Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Media Beat: The Latest On The Journal; Circulation & Outlook, Plus: TV News: The Changes, The Ratings, The Profits; Exclusively Yours & Up Next 

We've described the economic scene around here as "flatlined" but the state's largest newspaper only wishes that were so. The ABQ Journal's circulation is on a ride similar to being pushed down a steep, scary and very long ski slope. And there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

The long-term trend tells the grim story. In September 2007, the Audit Bureau of Circulation reported the Journal's daily circulation fell from 105,966 to 101,981 and the Sunday circ went from 146,931 to 140,395. Flash forward to today and daily circulation for the Monday-Friday editions threatens to plunge below 90,000. It is now at 90,471 for the six month period ended March 31st. And the Sunday Journal--the company's mainstay--is now circulating only 115,558 copies, down from the long ago glory days when over 160,000 editions were printed. That's a better than 20 percent decline in the Sunday fishwrapper in the last four years alone, even as the population grew.The Sunday decline is especially notable because it is from that edition that the paper traditionally derived 40 percent of its profits--if there are any.

The paper last made its own economic news in early 2009 when it announced a round of layoffs and other measures to combat the advertising recession and the secular decline in newspaper readers. Recently, it announced a website redesign, but because the paper has a subscription model it is more difficult to monetize the site through advertising and also grow readership.

Despite the inexorable decline in circulation, the Journal remains a key player in New Mexico public policy. In ABQ, it is "the only game in town" since the demise of the ABQ Tribune in early 2008. Its investigative reporting remains among the strongest in the region and its open government agenda continues to have impact. The major change both nonpartisan and partisan observers have seen in recent years is a decided conservative tilt on the editorial pages and in the story emphasis on the news pages. That could be a play to hold on to its base subscribers or a natural evolution of an enterprise that has long tilted right.

There will always be a daily newspaper around in some form or another, and the Journal has been learning to do more with less, but for the state's iconic media symbol the years ahead will have more uncertainty and turmoil as the industry's treacherous run down the ski slope shows no sign of ending.


The Great Recession has also washed away any since of entitlement in the once gilded TV newsrooms of New Mexico. Staffs have been slashed and news gathering budgets shaved. The recession has also brought about the "one man band." That's where the reporter both shoots and writes the story, minus the usual videographer. That has cut expenses considerably. Like the Journal, the TV news hounds are doing less with more. Meantime, TV station profits have rebounded from the depths of the Bear Market and will be helped further when the 2012 campaign cycle takes hold, releasing a a swarm of 30 second TV spots that will engulf the airwaves.


In the never-ending ratings race, longtime 10 p.m. news leader KRQE-TV continued its winning ways in May, scoring a 9.5 rating for first place honors. KOAT took second with a respectable 8.1 and KOB, continuing to be hampered by poor performing NBC prime time shows, came in third with a 6.1 rating.

The rating represents the percentage of all the TV sets in the ABQ market tuned in to a broadcast. For example, of all the households with a TV set, on average about 10 percent of them in May were tuned to the KRQE 10 p.m. news. All told, the three 10 p.m. broadcasts have a rating of about 24. That means 76 percent of the households in the market were not watching the 10 p.m. news, were watching something else, or the TV set was not turned on.

Nielsen ratings service says there are 7o6,000 households in the ABQ market which takes in about 90 percent of the state. We are the 46th largest market in the USA. While that combined rating of 24 for the three news stations may sound low and probably is compared to past years when there were fewer media choices, it translates into about 175,000 total households. That demonstrates the dominance TV continues to have over all other news media. If an average of two people per household are watching the news at 10, that would be about 350,000 10 p.m. New Mexico news watchers. The entire state population is slightly over 2 million. The ratings include all viewers over the age of 2.


TV news viewers skew older--over 40. That's why they are targeted with TV commercials each and every cycle. The older a person is, the more likely they are to vote.

But the prestige of TV advertising overall has taken a hit in this epic downturn. You see more funky ads for little hole-in-the-wall places popping up in pretty good time periods. It's a sign that there are still deals to be had as stations seem to always have extra inventory. That's nothing like like the good old days when it was always a sellers market.


In the last ratings period in February, the 9 p.m. news on KASA-TV actually drew more households than the 10 p.m. news on ABC affiliate KOAT--a big prestige blow for channel 7. While the May ratings show KASA getting a strong 6.7 rating, that was not enough to make its upset of KOAT a two time affair.


If you think TV news reporters are pulling down big bucks, think again. The anchors of the broadcasts are rewarded handsomely, but run of the mill reporters are lucky to make $40,000 a year. Often they leave for greener pastures as we saw during Big Bill's Guv administration when loads of reporters of all stripes signed up for PIO jobs. The migration continues under GOP Guv Martinez. Former KRQE reporter Jim Winchester has landed a PIO gig with the state environment department and we blogged recently that KOB-TV's Kayla Anderson is now touting the virtues of Dem District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.


ABQ Dem State Rep. Moe Maestas has ended his brief flirtation with a run for the Dem nomination for the ABQ US House seat. He says he can continue to best serve as a "voice of reason" in the state House. He did not endorse anyone while headed out the door. State Sen. Eric Griego is the only declared candidate in the contest, but he is expected to get company.

Once again for those of you who may have missed it, here's the current list of possibles as approved by the Alligators: Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, former ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez, former government administrator Lawrence Rael, Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham and Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks, and Sandia Pueblo's Stuart Paisano.

This is the home of New Mexico politics---the "must-read" of the New Mexico Net.

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