Friday, April 16, 2021
Uncategorized The Bold Italic ceases operations

The Bold Italic ceases operations


Gannett-owned experiment in hyperlocal coverage – with cute illustrations —  suddenly shuts down.


By Marke B. 

APRIL 7, 2015 — A message posted minutes ago to the Bold Italic announced that the conglomerate-owned yet locally operated website will cease operations immediately:

Since our launch, The Bold Italic has strived to faithfully serve San Franciscans near and far, whether born and bred here or having just arrived in the city. We have a great passion for the Bay Area and all that it has to offer — and have had a lot of fun sharing our enthusiasm with you. Together we have built a strong community of followers, contributors, and partners. However, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations. It’s been a great run and we supremely thank everyone who has supported us along the way. 

Via email, Bold Italic editor Jennifer Maerz confirmed the closure. She wrote: “Today we made the very difficult decision to cease operations at The Bold Italic…. We’re proud of the stories we’ve told about this amazing place where we live and work. While we will stop publishing new stories today, the site will stay live for several months to allow time for [freelancers] to capture and archive content for portfolios or clips.”

When Bold Italic launched, it was positioned as a hyperlocal media experiment, attempting to bring local web coverage with a certain personality and broad appeal into the tough SF market.

Gannett, the multinational media company headquartered in Virginia that owns the Bold Italic (the concept was developed with Palo Alto company Ideo in 2009) had been struggling to balance its desire for online penetration with its legacy of newspapers. In August of last year, the company made the decision to spin off almost all of its newspapers, including USA Today. The company made gestures toward rebranding itself as a “broadcast and digital company.”

At that same time, I received a curious email from Gannett. (I was publisher of the Guardian at the time.) Originating from the head of the sales department, it informed me that Gannett was offering Bold Italic for sale, to the tune of 5+ million. Welp, I didn’t bite. Also at the same time, Bold Italic expanded its coverage to LA. The mixed messages were confusing to say the least.

And then there was the online media outlets’ fancy digs in Hayes Valley, which must have cost a dime or two. (The Bold Italic also threw events — usually a good moneymaker – like its “micro hoods” street parties.)

But now, the whimsical maps, sometimes polemical/sometimes eye-rolling articles, broad newcomer appeal, and heroic productivity of editor Maerz (an excellent editor formerly of SF Weekly) and her stable of writers and illustrators at the Bold Italic exist in suspended animation, at least for a few months more.

UPDATE Maerz has posted her own farewell message.

 UPDATE As for the precise reason why the Bold Italic shut down, that remains a mystery. Gannett representatives have declined to comment. This SF Gate article fills in some of the background of Gannett’s financial struggles.

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. I was not a great fan of many of their articles. In part, I’m sure, because I’m not in their target demographic (read: am an old geezer). But they had a great visual style, both web design and in-content graphics, and unlike other local sites I could name, the Javascript didn’t regularly crash my browser. But the inability of even a very modest publication catering to a historically lucrative population, with little competition, to make a go of it points to a greater problem. What’s going on in the newspaper business is a total collapse of a kind that the US hasn’t ever seen.

    I posted this graphic earlier but I think it bears repeating:

    As you can see, it’s not a matter of a transition to a new technology, with those clinging to the old falling behind. Revenues for online content are a tiny fraction of print revenues of just a few years ago and have been flat since 2008.

    As a second example, the largest and most prestigious technology magazine, by far, for software programers and software systems engineers, Dr Dobbs, recently closed up shop after almost 40 years. That, even though its readership had been growing and it had no competition in its market segment. The reason?

    “….in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift
    in how vendors value website advertising. They’ve come to realize that
    website ads tend to be less effective than they once were. Given that
    I’ve never bought a single item by clicking on an ad on a website, this
    conclusion seems correct in the small.
    So vendors have redeployed their advertising dollars into more fruitful options. This is not a Dr. Dobb’s-only phenomenon. Our direct competitors, BZ Media (parent of SD Times) and c4Media (InfoQ), are experiencing the same pressures.”

    This is a serious problem and in the short term, the only replacements are independent blogs and community news sites. One of the reasons why it’s important to support local sites financially even if you don’t agree with every post or contributor.

  2. Ah. Somebody sent me the article as a link and I didn’t look at the date. Still, they did seem rather full of themselves.

  3. That’s not how the piece reads, is it? It seems more of a man-what-a-dunce-I-was realization that the author had in fact landed in what was always a great place.

