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September 26, 2018updated 27 Sep 2018 12:10pm

Croydon Citizen to close after five years as editor says Facebook and Google have ‘won battle for eyeballs’

By Dorothy Musariri

Non-profit local news magazine the Croydon Citizen is set to close because it is “too short of both love and money to survive”, according to its editor, who said Facebook and Google has “won the battle for eyeballs”.

The independent title, owned by Citizen Newspapers, will cease publishing entirely – both its website and monthly print edition – next month.

The magazine was founded by editor James Naylor in 2013, after he raised more than £2,000 through a crowdfunding website.

In an article announcing the closure last week, Naylor said it may be necessary “to look to public-funding models” to support local journalism in the face of competition for digital ad revenue from the US tech giants.

The Citizen had an eight-strong editorial team, but also relied on more than 200 contributors to provide content.

Said Naylor: “It is a wrench, a sadness and a profound feeling of personal failure that this is so. I really believed that we could be different.

“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.

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“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.”

Naylor said he and his team had spent 18 months “trying to put measures in place” that would sustain the business after he left and the “love walking out the door wouldn’t matter”.

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

Schemes to try and help sustain the Citizen included a supporter programme that would deliver the magazine to readers’ doors for £9 a month. Readers could also donate any amount.

Naylor said the supporter programme had “fallen short of the major objective that I 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”.

He added: “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.

“Now that the journalism-free likes of Google and Facebook have clearly won the battle for eyeballs we may need to look to public-funding models just to ensure that there is adequate, trustworthy local journalism in areas like Croydon.”

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