For 45 years, taxi drivers in Boston have relied on Carriage News, a private trade newspaper, to read about all of the goings-on in the local taxi industry. Now, the paper’s owner has announced that Carriage News will cease printing, and he’s blaming the paper’s death on the economic havoc that “transportation network companies” (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft have wrought on the city’s taxi industry.
“A continuing decline in advertising revenues has left Carriage News in a position where it is unable to cover its monthly expenses,” read a front-page story in the final print issue of Carriage News late last month. “The demise of Carriage News can be laid directly at the feet of the TNCs and the do-nothing politicians who allow these illegal operations to continue to erode the taxi industry.”
The article says that Carriage News will continue to operate online with a “more user-friendly site,” but a visit to the Carriage News site turns up no articles, just a message saying "This website and the registered nameplates of two publications, Carriage News and The Rear View Mirror are for sale. If interested, please contact Bob Keeley." (Keeley, the paper's publisher, didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
It doesn't take a genius to understand why Carriage News failed. Print revenues for newspapers have been declining for years, and small, regional newspapers have been hit especially hard. Add that to the problems faced by the taxi industry in cities like Boston, and you have a two-in-one disruption.
Like most trade publications, Carriage News was propped up by advertisements from the industry it covered—in particular, the banks that lent money to buyers of taxi medallions, the licenses required to operate a taxi in the city. Those companies have been struggling, as the price of taxi medallions continues to fall nationwide. And in Boston, medallion owners have been hit especially hard. A year ago, according to Carriage News, the price of a Boston taxi medallion was north of $700,000. Now, it’s about $500,000.
“The lending institutions are not lending any longer, nor are they advertising.” Carriage News wrote. “Carriage News may be the first fatality of the TNC wars, but it will not be the last.”
As the taxi industry in Boston suffers, Uber's business is booming. After successfully fending off local politicians and taxi authorities who wanted to shut the service down, Uber said this year that it has nearly 10,000 drivers on its network in Boston—more than five times the number of registered taxis. Last year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took a victory lap in the city, crowing that thanks to Uber, "parking will be easy in the city some point soon." The company even bucked the print-is-dying trend by starting a magazine of its own.
There are still a few remaining taxi industry newspapers in the country—including Taxicab Times, which serves a national audience of taxi drivers and affiliates. But those newspapers appear to be disappearing, too. Recently, the Taxicab Times ran a front-page column predicting that "Taxi medallions are safe because Uber will implode." On the back page of that edition was, ironically enough, a full-page Uber ad.
(h/t Nicole Dungca)