By Doug Porter
Thirty three thousand. That’s the average daily decline in newspaper sales for UT-San Diego over the past six months according to the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulation).
Don Bauder at the Reader broke the news late last week:
For the six month period ended March 31, 2014, compared with the six months ended March 31, 2013, Sunday circulation dropped from 425,000 to 362,166. (These data include branded editions and digital.) On Monday, the decline was from 222,572 to 196,062. On Tuesday, the drop was from 226,400 to 182,516. On Wednesday, the decline was from 230,151 to 192,751. Thursday’s drop was from 285,474 to 249,201. Friday’s decline was from 288,385 to 243,201. [There’s more detail at Bauder’s piece]
I know that times are tough in the dead tree journalism business. The Everybody Knows crowd blames the internet. And they warn about traditional news gathering organizations fading into oblivion, leaving us to a world of of bait-and-click, all-sideboob-all-the-time.
Thad McIlroy at The Future of Publishing site points out that the decline of the daily newspaper began well before AOL began mailing compact discs to every household in America.
Did you read a newspaper yesterday?
80% Yes in 1961
58% Yes in 1999
None-the-less, digital devices are now the way most Americans get their news.
Via the Pew Research Journalism Project:
The vast majority of Americans now get news in some digital format. In 2013, 82% of Americans said they got news on a desktop or laptop and 54% said they got news on a mobile device. Beyond that, 35% reported that they get news in this way “frequently” on their desktop or laptop, and 21% on a mobile device (cellphone or tablet).
UT-San Diego’s foray into creating a “media platform” seamlessly blending broadcast, print and internet-based journalism has, by any measure, been a failure. After boasting about taking their news operation national, the company pulled the plug on its UT TV operation in February, taking it off cable television systems after less than two years. One report claimed the broadcast operation was losing the company $500,000 a month.
The internet “product” coming out of publisher Doug Manchester’s Mission Valley headquarters has gone from bad to worse. It’s pathetically slow and usually ungratifying to search stories on the site, headlines are mis-typed or simply missing from the actual directory of “today’s newspaper,” and you’re likely to be annoyed with a video auto-play of news headlines.
The real issue for both dead tree and digital media is the declining value of advertising to consumers and retailers. Our senses are assaulted from every angle– morning, noon and night– with sales pitches, clever camera work and not-so-subtle appeals to our libido. And we’ve become inured to all that noise.
Smart merchants have come to the realization that there is no longer a worthwhile return on investment for traditional advertising dollars. All the talk in the world about “impressions” and “pass-along audience” can change the fact that advertising no long drives sales dollars for retailers. This is true for both dead tree and digital advertising.
UT-San Diego has attempted to counter the decline of ad dollars by increasing income from circulation. The over-the-counter price for a Monday-Friday paper is $1.50. It’s two bucks on Saturday because they throw in the printed-in-advance Sunday sections. And Sunday’s ever-shrinking edition is $2.50. Plus tax.
Publisher’s Doug Manchester’s 2012 purchase of the North County Times for $11.95 million may or may not have been about increasing circulation (there was some real estate involved), but those readers have all but disappeared.
So the ultimate question here (in my mind) is “When will Papa Doug pull the plug?”
And that comes down to politics. Manchester hasn’t succeeded with his agenda much of the time, but he does now have a friend in the mayor’s office. So if he can leverage that favorable business environment with an editorial/informational push on local development issues like a new football stadium it remains in his best interest to keep the presses running.
Meanwhile, I did a bunch of back-of-the-envelope calculations this weekend. (Your results may vary. Seek emergency help if you have an obsession with this math lasting over four minutes)
If the Democrats win the White House in 2016, I predict UT-San Diego will print their last edition in June 2017. At their present rate of decline I can predict they’ll keep going until June 2018 with a GOP victory. At SD Free Press’ present rate of growth (18%) that will be just a few months before we pass them in readership.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos expressed another way of looking at the future of dead tree journalism shortly after buying the Washington Post.
“I think printed newspapers on actual paper may be a luxury item,” Bezos said. “It’s sort of like, you know, people still have horses, but it’s not their primary way of commuting to the office.”
