It was easy to have a sense of optimism in the spring of 2019. It was a different time, when former Forecaster publisher Karen Wood and I hatched a plan to launch a new version of the Portland Phoenix, which had folded in February of that year. We wanted to build a strong and independent news alternative to the media monopoly that controlled the Press Herald and many of Maine’s newspapers.
Our timing was not great. Five months after the launch, the pandemic struck with a vengeance. Few alive had seen such a cataclysmic event, much was unknown and everybody was fearful. The advertising relationships we had suddenly vanished. We tried to keep going, but the advertising was not there.
This reality of this mysterious new plague played out against a backdrop of the transformation in the newspaper business, from the old fashioned paper product to information that arrives through streaming and scrolling.
This change in the news system presented a daunting challenge for a newspaper product that relied on display advertising. We were swimming upstream, and the web ads never could bring in enough to sustain this operation. We reflected the common newspaper challenge that the web ads would not be enough, and a transition to a paid or other kind of format was not possible.
We now face a continuing structural revenue deficit that will not materially improve.
Sadly, we have come to the conclusion that all these factors mean that we are not in a position to fulfill the mission with the strength that we had hoped to. This edition of the Phoenix will be the last.
We want to say thank you to the readers and advertisers who supported us. People now get their news in many different formats, and we hope that those who found us will be searching other sources for the reliable information that we so desperately need to navigate these strange and difficult times. While news formats rapidly change, the need for information does not.
And the true last word is a tribute to a loyal and hardworking staff that tried very hard to make this project work. From my business partner, Karen Wood, whose experience, skills and determination kept us going as long as we could; to Janet Allen and Natalie Haberman-Ladd, who soldiered on in the face of rejection from potential advertisers; to our reporters, Evan Edmonds and Colin Ellis, who cranked out stories in the face of officials who did not want to answer questions; to Nick Schroeder, who brought his many talents when he joined us as managing editor. Last but not least is our stalwart production manager, Suzanne Piecuch, who oversaw the production process in all its forms, while also creating our calendar pages and proofreading the paper before it went to press.
I’m deeply grateful to all of them.
With best wishes,