About every six months, I write something in this space about the alternative newsweekly industry while attending one of several annual conferences put on by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, BW's trade association. I spent the better part of last week in Toronto at one such conference, and I walked away with one resounding conclusion: Boise Weekly has it together pretty well for a paper of our size in a market as difficult as ours. By difficult, I mean that we're not in a community in which the majority fully understands, much less supports, anything truly alternative--especially when it comes to media.
Last summer, the bulk of our (inter)national conference in Tucson, Ariz., centered on why alt weeklies should commit to a daily news cycle with blogging, social networking and online-only content when, historically, daily news hasn't been their strength and, more importantly, no one had figured out how to monetize that kind of content. In January, those of us who had fully embraced the digital revolution of our industry attended a Web conference in an effort to find real solutions to some of the issues that had arisen with our increased participation in cyberspace.
In Toronto last week, the discussion certainly felt larger than it had in a long time--at least from an editorial standpoint. This year, editors were not divided into the haves and have-nots of blogging. We were all friending and retweeting one another rather than explaining to the have-nots the benefits of joining the real-time news stream. And this year, in many cases, rather than looking back at what we should have seen coming, we cautiously looked forward.
So what does the future hold? In short, it holds more news consumers like me. Aside from my subscriptions to the New Yorker and Newsweek, the entirety of the media I consume away from work is delivered to me via the Internet. And not only is it digital, it's handheld. I don't have a paper delivered to my house (gasp!), and I while I do own a 10-inch TV, it stays in a closet because I never bothered to get a converter box. Will the last newspaper ever be delivered on the last doorstep? I don't know. What's important for us isn't that we worry about what may or may not be inevitable and instead, reach those readers who, like me, want on-demand, real-time, location-based news in the palm of their hands. Yes, BW is a newspaper, but it's not just on newsprint anymore.