The Baltimore Examiner will close on Feb. 15, ending its three-year-run as the city’s second newspaper. Launched by a company controlled by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, the free daily had been troubled since the beginning. Parent company Clarity Media Group had cut newsroom staff by half since launch and reduced home delivery from six to two days per week last summer. A spokesman blamed the closure on a lack of national advertising. The AP report said the newsroom was shocked by the news, a surprising reaction considering that the Examiner had been on the market for months. About 90 people will lose their jobs.
The Examiner is part of a small chain that includes siblings in Washington and San Francisco. Those papers are unaffected by the closure. It seems odd that Clarity would have chosen to launch two of its three newspapers just 40 miles from each other. However, MediaPost says the company hoped to achieve advertising synergies between the two.
Campus Paradox: College Students Prefer Print
College newspapers continue to defy overall demographic trends by enjoying greater success with their printed products than their websites. In fact, writes Brian Murley, the challenge for campus publishers is to get more students to visit them online. Murley, who is assistant professor of new and emerging media at Eastern Illinois University, director for innovation at the Center for Innovation in College Media, and the college media correspondent for MediaShift, writes at length about the growing financial problems at college newspapers. National advertising has been tough to come by, and local advertisers still prefer to run in print. College publications have been hurt by the global recession, as has everybody else. Some of them are now also seeing their university funding dry up. In response, many are toying with supplements on topics like housing and entertainment, and they continue to push local sports as a key differentiator.
Murley points to an Alloy Media + Marketing study last spring that found that 76% of college students had read their college newspaper in the past month. This behavior contradicts the conventional wisdom that young people don’t read newspapers, but perhaps reinforces the notion that hyper-local coverage can appeal even to the digital generation.
There’s Life After Newspapers, But Less Money
Veteran reporter Robert Hodierne posted an online survey asking the question: “Is there life after newspapers?” He got 595 responses and while the results aren’t scientific, they offer an interesting glimpse into experiences of people who have left or been forced to leave the daily grind.
You can read Hodierne’s 4,100-word essay on American Journalism Review here, but here are some bullet points we took away. More than half the layoff victims report finding full-time work within three months. More than 90% found jobs within a year. Only 6% found jobs at newspapers. Most of those who switched industries – media relations is a popular alternative, but Hodierne’s vignettes cover a broad range of new careers – say they’re happy in their new jobs. Even so, 85% said they miss working at a paper.
The news isn’t all good, though. Many are making less money. “The midpoint salary range for their old jobs was $50,000 to $59,000. Those who listed salaries for their new jobs were a full salary band lower – $40,000 to $49,000,” Hodierne writes. Worse is that the salary cuts appear to hit older workers harder. “The median age of those who made less than $20,000 at their old newspaper job was 24. The median age of those now making less than $20,000 is 48.”
Hodierne interviewed many respondents and found a wide range of experiences. Theresa Conroy opened a yoga studio and loves it. But Joseph Demma, who participated in three Pulitzer Prize-winning projects, found himself unemployed at 65 and considering a job as a Wal-Mart greeter. The piece is heavier on anecdotes than statistics, but it offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of many career journalists who have had to adapt to the realities of the new market.
Add Media News Group to the growing ranks of publishers asking employees to take a week of unpaid leave in order to avoid job cuts. This follows Gannett’s announcement of a similar plan earlier this month. Media News’ 3,300 employees at more than 50 newspapers in Northern California have to take a breather by the end of March. The union is negotiating the terms, which is what unions do. Lake County News has more details about cutbacks at Media News, including a report that the company had to loan its flagship Denver Post $13 million to make its December payroll, has cut its staff at the East Bay Newspaper Partnership by 60 percent and laid off the person at the Lake County Record-Bee who is largely responsible for laying out and proofing the paper. If the last item is true, then Craig Silverman at RegretTheError might want to keep a careful eye on future issues of the Record-Bee.
The Congressional Quarterly, which isn’t quarterly, is for sale. No, this isn’t another distressed publishing property being shopped for pennies on the dollar. CQ is actually a nicely profitable business with a subscription website, a weekly magazine and a daily paid newsletter, among other properties. It’s just that owner Times Publishing Co., which is wholly owned by the Poynter Institute, has other things to worry about, like how the south Florida advertising collapse is affecting the St. Petersburg Times. CQ has come under pressure from a slew of recent startups covering Capitol Hill and it needs some careful oversight in order to stay competitive. Plus, Times Publishing could use the money.
NPR’s Marketplace reports that there are plenty of working journalists on Capitol Hill; they just aren’t working for newspapers. Specialized newsletters continue to thrive amid the general industry carnage because they serve up valuable information to small audiences that are willing to pay for it. “Our readers get excited about things like section 112R of the Clean Air Act,” says Rick Weber, who oversees the Inside EPA newsletters. “We cover the minutiae of how policy is shaped and implemented.”
Specialty publications may be attractive options for laid-off journalists who don’t mind focusing on a single topic or government agency. They offer plenty of entrepreneurial opportunity and a lean management structure. The downside is their vulnerability to political shifts and economic uncertainty due to their reliance on a small number of paying subscribers.
“The Death of Daily Newspapers Is a Step Forward” headlines an opinion piece by former newspaper reporter Jon Severson, who maps out a long list of publications that arrive continuously on his BlackBerry. Severson monitors about 30 news feeds on his handheld device and supplements that information with an assortment of weekly magazines, radio programs and personal contacts. “I don’t know a twenty – or thirtysomething young professional worth his or her salt who doesn’t own a Blackberry or similar smart phone,” he writes. “We’ve moved on to more efficient ways to get the information that suits our busy lifestyles.” And it’s eco-friendly.
This has nothing to do with newspapers, but it’s wicked fun. T-Mobile cashed in on the flash mob craze two weeks ago by staging a simultaneous dance by more than 200 people at Liverpool Street Station in London. The event had to be done in one take to maximize the element of surprise, and bystanders did exactly what the cell phone carrier hoped they would do: they recorded the dance on their cell phones.
This entry was posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009 at 10:00 am and is filed under Advertising, Business News, BusinessModel, Demographics, Journalism, Layoffs, Local news, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.