Things stay the same

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Some of the staff and I headed to Salt Lake City for the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia convention. I haven't been to one of these national alt-weekly events for a while—2010 in Toronto, I think.

I'm sometimes a little intimidated representing the little weekly in the same room with some of the great minds in alternative journalism, but it's so refreshing to hear the thoughts of people who swim in more sophisticated waters. It's also affirming to hear they've got the same problems we do, and the great minds often come up with the same solutions we do.

One thing that's obvious is that alt-weeklies are starting to figure out the web. I listened to one e-commerce guy, Eric Bright with Deseret Digital Media, espouse publishing advertising online disguised as reviews or stories. Readers would believe it was authentic. In fact, in Bright's mind, it is authentic.

I remarked to one of my bosses that making money is easy—if it was just about making money, I'd just publish pornography. I mean, metaphorically to journalists, that's what Bright was talking about. But people have figured out unethical ways to make money with every new medium that comes along. Pay-to-play and “advertisers” have existed since cuneiform. Still, it wasn't 10 years ago that guys like this would have been chased out of the conference on the sharp end of a beer bottle—not included as a keynote speaker. I remember one year that a publisher put out a bounty—was it $100 from Bruce Brugmann?—to anyone who would kick another publisher in the ass, although I can't remember what the perceived crime was.

One thing Bright did have right is that old media business models don't work on the web or mobile. The thing that new media people forget, though, is for local print, old media business models can work.

The little RN&R went head to head with the biggest alt-weeklies in the country and won first place in the Free Speech category for our Fatal Encounters series last year. Congrats to our team!