By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Texas newspaper publisher John Garrett tells us why ‘Print Ain’t Dead’

John Garrett

On this week’s edition of the “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with John Garrett, who, along with his wife, Jennifer, started the monthly Community Impact Newspaper in 2005 in Texas. They had three full-time employees and covered two towns in Texas, Round Rock and Pflugerville.

Community Impact expanded into Arizona and Tennessee, and by 2018, Forbes reported, the Garretts had 220 employees and annual revenue of $27 million. They have an online presence, of course, but they also believe in print: their newspapers are distributed by mail every month. They even opened their own printing plant to handle their newspaper and other jobs and have a sign out front that says: “Print Ain’t Dead.”

But as we prepared for this podcast, John told us they’ve just made some tough decisions. They sold their Phoenix operations and closed their small Nashville outlet. They’ve decided to focus on Texas, where their business is doing well, and they have fresh plans for the future there.

Ellen and I devote the entire Quick Takes segment of the podcast to the New England Muzzle Awards, a Fourth of July roundup of outrages against freedom of speech and of the press in the six New England states. The awards were conceived of by my friend and occasional collaborator Harvey Silverglate, the noted Boston civil-liberties lawyer. For many years, they were published by the late, lamented Boston Phoenix. They’ve been hosted by GBH News since 2013, and this year marks their 25th anniversary.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.

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1 Comment

  1. Steve Ross

    Good for John Garrett and his wife! As one who still does seven magazine issues a year in print, I know the dynamic still works for a publication with a shelf life longer than a day or two… in his case, a month. Readers have a long time to respond to the on-page advertising. Most are unlikely to skim and immediately toss.

    To be sure (and this shocks most of the self-appointed academic-based web gurus) we do print for one reason: Our advertisers, who sell big-ticket broadband equipment and services, report making a 6- or 7-figure sale off an ad in an issue a year or two old. So they pay the premium for print. Our readers often just pile them up in the office, even though we all think it is easier for them to go to our website and find what they need.

    Sooner or later, print won’t work because it will become just too expensive and environmentally irresponsible. This spring, for instance, we saw a big postage increase, which we partially mitigated by moving our deadlines to align with other small pubs so the printer can sort them together for bulk mailing.

    NYT management has talked about 2030 or soon after for halting print. Gives us all time to get used to app-based publishing. Web-based won’t cut it, under today’s “impermanent” Web dynamics.

    Folks like John Garrett may be a step ahead.

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