June 15, 2016

State of the News Media 2016

Alternative Weeklies: Fact Sheet

Last updated June 2016

18 out of 20 Alt Weekly newspapers see circulation drop or remain steady

Most alternative weeklies saw a drop in circulation in 2015 alongside four significant sales by Voice Media Group, the media company that owns seven alt weeklies across the U.S.

In October 2015, Voice Media Group sold the New York-based Village Voice, one of the oldest and most iconic alt weeklies in the U.S. The Village Voice, for many years the top alt weekly by circulation, has changed ownership multiple times since 2005 and was most recently sold to a company controlled by Peter Barbey, owner of a Pennsylvania newspaper. These changes, along with layoffs and budget cuts, have come with multiple years of dropping circulation for the publication.

Voice Media Group sold three other alt weeklies in the same general time period: the St. Louis publication Riverfront Times in March 2015, the California-based OC Weekly in February 2016 and the Twin Cities region’s City Pages in May 2015. The Star Tribune, Minnesota’s largest daily newspaper, is the new owner of City Pages.

In other industry changes, Philadelphia City Paper, founded in 1981, ceased its print publication in October and consolidated its website operations with Philadelphia Weekly. Broad Street Media, which owns both publications, said that they wanted to avoid supporting two competing newsweeklies in the same market.

Another benchmark of industry health is membership in the main professional association, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN). While the sector has seen drastic changes throughout the year, AAN membership is currently at 114, just a slight change from 117 members listed in 2014.

Circulation

The combined average weekly circulation of the top 20 newsweeklies decreased 11% from 2014 to 2015 – the largest drop for the top 20 group since 2011, when circulation fell by 14%. While much of this year’s change was driven by substantial drops at large publications like The Village Voice and LA Weekly, circulation did decline across the board; just two publications in the top 20 analyzed saw an increase in circulation of more than 1%, and neither was more than 4%. The Village Voice saw the largest drop of about a third (-36%), continuing a steep circulation decline from 2014 (-25%). The LA Weekly also saw a significant decline of 15%, following an 18% drop the year before. Both the Village Voice and the LA Weekly had average monthly circulations of about 100,000 in 2014; they now have about 70,000 and 85,000, respectively.