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Last Thursday, the Newspaper Association of America quietly posted almost unbelievably grim news on its website. Advertising sales plunged by 28.3% in the first quarter of 2009. Print ads were down 29.7%. Classified ads, the big money makers in the past, plummeted 42.3%, with employment classified ads down 67.4% and automotive classified 43.4%. The word didn't reach Wall Street until yesterday (June 2) and most newspaper stocks got belted -- generally, from 3 to 10%. Stocks of most newspaper chains were already down 90% or more over the last 52 weeks. Analyst Edward Atorino noted "an accelerated rate of decline across all advertising categories....This is really horrible."

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pedrochavez1114 June 3, 2009 @ 11:08 p.m.

Newspapers had a good thing going for a long time. A monopoly? Yes, in more ways than one. From the advertising side, the rates grew every year; highway robbery was the common practice for those selling ad space. Pay or stay out! If you're this, you pay this rate; if you're that, you pay this other rate. Do we discriminate? Yes, in a sense, we do. But we charge you more because we know you can afford it. Besides, you have to advertise your help wanted ads in a local daily, don't you? It's the law. So? You ain't got a choice. Pay up and shut up! Why do we charge more for national ads? Because everyone else is doing it. That's it. If others can get away with it, so can we. We're a monopoly, you know. Selling ad space in major dailies, by the way, was mostly order taking in all dailies. No selling involved... For a while, there were few alternatives for advertisers who wanted to reach the masses via print. So they paid the piper. Today, there are a lot more choices, so the piper ain't getting paid as much. Too bad, but that's how it is in America. If you ain't got what I need, I ain't gonna go to you. I don't need you. From the news side, the picture doesn't look too much different. Folks calling themselves journalists were and still are too far away from the real news affecting real, everyday people, but too close to themselves. And others like themselves. They wrote -- and still write today -- for themselves. They care -- I believe -- little about the stuff that affects most of us. True, there have always been around the hard nosed folks that truly understand their duties. You know? The writing folks that bag a congressman or a dirty politician here and there. You know? The hard core journalist that keeps alive a world where we, even today, may still be able to breathe free. Thank you, by the way, for doing what you do. But, to you, the rest of America's print news room folks that forgot about what was relevant to us on the receiving side of the news business, I have this to say: Too bad. You forgot how to write to me. And that's why I no longer care abou you. So, stop your bitchin' and moanin' and get out of town. And, fortunately for me and others like me, real journalists are still around. Online.


David Dodd June 3, 2009 @ 11:21 p.m.


Good points. They can blame the internet, and so on, but the product has been horrible for years. It's like GM. Sure, they made other mistakes, but their product is the undesireable thing.

Good journalists would still be writing in print if print still employed good journalists. America would make great cars if great cars were made in America.


Don Bauder June 4, 2009 @ 6:04 a.m.

Response to post #1: Yours is a message that journalists and ad salespeople should take to heart. There is no question that we journalists are often writing for ourselves, not the reader. We don't consider our market, our audience, enough. And you are right: ad salespeople got complacent through the years. They were order takers. They didn't know how to go after sales aggressively. Newspapers just raised prices every year without even thinking about the long term consequences. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 4, 2009 @ 6:11 a.m.

Response to post #2: Newspapers' basic problems are demographics (particularly that the young don't read in print), technology (the product arrives long after many have gotten their news electronically), and competitiveness (Craigslist killing the profitable classifieds, Google, etc.). And, as you point out, a poor product was a major factor in the decline. Best, Don Bauider


HellcatCopley June 4, 2009 @ 9:50 a.m.

Ad sales at the UT tended to be order takers because of they followed the big money and largely forgot about local: most of the bid advetisers (department stores, film studios, etc) budgeted far in advance and there was little to do to influence it. A local salesperson could not sweet talk the Fashion Valley Rob-May manager to buy anything. Sending ad people out to chase down a two-column ad for a local bakery is also not cost effective. And the bakery wonders why it even needs an ad that spans San Diego when its customers are within a two-mile radius.


Don Bauder June 4, 2009 @ 9:58 a.m.

Response to post #5: You put your finger on a major problem with the U-T and other metro dailies. An ad purchase is often an inefficient buy -- you pay for a broader audience than you need. The same is true with a TV station that reaches the entire metro market. However, certain electronic media can be far more efficient. Various blogs, for example, reach pinpoint markets. And you get instant feedback on how effective your ad is. You get a good idea (not a perfect one) by the number of clicks or longer visits to a site. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 June 4, 2009 @ 12:11 p.m.

One of the worst U-T betrayals of San Diego was the adoption of the Rush Limbaugh style of deranged rant by the U-T Editorial Board, which has fooled far too many brain-dead republicans to vote for U-T anointed candidates like Golding, Murphy and Sanders who have been flushing San Diego down the sewer for far too long.


Don Bauder June 4, 2009 @ 12:58 p.m.

Response to post #7: There is no question that the U-T has been an establishment publication for as long as anyone can remember. News has been slanted, editorials have been ill-researched -- all to glorify the downtown power brokers. But I have always maintained that this is not a big factor in the newspaper's plunging circulation. The demographic, technological and competition-related changes cited in #4 above have been the major factors. However, the U-T lags its sister metro dailies. San Diego is the 17th largest U.S. market and the U-T's daily circulation is 24th (22nd if you eliminate USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.) Sunday circulation isn't even in the top 25. There are several reasons for this, but the slanted journalism is one of them. Readers just can't trust the U-T when the subject is the establishment. Even if the newspaper improved on that score today, it would be a long time before San Diegans would perceive the change. Best, Don Bauder


Anon92107 June 5, 2009 @ 1:50 p.m.

Response to post #8:

Don, thank you for rewriting and upgrading the value of my response, you are most certainly the most erudite columnist in the history of San Diego journalism.

I find it all to easy to get outraged when it comes to the attacks against American Democracy and San Diego by extremists like the San Diego Republican Party, U-T Editorial Board, Rush Limbaugh, Fox, etc.

If they had their way, America would be returned to the era of betrayal against the United States like the Tories did in 1776 that caused us to declare a revolution in the first place.


Don Bauder June 5, 2009 @ 2:33 p.m.

Response to post #9: The San Diego Republicans, Lincoln Club, Taxpayers Association, U-T, etc. have certainly harmed San Diego by making blatant establishment thievery into a civic virtue. I don't think any are as irresponsible as Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, however. They are certainly deranged, to use your word. Best, Don Bauder


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