After pandemic layoffs, a local news company is looking for subscribers on Substack.



Examiner Media, a publisher of free weekly newspapers in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, has launched a digital magazine, Examiner +, on the digital platform Substack.

Subscriptions to Examiner +, the first issue of which appeared on Tuesday, will cost $ 5.99 per month or $ 49.99 per year. By creating a subscription-based publication for Substack, Examiner Media is testing whether a company known primarily for its advertising-supported community newspapers – an area of ​​the media industry that has suffered greatly over the past decades – can be successful by asking readers to pay for topical content. in line.

Examiner + will include articles not available in the Examiner Media articles, which include The Northern Westchester Examiner and The Putnam Examiner. “It can’t just be a repetition of what we already serve in print,†said Robert Schork, the company’s digital editorial director.

He cited an upcoming article on the April shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. Examiner + also has a profile by actor Chazz Palminteri, who recently opened Italian restaurant Chazz Palminteri in White Plains.

Adam Stone founded Examiner Media in 2007, the same year Gannett, the major newspaper chain, shut down The Patent Trader, a 50-year-old newspaper in North Westchester County. Last year, after lockdowns related to the pandemic froze advertising and in-person events, Mr Stone reduced Examiner Media’s full-time editorial staff to two out of six. He also asked for funds for the first time and received over $ 30,000, mostly in small donations.

“It felt like there was a revenue opportunity for the readers that we weren’t tapping into,†he said.

Credit…Donna Mueller

Enter sub-stack. The venture-backed startup is best known for persuading popular writers nationwide to quit established publications and go into business with subscription newsletters. This spring, he announced Substack Local, a million dollar initiative to support local journalism with grants. In June, Examiner Media was selected as one of 12 winners, a group that included local newspaper editors in Australia, Britain, Nigeria, Romania and Taiwan.

“We wouldn’t consider ourselves successful if we just took famous people and made them famous in a new context,†said Hamish McKenzie, co-founder of Substack.

Another local information publication, Charlotte’s Ledger, founded two years ago by former Charlotte Observer reporter Tony Mecia, has been successful on Substack, with 10,000 subscribers, including about 2,200 paying, he said.

“You hear a lot of sadness in the local news,†Mecia said, “but it’s mainly the newspapers. There are people who try a lot of exciting things, and some of them are very encouraging. “

Examiner Media will receive $ 75,000 from Substack in four installments, along with 15% of first-year revenue for Examiner +, Stone said. The money helped Stone replenish staff to five full-time editorial staff. After one year, the company’s share of subscription revenue will increase to 90 percent, the Substack standard.

“If we can crack the code,†he said, “we can take the plan to the world. All community newspapers could follow this model.


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