Croydon Citizen to cease publications after five years amid funding crisis

Pic: NS Newsflash

The editor-in-chief of local paper, the Croydon Citizen, has announced that it will cease all its publications – online and print – at the end of this month.

It is a wrench, a sadness and a profound feeling of personal failure that this is so,” he wrote in a farewell editorial. “I really believed that we could be different.”

James Naylor, the editor of Citizen, launched the magazine in 2013 following a successful crowdfunding campaign for £20,000. The last article will be published on September 28.

He and his team had spent more than 18 months devising alternative methods to sustain the business.

He added: “We knew going into this no-one was going to get rich. But we too have fallen to the pressures of a collapsing local media industry in general.

“There are no meaningful digital advertising revenues to be had, and print revenue is so expensive to win that it is simply not possible to run a publication like the Citizen on the revenues that can be generated from one local paper alone.”

The Citizen was heavily reliant on more than 200 contributors since its launch, but had a small, permanent eight-team editorial.

“Within six years Croydon has already burned up much of the volunteer energy that was a critical part of making all of this possible. It started with the demise of the ‘tweet-ups’ that, at the time, felt like a who’s who of everyone who wanted to change Croydon. But in the last few years it has consumed more and more of the whole roll-call of organisations that once defined the period.”

“The Citizen is simply too short of both love and money to survive now.”

James acknowledges the rise of serious competition from larger, national media houses and stressed that it may be necessary “to look to public-funding models” to support local journalism.

“But, as with so much of media, there isn’t enough money for it to make up the difference. We have never been able to consistently plug that gap with advertising revenue.”

The group had also tried different schemes to keep the business afloat, such as a supporter programme that would deliver magazines to the readers’ door for £9 a month. Readers were also encouraged to donate money. However, it had fallen short of the major objective that James had set for it when it started in early 2017: “generating enough money to pay people who are not as committed as us to run it.”

“Advertising is no longer able to fund journalism; Now that the journalism-free likes of Google and Facebook have clearly won the battle for eyeballs.

“As the former Guardian Editor-in-Chief, Alan Rusbridger, has recently suggested, the happy accident of advertising being able to fund journalism for so long may itself now be over.”

Commenting on the post, many loyal readers expressed their condolences. “So sorry to see you go. You have been a strong force for good in this town. As you say, there has to be a surfeit of love and money to make such a thing survive and thank you for supplying both for a good number of years”, one read.

Citizen Newspapers Ltd, the social enterprise company that published the Croydon Citizen, will be dissolved and removed from the Companies House register.

The website will still be available with the existing content, and will eventually be submitted to a web archive service. Archive of print editions, going back to the very first edition of the paper, will be donated to the local studies library / Museum of Croydon.

Several people, especially supporters, have expressed an interest in a face-to-face goodbye event, which may be organised in the future through their Meetup page.



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