Tuesday, August 13, 2013
On The Media Beat: WaPo Sale Raises Questions About Future Of ABQ Journal; We've Got The Scoop On That And Even More Media Beat
Jeff Bezos for $250 million in cash has raised the question of how the family-owned ABQ Journal is doing in these most trying of times for print publications.
Like its brethren around the nation, the Journal continues to take major circulation hits and like the wheel of fortune where it stops no one knows.
Circulation for the weekday and Sunday editions has fallen precipitously since the peak. The latest figures show the paper with a weekday circulation of 84,506. However, that includes digital subscriptions that produce far less revenue than print subscribers. Figures on digital subscribers are not available.
As for the Sunday edition--the one that in the past that's reported to have been responsible for 40% of the Journal's profits--it is now in jeopardy of slipping below the important 100,000 mark. Including digital subscribers, the Sunday Journal has 103,963 subscriptions.
Compare these numbers to 2006 when weekday circulation was at 108,177 and the Sunday paper circulated 150,787.
That is a stunning drop and only some of it is attributable to the Journal's decision to stop circulating in most of southern New Mexico and focus on the ABQ metro.
Insiders can't say whether the Journal--which has had only one publicly announced round of layoffs in the past several years--is making a profit. If it isn't, the Lang family's extensive real estate investments may be carrying the paper. But real estate has also taken a major hit in the past five years. That surfaces the question of whether the paper will be sold or if there are even any buyers at this point in history.
Maybe Bezos has fond memories of ABQ and would like to add the Journal to his list of toys. Otherwise, the Journal--like newspapers everywhere--is on its own, continuing to try to find a way to hold its head above water.
To that end the Journal this month raised the newsstand price of the weekday paper to 75 cents from 50 cents and the Sunday Journal to $2 a copy from $1.50. But the paramount issues of rising costs and lower ad revenue remain. Other papers have cut the number of days they print, going from seven day a week circulation to five or less and posting only electronic editions on the days they no longer print. That could happen here in the years ahead.
The noticeable drift of the Journal to the conservative right in a blue state--critics argue almost arrogantly so--has not gone unnoticed by media veterans. They think some of this can be likened to a politician running to protect his base voters--please the hard-core older and conservative readership and protect the advertising it generates.
Maybe its impossible for newspapers to grow in this new environment, but former Democratic ABQ Mayor Jim Baca, who was a longtime TV journalist before entering politics, says the Journal's insistence on staying on the right of the political spectrum has filtered into its news coverage and has cost it credibility and circulation. He would like to see a change in editors at the paper, saying Win Quigley--the business and economics reporter with a middle of the road reputation--would be a plausible replacement for longtime editor Kent Walz who Baca says is driven by a right-wing agenda.
Meanwhile, the Journal--despite not necessarily reflecting the community-at-large--retains influence. It continues to be "the only game in town" even as the size of of the field it's playing on continues to shrink. It's hard to see how that field doesn't get even smaller in the tumultuous years ahead.
BOMB THE PAPER
In case you forgot, here's what a real adversarial relationship between a poltician and a newspaper looks like:
Maine Gov. Paul LePage made his dislike of the Portland Press Herald abundantly clear while sitting in a fighter jet simulator: He said from the cockpit that he would like to blow up the newspaper's building.
Of course, the Maine Governor later said he was joking. Here in New Mexico they don't say bomb the paper, they say: "Bomb the Blog!" That's a badge of honor.....I think.
WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
The International Associaation of Firefighters local PAC comes with this:
Fire Fighters PAC is committed to frontline advocacy for public safety and supports candidates who stand with us. Joins us this Thursday at Casa Esencia for our fund-raiser featuring co-hosts Speaker of the NM House Ken Martinez, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez with special guest ABQ Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. Contribtuion levels are $100, $500 and $1,000. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SO LONG, JAY
Some of you will nod with familiarity when we say "Inside the Capitol," but many won't. The 60 year old syndicated newspaper column has quietly slid into history. Jay Miller, author of the column carried by many small town newspapers in the state for sixty years, says at age 75 and 26 years at the helm of the column, he is retiring to Arizona. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a market for anyone to pick up the column that in its day was a powerful vehicle for analysis and commentary.
The Internet age was supposed to deliver to us more diverse, credible voices covering New Mexico politics. But we've lost the ABQ Tribune, The Raton Range and now Inside the Capitol. And news staffs at other papers have been decimated by the print decline.
Las Cruces journalist Heath Haussamen authored a popular website aimed at replacing the print media being lost, but closed it after seven years when he could not find a business model that worked.
Small town NM today has access to political comments and analysis on the Internet--especially on social media. But the discussion is often sophomoric and personal--emblematic of today's politics--and lacking in the wit and wisdom that professionals like Miller brought to the table.
Hasta la vista, Jay. You earned your chapter in the book of La Politica-- the one book that endures through the centuries...
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2013. Not for reproduction without permission of the author