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

Trouble in paradise

The Carlisle Mosquito, a free nonprofit weekly newspaper that has long stood as an example of how a community can take care of its own news and information needs, is in trouble. “We need at least $125 — at least $10 a month — from every household in town,” says a front-page editorial. “And we need those who can afford to give more to do so.”

The Mosquito spends about $44,000 a year on print and distribution, which adds up to about a fifth of its annual budget. “Ad revenues,” the editorial says, “have been declining for years.” I’m not sure why they’ve stuck with print, but they know their community better than I do. The editorial says that the paper’s top editors earn just $15,000 to $25,000 for what I have to assume are part-time positions.

I hope the Mosquito, which serves a wealthy rural community of about 5,000, can find a way forward. If it can’t, maybe The Concord Bridge, a well-funded nonprofit digital and print hybrid that was recently launched in a neighboring community, can provide some coverage.

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3 Comments

  1. John P. Muldoon

    The $44,000 seems high. The US Census says there are 1,600 households in Carlisle. That makes print and distribution around $24.44 per household. In Ipswich, we have around 6,600 households and businesses. However, our cost is $14.84 per address. There are efficiencies of scale when you print more but I doubt if it amounts to $10 or so. I also looked briefly at the Mosquito’s website and was surprised at the $100,000 every five years for hardware and software. They probably should be on the cloud. Have they tried the non-profit deals at TechSoup?
    On the income side, an advertising partnership with the Concord Bridge might work. Advertisers could be offered a larger audience over two neighboring towns.

  2. You can’t expect every household to take a subscription. People sleep in Carlilse, the vast majority of them don’t work there, and unless they have kids, local news is of little interest. The natural pairing is with Concord, as they share a high school. You don’t need a paper for both. A merger makes sense here.

    • Dan Kennedy

      But we’ll have to see whether The Concord Bridge folks are interested in Carlisle. Yes, it makes sense, but nonprofits come together because people in the community come together because they want news covering *in their community*. A for-profit might see Carlisle as a business opportunity. A nonprofit might not.

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