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Web threat to small political publications

Tribune, the left wing weekly, which quietly passed its 70th anniversary this month, is under threat from the internet according to a former editor, Paul Anderson.

It has always been a shoe-string operation and the threat is not immediate: but the string is getting rather frayed as distribution and sales become more difficult and the potential readership looks increasingly to the internet.

It is not just Tribune that is in danger. Anderson writes:

The problem is rather that the economics of small-circulation left-wing print periodical publishing are becoming ever more precarious.

The big distributors and wholesalers have increasingly decided in recent years that they don’t want the bother of handling minnows that make them little or no money — which has had the effect of squeezing Tribune’s newstrade sales and forcing it into ever-greater reliance on subscriptions. But that’s old stuff: a far bigger challenge is posed by the internet — which is steadily undermining the habit of paying for news and opinion, particularly among young people, and thereby threatening the very existence of an independent left press.

He concludes with a warning that readers will have to continue to subscribe and get others to join them. “If you want serious left journalism, it cannot be free at the point of use,” he writes.

Would it really matter if Tribune closed? Bloggers could take over, unmoderated, but as a social network. I believe it does. We need a diversity of views and Tribune has long provided a platform for serious thinking on the left.

In the past I would sometimes get a copy from a newsagent but I have not seen it at the right time for years. Now I would prefer to be able to read on the web. But, as a casual reader, I am not prepared to take out a subscription for print or online.

If we are going to pay for web content of this sort we do need the online equivalent of loose change in our pockets. Easy to use: like the Transport for London’s Oyster card. There is talk of extending the use of this smart card, so mayor Ken Livingstone could help Tribune — and a lot of other publications — survive.

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  1. Wordblog » Blog Archive » Conversation of the converted says

    […] Web threat to small political publications […]

  2. The Daily Novel » Blog Archive » Tribune: Do what Nye Bevan would have done… says

    […] just picked up the Worblog article about how difficult Tribune is finding it to survive in the blogging era. It refers to an article […]

  3. Phil Simms says

    Tribune would be better-served as an online magazine. What the magazine loses in revenue from news-stand sales and subscriptions would be balanced by savings in print, overheads, wider access to potential readers and a greater scope for advertising revenue.

    Maybe they should look at what publications like Prospect, The Week and indeed, to a lesser extent, the Economist have done.

    # To coin a phrase – If you can’t beat them – join them!

  4. Craig McGinty says

    But don’t you think that such small publications should make it as easy as possible to subscribe?

    There is no way to pay for a subscription online, a simple PayPal account would do the job.

    And running a blog, which doesn’t replicate the magazine, would be a simple way to generate interest in its writers and ultimately the publication.

    When you consider how strong the political blogging scene is I am sure Tribune would generate a busy spot on the internet, and then they can run advertising around that as well.

    Small scale publications have to embrace the internet and turn it to their advantage.