Carl DeMaio’s Liberal Obsession
Following DeMaio’s national pity party media tour last week, the race for the 52nd congressional district continues to make the news.
The Los Angeles Times has a story by Tony Perry today on the uncertainties of political tenure in the “…northern swath of San Diego…”
Guess what? There are other Republicans besides DeMaio looking to unseat Congressman Scott Peters. And you can actually read about them in the LA Times, as opposed to the local fishwrap.
This year, three fiscally conservative Republicans — a former San Diego City Council member, a former Marine captain, and a trauma surgeon — are looking to unseat Peters.
The 52nd is one of only seven districts in the nation — and the only one in California — rated as a “pure toss-up” by the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. Registration is closely divided: 33.8% Republican, 32.3% Democrat, 28.7% independent.
The Daily Beast ran an article on Saturday pondering why other openly gay GOP candidates for Congress (Dan Innis in New Hampshire and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts) are garnering endorsements from LGBT centered groups while Carl DeMaio isn’t.
We got treated to the usual DeMaio version of the truth, which is ‘when in doubt, blame the liberals:’
When the Victory Fund, a gay-friendly PAC, endorsed 2014’s other two gay Republican congressional candidates but not DeMaio, [spokesman] McCulloch said “we’re not surprised they’re not endorsing him in what national observers call the most likely seat to switch parties in the country…When it matters, the group is about a liberal agenda.”
But Victory Fund spokesman Stephen Thai said DeMaio’s camp has it all wrong. Thai noted that DeMaio did not submit to be endorsed by the Victory Fund for his congressional race, so they couldn’t have endorsed him even if they wanted to. (The group did decline to endorse DeMaio during his mayoral race.)
Victory, Thai explained, has a policy of not commenting on races in which they haven’t endorsed a candidate. “I’m making an exception on this, because to be really, frankly honest, I’m disappointed in the DeMaio campaign for the attacks against an organization they haven’t sought an endorsement from yet.”
DA Bonnie Dumanis: Show Us the Documents!
KPBS continues to cover allegations that San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis used her office for political purposes via an investigation targeting Chula Vista politicians. This time around it appears there may have been an effort to cover up the existence of documents related to those investigations.
Back in 2007 thirteen charges of perjury and two counts of failing to disclose income on a statement of economic interests and a $7 million investigation added up to nothing, as three charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, a jury acquitted acquitted City Councilman Steve Castaneda on six charges and a judge declared a mistrial on the rest of prosecution’s case.
KPBS asked the DA’s office in early March for records, including emails, about a call former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he received from Dumanis in late 2005. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her aide to a vacant council seat.
A recent KPBS story noted that within weeks of Padilla’s refusal, Dumanis began investigating the entire Chula Vista City Council without revealing her call to Padilla. In late March, the DA’s office told KPBS it did not possess records related to the request.
KPBS sent another Public Records Act request two weeks ago seeking the same records from Deputy District Attorney Patrick O’Toole. He oversaw the Chula Vista investigations. Within hours, O’Toole wrote that he had the records and sent them up the chain of command for consideration.
Another County Politician That Needs to Go
You might remember Assessor/County Clerk/Recorder/ Ernie Dronenburg from a couple of years back when he teamed up with local anti-gay rights crusader Charles LiMandri to try and throw a monkey wrench in the works after California’s Proposition 8 (banning same sex marriage) lost a legal challenge.
He’s actually running for reelection this year and I’d be pleased as punch if you DID remember his oafishness on election day. There’s even a Dump Dronenburg Facebook page if you’d like to re-acquaint yourself with his political “career.”
Taxpayer advocate and consumer protection attorney Susan Guinn is running against him and she appears to be the real deal.
Did I mention that Dronenburg has been endorsed by Bonnie Dumanis?
Check Out the SDFreePress Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltran, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
On This Day: 1925 – John T. Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, TN, was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. 1961 – Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he made a 15 minute suborbital flight. 1970– Colleges nationwide went on strike in response to President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the killing on May 4 of a Kent State, Ohio protester by the National Guard. San Diego City College was the first school locally to shut down. (I was there)
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