The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, an institution in the great northwest for 146 years, is for sale. If no buyer is found within 60 days, the paper will close, idling 170 people. Even if a buyer emerges, it’s almost certain that the P-I will end print operations.
The sobering news was delivered by Steven Swartz (left), president of Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division, in an address to P-I employees Friday while police scanners buzzed and phones rang in the background (here’s the video). Swartz didn’t take questions but he didn’t mince words either. “One thing is clear: At the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in printed form,” he said. “Since 2000, the P-I has lost money each year, and the losses have…continued to escalate.”
Swartz decisively ruled out any possibility that Hearst would attempt to keep the P-I afloat by combining it with the rival Seattle Times. “It is not our intention to attempt to acquire the Seattle Times,” he told the newsroom.
Seattlepi.com has a lengthy news analysis of the event, including quotes from local dignitaries and readers (“I buy the papers for the puzzles,” says one) and an analysis of the likelihood of rescue. The consensus is that the likehood is slim to none, barring intervention by a Microsoft millionaire. “Right now there are 30 or more newspapers on the market that are profitable, and they’re not selling. So why would anyone buy a paper that’s losing money?” asks one anonymous executive.
They’re not exactly celebrating across town at the Seattle Times, however. The news story in the crosstown rival is a little more blunt in its assessment: “[T]he venerable newspaper — at least in its printed form — almost certainly will fold, industry observers say.” It also devotes more attention the contractual and legal issues than does the seattlepi.com account, which focuses more on the human impact.
In a related analysis story, the Times acknowledges that its rival’s likely closure will be to its benefit, but that doesn’t equate to prosperity. The two Seattle dailies have worked under a joint operating agreement since 1993 in which the P-I shared in a portion of the profits of its competitor. With that albatross lifted from its shoulders – and with the likelihood that a portion of the P-I‘s 117,000 subscribers will join its subscriber rolls – the development is a relief for the Blethen family, which has been besieged by bad news over the last year. But the financial state of the Times is so dire that its rival’s closure is more likely to guarantee survival than prosperity. Here’s a list of stories we’ve covered. Search the page for “Seattle Times” for details.
- Martin Langeveld speculates on the possibility of an old-fashioned newspaper war between the Times and a reborn, all-digital PI.
- Mark Potts sees similar potential, particularly if some deep-pocketed Microsoftie steps up to the plate.
- Alan Mutter sees a rough year ahead for two-newspaper towns.
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 8:55 am and is filed under Business News, Layoffs, NewMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.