August 22, 2017 Last Updated 1:11 pm

The Village Voice to shutter the print edition after six decade run as NYC’s alt-weekly

The weekly newspaper’s owner, Peter Barbey, said that ‘nostalgia’ for the print edition ‘runs counter to the spirit of ‘The Village Voice’ — paper will maintain its digital presence

The Village Voice announced today that it would be shuttering its weekly print edition, ending a 61 year run as the nation’s iconic alternative weekly.

What killed off the Voice may have been its decision in 1996 to go from a paid weekly to a free distribution paper.

Village Voice“When The Village Voice was converted into a free weekly in an effort to boost circulation back in 1996, it was at a time when Craigslist was in its infancy, Google and Facebook weren’t yet glimmers in the eyes of their founders, and alternative weeklies—and newspapers everywhere—were still packed with classified advertising,” owner Peter Barbey said in the announcement (below).

The Village Voice was launched in 1955 to serve NYC’s Greenwich Village. Its line-up of writers jazz critic and civil rights advocate Nat Hentoff, music critic Robert Christgau, and film critic Andrew Sarris.

The Voice was acquired by New Times in 2005, essentially a sign that things would not be well going forward. Hentoff was fired in 2008, others even earlier. New Times, which had a terrible editorial reputation, changed its name to Village Voice Media, though no one was fooled.

In 2012, a group of Village Voice Media executives bought the papers, and in 2015 Peter Barbey, president at Reading Eagle Company, acquired the Voice.

Unlike some wealthy owners, who have come from tech or other areas, and who have acquired publications despite them being money losing ventures, the new owner of the Voice can’t afford the losses, but still wants to keep the title alive in some fashion (in this case, digital-only).

“For more than 60 years, The Village Voice brand has played an outsized role in American journalism, politics, and culture. It has been a beacon for progress and a literal voice for thousands of people whose identities, opinions, and ideas might otherwise have been unheard,” Barbey said today. “I expect it to continue to be that and much, much more.”

Here is the announcement for the shuttering of the print edition of em>The Village Voice :


New York, NY—Aug. 22, 2017—The Village Voice announced today that it is ending its weekly print edition, distributed free in the New York City area, but plans to maintain its iconic progressive brand with its digital platform and a variety of new editorial initiatives and a full slate of events that will include The Obie Awards and The Pride Awards.

The announcement comes as part of the ongoing effort by owner Peter Barbey, who purchased the Voice in October 2015 from Voice Media Group, to revitalize and reimagine the Village Voice brand.

“When The Village Voice was converted into a free weekly in an effort to boost circulation back in 1996, it was at a time when Craigslist was in its infancy, Google and Facebook weren’t yet glimmers in the eyes of their founders, and alternative weeklies—and newspapers everywhere—were still packed with classified advertising,” Mr. Barbey said. “Clearly a lot has changed since then. That business has moved online—and so has the Voice’s audience, which expects us to do what we do not just once a week, but every day, across a range of media, from words and pictures to podcasts, video, and even other forms of print publishing. This decision will allow us to move forward more freely in our pursuit of all of those avenues so that The Village Voice brand is not just once again viable, but vital.”

To that end, Mr. Barbey said that the Voice has been engaged in a number of potential partnership opportunities, which may be announced in the coming months, and will continue to produce signature events such as The Obie Awards. The Voice also plans to continue with The Pride Awards, an event launched during New York City Pride Week this past June to celebrate individuals and organizations that have worked to better the lives of those in LGBTQ communities and advance the cause of LGBTQ rights around the world. Honorees at this year’s Pride Awards included teen activist Gavin Grimm, journalist Masha Gessen, and marriage-equality advocate Edie Windsor. The event was hosted by actor Alan Cumming, and garnered more than 600 million media impressions.

Upon purchasing The Village Voice in 2015, Barbey set out to address many of the challenges facing the media brand—among them, the Voice’s reliance on sex and escort advertising, which he immediately eliminated from the paper. (The Voice no longer solicits or accepts sex ads of any kind across any of its platforms.)

Barbey also invested heavily in the editorial content of the paper, moving to a better paper stock and increasing print distribution by more than 50 percent to 120,000—the Voice’s total circulation before it went free in 1996.

In May, the Voice also unveiled a newly redesigned website, created in conjunction with the agency Postlight, which since then has posted double-digit month-over-month increases in traffic, most recently delivering a 47 percent gain in July.

The Village Voice was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher and Norman Mailer, the latter of whom later said in an interview that in helping to create the Voice he wanted to make a “revolutionary” paper that would explore “the Village in all its fire.”

Over the next six decades, the Voice would go on to produce some of the country’s most profound, poignant, and provocative journalism, earning three Pulitzer Prizes, a National Press Foundation Award, the George Polk Award and the Editor & Publisher EPPY Award for Best Overall U.S. Weekly Newspaper Online.

The paper also became a breeding ground for young talent: investigative reporters Jack Newfield and Wayne Barrett; music critics Robert Christgau, Gary Giddins, and Ellen Willis; film critics Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman, and Amy Taubin; theater critics Jerry Talmer and Michael Feingold; art critics Peter Schjeldahl and Jerry Saltz; and a range of writers including Nat Hentoff, Karen Durbin, Ken Auletta, James Wolcott, and current Pulitzer Prize winners Hilton Als and Colson Whitehead all got their starts at the Voice.

In addition to laying the groundwork for this next phase in the Voice’s existence, Mr. Barbey also said that he was exploring some exciting new opportunities related to its archives, which offer a veritable chronicle of America during the post-war period.

“Whether as a member of its talented, dedicated staff, a loyal reader, or a supporter of its many initiatives, anyone who has ever come in contact with The Village Voice understands the power of its founding vision and goal of uniting New Yorkers and people around the world under the banner of the progressive ideals that represent the very best of this nation and not just who we are, but what we can be,” Mr. Barbey said.

While some may view the ending of the weekly print edition as the end of an era, Mr. Barbey said that such nostalgia—to which even he admitted to being prone—runs counter to the spirit of The Village Voice, which at its best, was always looking ahead. “My family has been in the newspaper business for more than 200 years. 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,” Mr. 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. I want The Village Voice brand to represent that for a new generation of people—and for generations to come.”

“For more than 60 years, The Village Voice brand has played an outsized role in American journalism, politics, and culture. It has been a beacon for progress and a literal voice for thousands of people whose identities, opinions, and ideas might otherwise have been unheard,” Mr. Barbey said. “I expect it to continue to be that and much, much more.”

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