In December 2017, the editor and publisher of Bklyner told readers that the 10-year-old hyperlocal site covering Brooklyn couldn’t make it on ads alone anymore.
They needed 3,000 people (“less than 1% of our readers,” Zagare wrote) to become subscribers and pay $5 a month. It was one last try to save something she’d built and believed in.
Zagare laid the troubles out clearly in her push for membership:
In 2017, local independent media sources like ours are in real trouble. Revenue from advertising and classifieds that once fueled local news is now being lost to Facebook, Google, and other global internet giants. We cut our costs deeply last year, but it wasn’t enough.
Local newspapers are dying, and local news sites are shutting every week. Just last month, Gothamist and DNAinfo called it quits. I must be frank in telling you that BKLYNER may not be far behind. We cannot make ends meet under our current advertising-based business model. Like hundreds of other news outlets around the country, we’ve found it impossible to sustain a robust news organization on local ad sales alone.
Then, Zagare made a call that convinced her to at least try something she really hadn’t before: Ask people to pay for their news.