to “R.I.P. Venue magazine”

  1. Sorry to hear this Eugene.

  2. Sorry to hear about this Eugene.

  3. 3 thebristolblogger

    Northcliffe. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

  4. Ah, a sad day! I remember Venue starting up. Good luck with The Big Project, Eugene.

  5. 5 Moses

    Thank you for all your writings, Eugene, & best of luck with the New Project.
    I think I’ll go read your St Vincent’s Rock online again. It’s been a sad slow death of Venue.
    Is there any chance one of you chaps could start a printed listings mag again? I sorely miss the fortnightly / weekly listings, and have noticed how we go out less frequently now compared with a year ago.

  6. Just want to make it clear that when I ‘liked’ this post, I was referring to the fact that Venue is honoured in this piece. I too am very sad that Venue will no longer be a printed publication. I always felt that Venue was one of the great things about living in Bristol or Bath and that we were very lucky to have it.

  7. Sad day for Bristol. Can’t we all put our hands in our pockets and keep you all going, somehow?

  8. 8 John Serpico

    Is the closure of Venue due strictly to financial reasons, Eugene? Is it because not enough people are actually buying it? Is it due to a decline in businesses unwilling to advertise in Venue?

    I know closure has always been on the cards simply because of Venue being in bed with Northcliffe but does it seem now not viable financially to have a magazine like Venue in Bristol again?
    I ask because I always wanted to start a local news/review type magazine. Should I now give up on that idea?

    I agree with you regarding news becoming a series of press releases from the authorities and businesses. Though this is hardly anything new.

  9. Thanks for all your kind comments, everyone. John, yes it’s slightly more complicated than simple business failure as what’s happened is also part of Northcliffe strategy to save the Post. The ‘Venue’ brand lives on online and as Post’s Friday what’s on supplement, though no idea how long for. Most staff keep their jobs, but the print version goes, along with me and 3 other people. I may go into this in more detail sometime when I’m feeling masochistic enuff.

    FWIW Northcliffe are not at fault here in the sense that Venue (and the Post) would be experiencing the same problems – declining sales, declining ad revenue, people expecting to get everything online for free, etc. etc. – whoever the owners were. Northcliffe also treat staff and freelances a hell of a lot better than certain more “liberal” newspaper groups. Obviously in the long run the problem is that the local press was owned by a big firm which doesn’t give a damn about Bristol or about journalism and will sweat assets and staff to try and produce unrealistic margins for institutional shareholders and fat-cat bosses who don’t pay much tax. But again, Northcliffe are no worse than Trinity, Archant and the others. The problem is not Northcliffe, it’s the system.

    If I was you, John, I’d think very carefully about launching your magazine nowadays. You have to pay your printers even if you don’t pay your contributors, and it’s very difficult to get the public to buy publications these days unless of course you’re aiming at a niche/minority readership. If this was me and I was trying to get across to as many readers as possible, I’d set up a local news/comment/feature website, which would try to make a modest amount of money through ads, sponsorship and/or crowdsourced funding. There’s no shortage of talented potential contributors out there. The hardest thing would be appointing an editor, or thrashing out an agreed set of editorial guidelines and principles you can all stick by. If you can do that and you can get half a dozen decent writers, you’re in business.

  10. 10 John Serpico

    Thanks Eugene. I for one reckon it’s a great shame for Venue to close down, which might come as a surprise to some people who used to know me? My idea for bristolindymedia was for it to be a local news/comment/feature website (with an Anarchist bent) though sadly it didn’t quite turn out that way. I always wanted to create a local Modern Review (the Julie Burchill version) type magazine. One day, maybe.
    Good luck, Eugene.

  11. Cheers John, much appreciated, There’s definitely room and demand for something out there; just a matter of coming up with most appropriate way of doing it.


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