September 02, 2014

Newspapers are dying, at least in Austin

When I'm in the library in the big city, or nearest thing to one that's nearby, I like scanning metropolitan dailies to see just how they're faring on ad inches.

And, the Tuesday, Aug. 26 Austin American Statesman?

Not faring well at all.

Now, Tuesday's not a great day, but, it's not quite as slow as Monday.

But 12 percent? Four pages worth of paid ads in a 50-page paper? That's sad, and ugly.

(One week later, they were up to a full 15.5 percent for Tuesday, Sept. 3. That said, the paper had been cut to 32 pages. And, some of the paid ads were tax-and-budget season legals.)

Add to it that, as fluff, the Statesman's copy staff (which aren't even in Austin, as all but the sports pages are built at a sister Cox paper, the Dayton Daily News) had two pages worth of house ads. That many house ads, compared to that few of paid ads, stand out like a sore thumb.

That said, even bigger papers aren't that much better off.

With September and rising car sale ads, the Dallas Morning News is now above 40 percent on Saturdays, but, on a Wednesday, which is an "OK/decent" day for advertising, it still normally doesn't break 25 percent. Maybe it pushes 30 at times. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram will run about halfway between it and the Statesman. (This library doesn't get the Houston Chronicle, so I can't comment on it.)

The Waco and Temple papers, as smaller seven-days, run around Austin, it seems, on ad percentages. That said, there's no state capital in Waco or Temple, and there's no major oil or other minerals.

And, let's remember, Texas has a pretty "decent" economy.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, a recent Monday L.A. Times was at just 40 pages. Let's say that they didn't want to run at less than 20 percent advertising. (On all papers, I count classys and obits as straight advertising inches.) Even with the Net economy, surely the Times would have  3x the classys as Austin, and more paid obits, even at higher rates.

So, it couldn't have had more than a 35 percent edge on retail ad space above the Statesman. That's horrible.

I don't know if he had a typo and actually meant 2015, but Ryan Chittum of CJR said that he expects LA to not have a seven-day print daily by the end of this year. That might be a stark guess, but giving Chittum the year's benefit of the doubt, that wouldn't surprise me at all.

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