The Phoenix gets ready for its close-up

Joe Kahn wrote a smart piece on the future of the Boston Phoenix — ahem, The Phoenix — in Tuesday’s Boston Globe.

As you may know, the current issue of the Phoenix, lowercase the, is the last as a newspaper. This week, The Phoenix will debut as a free weekly glossy magazine, combining news and arts coverage from the Phoenix with some lifestyle content from Stuff, a magazine that will cease to exist as a standalone. And if you’re worried about The Phoenix’s straying from its alternative roots, keep in mind that the Phoenix had lots of lifestyle content in the 1990s. I look at this as a recalibration more than a complete reinvention.

The unusual aspect to this story, and one we Bostonians take for granted, is that the founder, Stephen Mindich, is still at it, and in fact has taken charge of the new publication. In an era of corporate chain media, The Phoenix, at 46, is still proudly independent. Mindich recently talked about his long career with Emily Rooney of “Greater Boston.”

The story of the Boston Phoenix, as with other alternative weeklies, is that it was heavily dependent on classified ads — not just the personals, but everything from a band needing a bass player to a student looking for a roommate. Needless to say, nearly all of those ads have moved to Craigslist.

And at a time when many newspapers, including the Globe, are asking their readers to pick up an increasing share of the costs through home delivery and digital subscriptions, The Phoenix is free both in print and online.

It’s a tough model for the Internet age, but glossy should enable The Phoenix to attract some of the high-end advertising it needs in order to thrive. In that spirit, I think former Phoenix contributor Mark Leccese, now a journalism professor at Emerson College and a blogger for Boston.com, was too pessimistic in his own recent assessment.

I’ve got my collector’s item from last week, and I’m looking forward to grabbing a copy of the new magazine as soon as I can. As most of you know, I was the Boston Phoenix’s media columnist from 1994 to 2005, and I still contribute occasionally.

I wish all the best to Mindich, executive editor Peter Kadzis, editor Carly Carioli and all my friends who are still there. See you tonight.

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3 thoughts on “The Phoenix gets ready for its close-up

  1. Bob Nelson

    The Herald mentions someone set up a fake Twitter account as “BostonAtNite”, the same name as a new publication the Phoenix is putting out with adult ads. The Weekly Dig–which now calls itself Boston’s only weekly alternative PAPER (as The Phoenix will be a glossy mag) is denying involvement, but they also say they think the Phoenix is on the way down (witness the various sales of such things as WFNX). While they say they don’t want the Phoenix to die out, as there are people out there with jobs depending on it, they aren’t too fond of Mindich and criticize the paper. That being said, while I don’t necessarily agree with the politics of the Phoenix, they are a vital link to arts reviews, arts/entertainment ads and listings, and so on, and it will be interesting to see how the new glossy version of the Phoenix does.

  2. Seth Albaum

    I think it’s essential to have a reliable resource for listings, online or in print. What’s frustrating, is that even with the Phoenix and the Dig, I still have to search into the further recesses of more narrowly focused blogs and facebook pages to get a fuller sense of my day or night entertainment options. Maybe that’s always been the case. But I fear the day I can’t even see 70% of what’s happening on a single website or printed publication. I love competition, but there’s a downside to fragmentation. As a consumer, I want one calendar with everything.

    If the Phoenix fails and the Dig can’t handle the task completely, will the Globe do a better job of filling its shoes? I never once thought of looking in the Globe or Herald to see what bands were playing where. They just didn’t have the right kind of credibility. I don’t think I know anyone under the age of 35 who even looks at “G.”

    I have a few years of entertainment/community calendar experience north of Boston, and I have to say, venue owners and promoters are terrible at their jobs when it comes to reliably distributing their entertainment schedules and press releases. Up here, it’s like pulling teeth. I can’t imagine if they had several such calendars to send their listings to, as some night spot owners up here have media habits more suitable for 1976. Oh, some have web sites of sorts. Sure. They tell me to look at their web sites that their buddy set up for them and hasn’t updated in several years. The music autoplays when it loads, and the calendar is broken… and that’s why we need the Phoenix. Somehow, they figured out how to get clubs to realize the obvious – that free publicity through an online calendar is a great thing.

    Maybe I went off on a tangent a little, there…

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