    Oakland has been a great place – friendlier and more welcoming than San Francisco – for as long as I can remember.

  4. But who will publish obtuse and obliviously racist article about Oakland?! Shedding no tears.

  5. TBI’s articles were all over the map – they published an article about how to fight your eviction, and a primer on the Ellis Act, for example. And corporate or not, they employed a lot of local writers who had also done notable work in other venues.

    (They also happened to be one of the media outlets around town that didn’t take an automatic stance of contempt towards anyone who’d been here less than a few years. Which is presumably where the grudge against it here comes from.)

  6. I think the article was more personal. She moved to Oakland because she couldn’t afford SF but has now reconciled herself to it.

    It was like she was trying a little too hard to rationalize her imposed relocation.

  7. Cute? Yes. But the premise – that Oakland is good now because coffee and restaurants and recent changes is weird. I worked in Oakland for years and it is a great place, even before the recent changes (changes that I like), and I was always amused by clueless people hating on Oakland.

  8. C’mon, Gary, live a little. That’s a cute little mash note to a fine town. The headline is unfortunate, but headlines usually are.

  9. Too bad. I looked at it a bit one night, and had the take that Marke B. expressed in the last paragraph. Not my cup of tea, but the demographic I imagined wrote and read it seemed like they appreciated SF in a way I (30 year resident, musician/weido) could relate to.

  10. I liked it when it first started, when it was people going out and experiencing something uniquely SF, even getting interviews, etc. and then writing about it, and all the headlines were clever play-on-words. Then something switched and all the “stories” could be written without ever having to leave a desk. I’d like to know who created the original concept.

  11. Eye-rolling articles is right. They had an article recently about how their office was so innovative because they all went to work naked. I figured that if they were reduced to writing stories about their own gimmicks and passing that off as “hyper-local” content, they were bankrupt in the ideas department. Not surprised they shut down.

  12. I’m sure if they can’t afford their rents, they will move to another city (like Oakland). Too bad other people don’t seem to have that common sense.

  13. Glad to see a corporate owned POS go down…it was always a POS and like other corporate “blogs” it sucked. No tears here, and hope they sell their reclaimed wood for some cash.

  14. It died because it was “cute.”
    San Francisco does not like cute.

    cute |kyo͞ot| adjective2 N. Amer. informal clever or cunning, especially in a self-seeking or superficial way.

  15. sometimes it was fun, but mostly it read like an expat (transplant) newsletter. because that’s what it was.

  16. The Bold Italic never really appealed to me, especially the design. Also, their writers rarely displayed empathy for those being evicted or priced-out of their apartment, almost always having a ‘blaming tone’ for those who were evicted. It will be interesting to see how these entitled brats react to not being able to pay their rents now that they are out of work.

  17. Wow. Pretty condescending tone there.
    Be sure, we definitely roll my eyes to a lot of 48 Hills articles, too. So don’t take yourselves too seriously.

Comments are closed.

More by this author

Tyler Holmes navigates trauma through softer sounds on ‘Nightmare in Paradise’

The Oakland musician and performer's lush, emotive new album records the process of grappling with PTSD.

Sean Dorsey Dance premieres nine ‘gorgeous’ new films in AT-HOME season

"We can't wait to connect with our audience again," says transgender dance trailblazer—now a director, too.

How To Reopen Nightlife: Keeping it cute and safe for all on the dance floor

What should we expect from venues and each other when clubs come back? The first in a series exploring issues left to face.

Is art free speech under COVID? A local court case steams on

Ongoing San Francisco International Arts Festival lawsuit demands that arts reopen in parity with worship and dining.

A trailblazing lesbian hero’s story, finally coming to film

Sally Gearhart's incredible, multifaceted life—lesbian separatist, gay lib icon, sci-fi author—gets a doc.

Most read

Radical right group is trying to attack public-sector labor in SF

Anti-union mailers are going to workers home addresses -- but really, this group is looking pretty desperate.

How To Reopen Nightlife: Enough with the boys’ club, make room for women

DJ femmelectric and promoter Alex McGeagh speak about equity, access, and safety for women and nonbinary folks.

Black Freighter Press sails in, boosting writers of color and radical imagination

The revolution will be published, with the help of SF Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin and Alie Jones' new outlet.

City College students fight back against brutal faculty cuts

Firing teachers could also mean the end of a lot of treasured programs.

You might also likeRELATED