Mainstream newspapers are far from dead. At least, the ones that are run with any sense of vision, anyway.
That’s my view after 10 months of running a niche naturism newsletter on the Substack site, a relatively new upstart in independent journalism. I’m pretty sure all of my readers — mostly seasoned naturists, the target audience — would buy subscriptions to newspapers like the New York Times if they had a weekly naturism column or two in which readers could contribute their comments and have a good gab with each other.
And if the price was right.
I cancelled my subscriptions to both the N.Y. Times and the Globe & Mail in Canada recently because I wasn’t reading them enough to justify the costs, and in the latter case, because I felt the subscription price of $32 a month was kind of steep.
Since then, both newspapers have been trying to woo me back with subscription prices set at 50 cents a week.
Mainstream newspapers could snuff out alternative publications — newsletters and indie papers — as easily as pinching a candle wick on All Hallow’s Eve if they covered more niche subjects like naturism, the LGBT/Queer world and so much more. And you have to think they will do it as they complete the shift from print to digital and their ad revenue climbs. Which it will. They will be able to eliminate subscription prices all together, but they will keep their paywalls intact because they will want you to sign up and boost their subscription numbers for the advertisers, who don’t care if you are paying for a subscription or not, I think. They only care about how many people might see their ads.
Sure, there is money to be made by some well-known columnists defecting from mainstream media to forums like Substack. Some of them have as many as 30,000 paying subscribers. But for writers more interested in delivering a message than making buckets of money, you can’t beat a platform like the New York Times, where a columnist might be read by 2 million people or more. And those news outlets have soooo much more to offer than the voice of a single writer.
When I used to blog on LGBT issues for my newspaper, some posts garnered 75,000 views. On my personal blog, I think the highest number of views I have ever drawn for a single post in a day was in the 5,000 range. These days, I’m lucky if a post is read 50 times on the day it is published in this personal blog — though The Naturism Community newsletters are usually opened by every subscriber (165) and are read by many more non-subscribers before the posts are locked, which is usually done a day or two after they are published.
I didn’t start The Naturism Community newsletter to make money. I’ve been blogging for some 20 years in various forums, and it has always been about the love of doing it — and with social justice in mind in most cases. The Naturism Community newsletter is the first forum in all those years that ever put any cash in my bank account, and I am both flattered and honoured by the fact that anyone would pay to read my words there.
Not that I have made very much. But I don’t do sales pitches there, and I am probably the world’s worst businessperson. I recently lowered the subscription fees there, and gave the people who had already paid annual fees indefinite free subscriptions as well as some who had been paying the old monthly rate from the beginning. I had to find a way to get around Substack’s minimum paid subscription rate of $5 a month, so I offered annual subscriptions priced at $36, or $3 a month.
Substack is in it to make money, too, of course. I’m well aware of that. And so they should make money (they take 10 percent). It’s a cool service. I’m having fun with it, and The Naturism Community’s readership — mostly free subscribers — seem to be enjoying it, too. And everyone there has been blessed by the wonderful writing of Fred Heiser, who could be writing for any mainstream media outlet on naturism, in my view.
I’m hoping to add another writer or two there and if by some miracle all of our readers paid for an annual subscription, I think I would give it all to Fred and the other writers. It’s a labour of love for me, as is this blog. I think Fred would probably say the same for his blog and for his contributions to The Naturism Community. Both of us love to write.
Which is all to say that The Naturism Community will most probably continue after it hits the one-year mark on Dec. 30. When I started it, I figured I would give it a year and see how things went. We haven’t accomplished all of the things I was hoping for, mostly because I have a real job that keeps me very busy, too. But we seem to be settling into a groove there.
We’re good to go for another year, I think, unless some mainstream newspaper steals all our readers.