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Newspaper Economics 101

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on April 3, 2009 at 7:46 pm with 5 Comments »
April 3, 2009 7:46 pm

Sometimes I get letters to the editor that make me want to scream. Here’s one – which we aren’t publishing – from a Tacoma reader:

I’m going on my second day without buying a paper. When the PI bumped up the price of their paper from fifty cents to seventy five they priced them selves out of my budget. I use to enjoy reading two diverse papers. Now, sadly, at the end of Davids Zeecks Column on Sunday I saw that “The News Tribune” was going to raise news stand prices by twenty five cents (daily) and fifty cents for a Sunday paper.

Funny… It seems not to long ago I read that “The News Tribune” was doing “okey dokey” and that they would be in business for some time. David Zeecks states one of the factors for the increase is the cost of newsprint. With the PI to the north out of business where is that newsprint going?

And the cost of reporters? Are they getting raises? Really? In this reccession? And why a quarter a paper, why not a nickle or a dime? Whats magical about the quarter. I feel like I’m being fleeced by someone who figures that they should be able to get what they want by being the only game in town. Good luck I’m now an online reader.

No, the P-I’s closure has nothing to do with the price of our newsprint. No, our reporters aren’t getting raises.

No, we aren’t the only game in town – the Internet is sucking so much advertising revenue out of newspapers that the weaker ones (like the P-I) are folding.

And yes, if all newspaper readers stopped buying papers because they could get the news online, there’d be precious little news to be found online. Oddly enough, most news comes from reporters employed by newspapers.

Taking notice
Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Patrick – it is all about priorities. I enjoy the TNT and would subscribe even if you raised your prices substantially. I’m an old guy so reading the paper in the morning is a ritual but the younger set doesn’t take the time to read – too busy text messaging. I can be critical of some of your (TNT) articles but I have learned to calm down since the election, ha! I hope you guys are doing OK. I do not want to take the Seattle Times ever.

  2. The “newspaper” is more than just ink on newsprint. Heck, that part is discarded or (hopefully) recycled. The heart and soul of the “paper” are its reporters and editors, and the tone it sets in the community. If the readership changes its habits and prefers to get its news online–then so be it. If the internet sucks the advertising revenue out of the printed version, well, then follow the trend and make the online edition pay off. The TNT, by the way, has a terrific presence on the net, And, yes, for now, us old timers still cling to that broadsheet sized “document” that hits our doorsteps in the morning. A quarter more or less isn’t going to break anyone. Take heart and keep up the good work!

  3. Expand your revenue stream. Let local groups with issues or interests buy a quarter page and allow them to “advertise” or publish their group updates. Allow for more citizen journalism.

    You could probably end up adding an entire section to the paper and increase revenue. You are also then able to counter the charges of “You never print our stories!!”

    The paper is a historical record which will be around for ever. Blogs and websites come and go. I can think of three specific stories for which future historians will find little if anything substantial in the PRINT version of the TNT.

  4. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    Chile74: thanks for the loyalty.

    Fanum: not a bad idea. I’ll pass it on to the powers that be.

    SaveMe: Agreed, the Internet is the future. That’s why we’re there (here, now that I think about it). The problem right now is nobody’s figured out how to make a Web site sustain a hefty crew of reporters, which is what you need for aggressive news coverage. In the meantime, the ad revenue is leaching out of the one institution that historically HAS maintained the big newsrooms. I’m not weeping about it; it’s a problem somebody smarter than me is going to solve sooner or later. But it is a problem, especially if you like to know what your government and the robber barons are up to.

  5. The other side of the coin on this is that by stubbornly hanging onto a dying medium (newsprint) the industry itself is preventing on-line delivery from truly generating the income that it could, thereby giving on-line sources the revenue to employ the reporters needed to keep government and the robber barons honest.

    Just pull the plug. There is nothing magic about newsprint except our habits. Move the newsprint ads over to on-line, charge a subscriber fee, cut the cost of paper, ink, production, and delivery and put that money into producing exceptional content (reporters). You can either do it kicking and screaming and bleed jobs in the transition, or make it work for you.

    I pay $5 for the privilege of reading a hard copy edition of the NYT on Sunday mornings. Every other day I read a variety of papers on-line, TNT included. You guys are missing the boat by giving it away to me.

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