By paulgillin | August 10, 2009 - 8:58 am - Posted in Facebook, Fake News, Paywalls

Things are looking up in Seattle. Shortly after the closing of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer just five months ago, the surviving Seattle Times asked publicly if the city was about to become a “no-newspaper town.” Hardly. Since the P-I went under, circulation at the Times has shot up 30% to 260,000 daily readers. The paper has crept back into the black on a month-t0-month basis and is enjoying its best outlook in years.

One of the last family-owned major metros in the country, the Times has been weighed down for years by a joint operating agreement that required it to support the money-losing P-I. Fortunately for the Times, it managed circulation for both papers, so when the P-I went under, the Times simply switched subscribers to its circulation list and gave them the option to cancel. A remarkable 84% opted to stay with the Times.

But it gets better. The online remnant of the P-I is beating its numbers. Although has only one-eighth the editorial staff of the failed newspaper, it has focused its coverage and kept most of the reader traffic it had before the newspaper went under. Hearst won’t say if is making money, but it does say that audience and revenues are ahead of projections.

In other good news, Cox Enterprises has pulled the Austin American-Statesman off the market, saying the bids it was receiving didn’t reflect the true value of the paper. The American-Statesman is one of 29 titles Cox put up for sale nearly a year ago. While there were many visitors and several bids, the offers were in the fire-sale range, said publisher Michael Vivio. “it just did not make sense to sell it for the prices offered.” The story quotes newspaper analyst Ed Atorino speculating that “there are signs that the newspaper industry may have bottomed out. ‘We see hopes for better conditions by the end of 2010,’ Atorino said. ‘It’s been very difficult, and now, maybe, the worst is over.’”

A Reader Revenue Model That Works

Christopher Kimball, Cook's IllustratedAmid the wreckage of the media industry, there is at least one publisher who’s charging readers for content and making a lot of money at it. He’s Christopher Kimball, the intense, non-nonsense publisher of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines. The flagship Cook’s Illustrated has nearly a million subscribers who pay between $25 and $35 a year for six issues. There’s no advertising. The business is reportedly insanely profitable.

Kimball’s recipe is to give readers exactly what they want: no-fail recipes vetted with exhaustive trial and error in kitchens outfitted with the best gadgetry money can by. You won’t find exotic dishes in the Cook’s magazines. What you’ll find is instructions on how to make the perfect pancake, combined with exhaustive background information on details such as the role of baking powder in the process.

The Boston Globe profile says Cook’s Illustrated enjoys an almost unheard-of 78% renewal rate. Kimball charge for website access and finds readers through intensive direct-mail campaigns and a successful spinoff cooking show called America’s Test Kitchen. Though he’s a multi-millionaire, Kimball can usually be found on weekends at his Vermont farm, testing new recipes. He’s a rigid perfectionist who believes advertising is an unholy alliance that does a disservice to readers. So far, he’s confounding the critics.


The 23rd annual Veronis Suhler Stevenson media survey is out (TG; we’ve been on pins and needles) and  finds that for the first time last year, consumers spent more time with media they paid for – like books and cable TV – than with primiarly ad-supported media. The study also forecasts somewhat counter-intuitively that media/communications will be the third fastest-growing industry in the US over the next five years, trailing only mining and construction. The growth won’t come from traditional media, though. Rather, it will be driven by new areas like paid product placement, e-mail marketing, in-game advertisements, mobile advertising and video downloads.

The New York Daily News is hiring a social media manager.  It’s joins crosstown rivals New York Times and New York Post in recently putting some bucks behind the explosion of interest in Facebook and the link. The Daily News has a long way to go: it’s roster of Twitter followers is about 1/10th that of the Post’s.

The Boston Globe interviews New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and CEO Janet Robinson. They say the threat to shut down the Globe unless major union concessions were made was not a bluff. They also don’t plan to sell the paper to the highest bidder. They want someone who’s going to continue a history of quality journalism. And they think the Times Co. has been a splendid custodian of the Globe’s reputation. Sheesh.

We stumbled across a new search engine: Yebol that “utilizes a combination of patented algorithms paired with human knowledge to build a Web directory for each query and each user.” We’re not so sure what that means, but the search results pages are very cool.



This entry was posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 8:58 am and is filed under Facebook, Fake News, Paywalls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. August 10, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    Doesn’t the America’s Test Kitchen show count as some free content? We see that on our public television station and they go through several recipes and tests….

    Posted by F
  2. August 10, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    The Seattle Times is also now a government subsidized newspaper. The State Legislature approved a 60% cut in business taxes for “printed” newspapers in the state, extending all the way out to 2014 in order to prop up the dinosaur business models. The Seattle Times is now a taxpayer subsidized “news” paper. Consequently, the Times recently endorsed candidates for August primary elections and endorsed all those that had voted in favor of taxpayers funding the newspaper industry.

    The Seattle Times has become Washington’s very own state subsidized Pravda.

    While I do not live in Seattle, the only possible response for me was to cancel my subscription to my own local paper in a city elsewhere in the State.

    Posted by Ed
  3. August 11, 2009 @ 8:22 am

    I was a Cook’s Illustrated subscriber for over five years and I’m still a current Cook’s Country subscriber, but I probably will not renew. It has nothing to do with the content, which is top-notch, but more the insanely aggressive marketing people behind the magazines. For example, this month I have received two notices via postal mail and numerous e-mails that my subscription has expired and I must renew, despite it being paid up through January 2010. I dropped Cook’s Illustrated because I got tired of calls in the evening and on weekends trying to push other “Cook’s” products, despite asking to be taken of their list.

    Your article also states that there are no exotic recipes in Cook’s Illustrated. This isn’t exactly true, as you will often find one or two ethnic dishes in each issue. Think about it – you can only write about making perfect pancakes once or twice, and over the years a lot of the common recipes have been done.

    Finally, Kimball tries to cultivate this “down home” frugal farmer persona, but that doesn’t apply to his subscribers. Their “year end” volumes are simply left over magazines bound together with an index. Great for the publisher – not a deal for the subscriber.

    While I’ve enjoyed being a subscriber, I won’t renew. There are better resources online for this information now, and while Cook’s works due to the somewhat shady tactics of its sales and marketing department, I think it, too, will move to subscription-based online content in the near future.

    Posted by Tarus Balog
  4. August 11, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

    re. TV audience: Sometimes the forecasts seem a bit like wishful thinking rather than
    actual market research. And quite a lot of issues important for the consumers are
    simply not acknowledged at all.
    There is a pretty often watched YoyTube, a flashback to financial news on TV in 06 / 07
    in which a bunch of pundits are making incredibly wrong forecasts and also give
    such investment advise. And some consumers are consequent in the hindsight of past
    experiences and results and are cancelling for instance investment oriented media
    they think are useless. Not everybody is interested in losing money time and again.

    Posted by Joe