Best Holdout Against Web Journalism

The Current Newspapers
(202) 244-7223
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
The pounding drumbeat of the media industry in recent years has been clear and constant: Shift to the web or die. But the Current Newspapers, the 45-year-old chain of community tabloids that circulates in the affluent neighborhoods of Northwest, has stubbornly bucked the rhythm. Even as websites like Patch, the Georgetown Dish, and Huffington Post D.C. have claimed a stake in the hyperlocal market, the only way to read the Current is to live in an area where it’s distributed door to door or available free of charge at a grocery store. Want to visit the website? Fine, but what you’ll find there is merely a PDF of the entire paper.

Go ahead and sneer, but this least sexy of media models has survived and even thrived, adding editions as the metropolitan dailies have withered. “We’re not as robust as we were, but we’re in the black,” says Davis Kennedy, the chain’s bespectacled, 73-year-old editor-in-chief. What’s the secret to their success? Ad strategy. The Current is a member of the Washington Suburban Newspaper Network, which Kennedy started while he was running the Gazette chain in Maryland. Buyers like Bloomingdales can target readers in Georgetown and Bethesda through just one salesperson. The Current’s other major advantage is its nine editorial staffers that know their way around the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions like no one else.