Dying Breed or Ripe for Innovation? New Weekly Print Newspaper Coming to Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill is getting a new weekly newspaper. Dan Shannon, the publisher of Chapel Hill Magazine will debut Chapel Hill Magazine’s The Weekly in February 2012. The paper will start with a six-month beta period, during which 2,000 randomly selected Chapel Hill households will receive it for free. Those who do not receive a copy will be able to purchase one at newsstands.

I will admit that I have never read an entire issue of Chapel Hill Magazine, since I am not a member of one of the 12,000 affluent Chapel Hill households that gets a free copy, so I am only vaguely aware of the magazine's content, and am unsure if The Weekly will be in a similar vein. According to the article, Shannon says that he wants to include things like "middle school and high school sports, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, land transfers, arrests, acquittals, bankruptcies and new business startups". I am sure Shannon knows his market better than I do (and as a Millenial, I'm probably not his target audience), but that doesn't sound like something I would pay to read. The Weekly will also have a website, but much of the paper's content will only be found in the print edition. This is a very different model than the Daily Tar Heel or Chapel Hill News, who post all their print content online, and have online-only stories and blogs.

So what do you all think? Is a weekly Chapel Hill newspaper something that could thrive? What kind of content would you like to see in the paper? Would you buy it?



Erin, you're quite right that we are not the target demographic (in lots of ways.) In fact, I follow CH Magazine's tweets but I have never read anything in the magazine. My thoughts:1. There's certainly a need for more media coverage here in Orange County, but I'm not sure this move will actually change that situation substantially one way or another, except possibly to poach advertisers from the other print dinosaurs. It seems likely that I'm not the target demo for Shannon's idea of news either.2. Not putting the print content online guarantees that any audience they may have will necessarily shrink over time as more and more media consumers expect to get information in digital formats (even if in complement to print).3. "2,000 randomly selected Chapel Hill households will receive it for free." Will that be 2,000 randomly selected households in nice neighborhoods? 4. What is it with businesspeople's inability to give things real names? I'm looking at you The Franklin, East 54, McCorkle Place, 411 West, 140 West, etc.

and yet a site on Orange County politics is originally called OrangePolitics.org... I kid, I kid

Good one. ;-) But at least our name tells you what we are as well as where. East 54, The Franklin, McCorkle Place, The Weekly could all be band names for all we know. 

How is this any different than Southern Neighbor (http://www.southernneighbor.com/)? --James BarrettMember of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro School BoardUnless otherwise noted, my comments here are my own, not opinions of the school board or my employer

The Southern Neighbor doesn't have any of those things: "middle school and high school sports, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, land transfers, arrests, acquittals, bankruptcies and new business startups".Print is fine, but any new publication that doesn't integrate online is doomed.  Hell, the existing papers don't have good websites as it is, which is why blogs have taken such a good portion of the eyeballs. 

I just spoke with Dan Shannon.  Interesting conversation.  He was not happy with my comment above, although I think it was a misunderstanding of my perspective on this, so let me clarify.1) I've been a paid subscriber to CH Magazine for years.  Sure there are things I skim, but it is also a fun way to catch up on what is happening around town and the latest thoughts from people I love like Freddie Kiger (our beloved high school history teacher for those who are newer to our community).  2) I was reacting to Erin's description above, which to me sounded like reprinting press releases or public notices, not a real newspaper. Mr. Shannon assures me he is planning on much more than that. Mr. Shannon's description of the coming paper to me was "a fair, stimulating, interesting, independent and even-handed newspaper."  I fully agree with him that this "has enormous value for a community, especially one that has been all but abandoned by newspapers." I look forward to reading The Weekly and apologize for any negativity in my comment above.

Dan has nailed an affluent niche demographic with his two magazines. You've got to give him credit for making his print product work in the current media world. He knows his audience, and he knew they'd love to read, see, and be seen in print.  He probably knows what they want in news too.Personally, I dig CH Magazine for what it is although I'm not of the class that gets a free copy. Early on I talked with Dan about some of my criticisms (not enough food coverage, too few people of color), and the magazine has actually worked on improving those things. Plus he's always willing to feature non-profit fundraisers and often donates ad space. And we fundraisers love having direct access to his target demographic!My guess is that the 2000 free subscriptions will be given to households with annual incomes over a certain threshold, because a business model like this has to be able to sell ads by describing their readership demographics.My question is... Can anyone name a media market that has more print media per capita than Chapel Hill-Carrboro? 

I'm too sensitive, no doubt, but I take exception to uninformed critical comments about The  Weekly, particularly from folks who should instinctively be supportive of additional, independent voices in our community. I'm imagining a lively newspaper, for lack of a better word, that will report on the towns' activities, school events, government, fundraisers and much more. The stuff that communities are made of. It will also serve as a cross-section and forum for varied opinions and viewpoints. It will be a lot of things that will please and inform Chapel Hill and Carrboro. I'm imagining a weekly newspaper that likes the communities it covers, that employs locals who are passionate and involved in their communities. As for our online plans, they are, for the time being, confidential.

 So wish us luck. If we do this right it will make a positive contribution to our towns. And I appreciate the welcoming comments.


Dan  Shannon 

Dan,I wrote this post as a way to spread the word about your paper, and to open discussion about the state of print media in Orange County. I am happy that more news coverage will be coming to our community, and I wish you the best with your publication.As for my comments being uninformed, I was going off the Folio article, which is the only coverage available at the time. I appreciate you coming here to add more information. I am sure you would not be starting The Weekly if you did not believe that there is a market for another newspaper. The doubt I expressed was that I would probably not purchase the paper because I am unlikely to be part of the target audience, and that as someone who (until a few months ago) didn't even live in a place that received the Chapel Hill News, I am wary of the value of spending part of my (rather limited) disposable income on print media. I hope you can prove me wrong.

I am sure you will do a good job. I look forward to reading it weekly .

Thank you for your comment, Dan. I think we all hope your paper is a sucess and does all the things you say it will. I definitely believe "the more the merrier" when it comes to local media, whether it's on paper or online, and whether it's made by professionals or volunteers. I'm always glad to have someone else covering boring and/or contentious meetings so I don't have to!At the same time, The Carrboro Citizen is already working hard to fill the exact same niche you describe, and in the same communities. I think they're doing a pretty good job of it, and since they make their content easily available to me both online and in print it will probably continue to be one of my primary sources of news. 

In today's Daily Tar Heel:

Shannon said he feels newer media sources like the internet leave a hole in the market when it comes to local news.“The internet hasn’t figured out local yet,” Shannon said. 

Seriously, Dan? Did you actually look at the Internet before making that statement? http://lmgtfy.com/?q=hyperlocal


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