San Francisco newspaper analyst and former Chron assistant managing editor Alan Mutter has a blog about the newspaper industry that drew this response from a former newspaper publisher who sold his or her paper off to a chain in the mid-1990s. Neither the publisher nor the 40,000-circulation daily he or she sold in 1996 were identified. The unidentified paper’s paid circulation has fallen to 21,000 under chain ownership.

Some quotes that caught our eye:

    “I finally stopped my subscription, because I really wasn’t interested in reading the generic news that has replaced the community coverage we used to provide.”

    “… In the early 1990s,our newspaper partnered with a small Internet company and began offering our classified ads online. … A small management team was established to meet with other suburban newspapers in our market to ascertain their interest in aggregating all of our classified ads and offering a market-wide buy. I’ll always remember the meeting, because the publishers from the other newspapers looked at us as if we were aliens from some other planet. Simply put, they didn’t get it. One of the publishers present at that meeting is now a top executive of the same chain that bought our paper!”

    “… Our family sold our newspaper to the chain, because we were wall-to-wall union; the unions were intransigent and we could not see how we could compete with the lower-cost media competing for the same business. I knew the chain could ‘get the deal done’ when it came to reducing costs. Parenthetically, my family doesn’t miss the death threats I received from disgruntled union activists when we attempted on our own to reduce force (legally, through the contracts, I might add).”

The unidentified publisher notes that he now serves on various non-profit boards and that one of them was thinking of moving its advertising from print to the Internet due to disappointing results. A marketing consultant told the board that he knew he should move the ads to online because when he asked his 24-year-old son if he had seen a particular column in a neighboring metro, his son said he didn’t read the paper. The publisher concludes by saying,

    “Now, I don’t read my old paper, either. When the boiler-room crew calls to attempt to lure me back by offering a full year’s subscription for $15.99, I respond by saying that’s still too much for what their product has become. If I don’t read the paper, who will?”
SF Press Club News


  1. The San Mateo County Times is a done deal. They were forced to sell off there property and move to a small office in San Mateo. They now share offices with the Daily News and Jobs and Careers. There staff is not only being trimmed by the people up stairs but by there own free will. No one wants to work for a “Bean counter” might as well be a car sales person.

  2. The tragic thing is that the Times would be doing well if somebody else than Singleton were the owner. Look at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. About the same size as the Times back in the 1990s. The NY Times has nurtured the PD and kept it strong, only recently finding itself in the situation of trimming staff. Singleton gutted the Times’ staff a few weeks after he bought it.

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