Creative Loafing Tampa this week celebrates its 25th Anniversary and to commemorate they have planned a week’s worth of festivities highlighting the eventful history of the publication.
“This a story about enduring quite a bit of struggle over the past years,” said James Howard, the Publisher of Creative Loafing Tampa.
Since its founding in 1988 by Ben Eason, the son of the founders of the original Atlanta-based Creative Loafing, the weekly has suffered upheavals and financing issues which has even resulted in bankruptcy and a change of ownership, but currently they are proud to say that they are still going strong.
“We’re still publishing. We’re still making money,” said Joran Oppelt the marketing director of Creative Loafing Tampa. “This scrappy little alternative news weekly is still printing every week and we’re up against two dailies: The Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune.”
Howard attributes Creative Loafing Tampa’s resilience during this turbulent media landscape to their motto of “More creative, less loafing” and of not being afraid to fail.
The creation of CLDeals in 2007 which serves as a food gift certificate aggregator similar to Groupon for the Tampa area has proved extremely beneficial to the publication. Over 16,000 readers subscribe to the service, and the financial cushion has provided much needed stability. While many publications are struggling to find new revenue streams Creative Loafing Tampa has remained creative and inventive to stay afloat.
“We’re not afraid to be flexible. Doing what we can to stay afloat,” said Oppelt and this emphasis on flexibility and sustainability flows through every facet of the organization.
“We’re reporting on stuff the dailies won’t or maybe we’re reporting on the actual daily papers. We’re commenting on media where the other media won’t,” said Oppelt
“We have a little more license about how we can cover things,” said Warner. “You can bring your personal style into the reporting.”
As the dailies have reduced their arts and culture coverage Creative Loafing Tampa has used this as a platform where they can stand apart from the pack. Their office space even has a stage where members of the Tampa Bay community can perform shows and engage in first person storytelling.
“It is our responsibility to ferret out the underground [art and culture scene],” said Warner.
And Creative Loafing Festival showcases this emphasis in the arts. Saturday’s birthday bash features over 20 bands and DJ and runs from 4pm to midnight: Tickets in advance cost $10 and $15 at the door. The five day festival features art, culture and music events everyday until it finishes Sunday.
“Maybe four or five years ago we wouldn’t be absolutely sure we’d be standing here,” said Warner, but they are still standing and standing strong. And that calls for a celebration.