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LGBT weekly drops print edition

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Divine Providence – a major newsweekly for Rhode Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – has ended its print edition and begun publishing exclusively online.

Divine Providence’s print edition, which ended in January, had a weekly readership of 4,000. Now an estimated 300 to 1,000 readers visit the publication’s Web site each day, according to Editor Eric Marion.

Marion cited the weakening economy and struggling print industry as factors in the decision.

He said he saw “where the economy was going” last summer, and as advertisers became harder to come by, he considered creating a Web version of the publication.

Shortly after Christmas, when Marion lost four major advertisers, he made the official decision to bring Divine Providence online.

In an e-mail to The Herald, Marion wrote that while he was initially concerned the decision would lead to decreased readership, he later realized that the Web site might attract a “younger and more intelligent” audience.

Marion wrote that Divine Providence’s news quality has been “much better” since going online, adding that running the publication is now “much less stressful” for him.

Instead of “wasting time hustling for ad dollars” and “spending six hours a week picking up and distributing paper copies,” Marion – who is also a full-time lawyer practicing in Providence – wrote that he is able to concentrate on one or two large news stories each week. He is aided by a small group of contributing writers.

The time has allowed Divine Providence to “bring the latest news to its readers,” he added, noting that the publication has broken “several stories” ahead of the Providence Journal since going online.

Marion said he does not believe the paper will ever return to print.

“I was spending $2,500 a month,” he wrote in the e-mail, “but the only (beneficiary) in doing print is the printing company.”

Marion, who manages both the site’s design and content, said he now spends just $10 a month to maintain the publication.

He no longer solicits paid advertisements, and the only ads that appear on the publication’s Web site are offered free of charge to those who had advertised in Divine Providence’s print edition.

Marion said while cutting costs is important, Divine Providence has “never been a money-making venture.”

Making money “is not my priority,” he said. “My priority is for Divine Providence to be the premier GLBT news source in New England.”

Leigh Anna Dwyer ’09, advocacy chair for Queer Alliance, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that she hopes publications like Divine Providence will “survive the rough financial times,” adding that they “can serve to unite the Providence queer community and help people feel more connected.”

“It (can) feel very isolating and frustrating to read a local newspaper or magazine, or watch the news, and never see or hear any mention of gay, bi, transgender people or the issues that affect us,” she wrote.

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