Honey, I shrunk the subscriber goals
As advertising and circulation falls at the San Diego Union-Tribune year over year, Norman Pearlstine, executive editor of the U-T’s parent Los Angeles Times, is less optimistic than his boss, Patrick Soon-Shiong, about the L.A. operation’s online potential. “We think we can get to 750,000 to a million subscribers,” Pearlstine said during a November 2 appearance at the Poynter Institute’s Bowtie Ball in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he picked up the group’s 2019 Distinguished Service to Journalism Award. “It’s going to take some work, but at that level, our economic picture will look a lot better than when Patrick bought it.”
Back in March of this year, billionaire Soon-Shiong, who coughed up $500 million for both papers in 2018, predicted much brighter prospects for Los Angeles, telling the Wall Street Journal that five million subscribers were his goal. Noted the Journal report, “The target is no small task, as the Times now has 150,000 digital-only subscribers.”
Pearlstine provided few operating numbers or other specifics to the black-tie banquet crowd of 550 or so dining at the posh Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club. He said he was counting on 2020 presidential politics to boost the bottom line. “Homelessness, income inequality and its impact on housing, immigration, environment, education… these are all the subjects that cut across our community,” he said, per a Poynter website account of the event, adding, “We’re really trying to produce content for Californians and people who think about California.”
Meanwhile, back in San Diego, U-T web numbers have continued to slip, from 2.95 million monthly total visits in March to 2.61 million as of last week, according to estimated traffic data from SimilarWeb.com. The L.A. Times boasts monthly visits of 35.14 million, per estimates.
R. I. Pete
Two county movers and shakers linked to the legacy of Pete Wilson, San Diego’s Republican mayor who wrote his get-of-town ticket with a 1982 U.S. Senate victory over Democrat Jerry Brown, have died. Downtown lawyer Ted Graham, first husband of Wilson’s second wife Gayle, passed away October 3 in Temecula at age 80, per a paid death notice in the Union-Tribune. As legend has it, Pete met bakery heiress Gayle on the rebound when they were cast together in a musical act put together by the Junior League. A bird hunter and fly fisherman in his free time, Graham requested that his ashes be spread over the Big Horn River in Montana.
Bruce Walton, another longtime Wilson connection, was an NFL veteran and the brother of NBA star Bill Walton. He partnered with Wilson’s wealthy close friend and campaign advisor John Davies, who once sat on the city planning commission, to buy jazz radio station KIFM. Walton died on October 18.
Cash for insiders only
The strange-bedfellow alliance of giant hotel chains and big labor has gotten its measure to hike hotel taxes for a downtown convention center expansion and homeless triage on the March presidential primary ballot. Now it’s time for political consultants of all stripes to begin splitting up the cash. So shows an October 31 campaign disclosure filing by Yes! For a Better San Diego, sponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.
From July 1 through September 30, according to the document, the group raised a total of $596,740 and spent $183,303, winding up with a cash balance of $432,052. Debts of $186,897 remained from the group’s barely successful effort last year to gather enough voter signatures to qualify its measure for the ballot. At the top of the local paid consultants list was Southwest Strategies, the high-powered lobbying and political outfit that gives cash to both sides of the political spectrum, with $17,821, according to city clerk disclosure records.
Next came Laura Fink’s Rebelle Communications, which picked up $15,000, the downtown law firm of Fitzgerald Knaier LLP, which got $10,000, and Amplify Campaigns, run by labor union favorite Dan Rottenstreich, also with $10,000. The Democrat has represented city councilwoman Georgette Gomez, who joined with GOP council members to provide the swing vote needed to get the tax measure on the March ballot, rather than next November, when voter turnout is estimated to be higher and prospects for the measure lower. Axiom Strategies of Kansas City, Missouri, the Republican outfit that features Steven Puetz, ex-chief of staff to GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer and Duane Dichiara, a long time Faulconer strategist, was paid $8000. Democratic polling outfit the Mellman Group of Washington, D.C. was paid the most of all, with a total of $79,100, the city’s numbers show.