Saturday, June 22, 2013

More Head Scratching News from the Oregonian

In announcing the change from daily home delivery to a four day home delivery system and a three day newsstand only print edition, the Oregonian reports that its circulation is made up of about 90% home delivery and 10% newsstand sales.
The Oregonian currently delivers to 170,000 homes daily and sells 15,000 papers a day at newsstands, said Kevin Denny, the paper's vice president of operations and circulation. The Oregonian prints 263,000 Sunday editions with 30,000 of those sold at newsstands.
The home delivery change should result in a 90% drop in sales income three days of the week since the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday editions would result in a fractional 15,000 papers sold on those days rather than the normal 185,000.*

Publisher N. Christian Anderson III has pointed to a savings in home delivery costs as part of the limited home delivery strategy.
PBJ: If the newspaper isn't delivered daily, why not stop printing daily?
Anderson: We still have a large single-copy audience and wish to continue to serve that audience without the expense of home delivery on those three days.
But, the question remains whether dropping 90% of sales on the non-home delivery days will not cancel out any positive effects of delivery savings--not to mention that 10% in newsstand sales does not seem to be a particularly large single-copy audience.

Before the home delivery changes, the Oregonian employed 650 people.
Anderson declined to say how many of The Oregonian's 650 employees would lose their jobs in coming months. Editor and Vice President Peter Bhatia told newsroom employees that the reductions would be "significant." But he said there would be new hiring as well.
Willamette Week has counted up 95 people who have been laid off so far--about 15% of Oregonian employees.  The newsroom was taking the biggest hit losing a quarter of its staff.
UPDATE, 7 pm: Sources tell WW that The Oregonian has laid off about 95 employees in the last two days—at least 45 in the editorial department. That number, which is reportedly near final, would represent one quarter of a 175-person newsroom.
Despite this 15% to 25% loss in staff, Anderson has promised "enhanced" editions for the Wednesday, Friday and Sunday home delivery newspapers.
The Oregonian will continue to be published daily and sold at outlets in the Portland metropolitan area and elsewhere in the state and southwestern Washington. Home delivery will be Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and include the Saturday edition as a bonus. The Wednesday, Friday and Sunday editions will be enhanced with more content than current editions while the Saturday newspaper will have news and a strong emphasis on sports content, along with classified advertising. Those home delivery subscribers that choose the three-day subscription option will also have access to a digital edition seven days a week. Subscribers will be informed of the new rates in early August.
[emphasis added]
Anderson has not explained how the Oregonian will be able to maintain its current seven day print publishing schedule (though with only a 10% print run three of the days) and enhance and expand the edition on three of those days in light of the 25% cut in newsroom staff.

A sales strategy that includes a 90% drop in sales three days a week, no matter how much is saved in delivery costs, and a 25% cut in newsroom staff as precursor to enhancing and expanding the newspaper do not seem to promise success. How Advance Publications, Inc. (owner of the Oregonian) has penciled this out as a winning strategy is anyone's guess.
*The Alliance for Audited Media data for March, 2013, has Oregonian daily circulation at about 229,000 and Sunday circulation at about 304,000. Some of the difference could be due to Oregonian digital circulation, which might account for the 10,000 difference in the Sunday figure. But, the 45,000 difference in the daily figure can hardly be due to digital subscriptions.

H/T MaxRedline


MAX Redline said...

I must confess to being mathematically-challenged when it comes to their numbers; the only thing that I can surmise is that they plan to save a lot of cash by cutting back on the payouts to the various drivers who cover the home delivery circuits through the elimination of three days of pay per driver - but really, that doesn't save significant cash, because the drivers don't get paid that much as it is (if I recall correctly, the rate for a 7-day route was on the order of $400-$500/month).

Given their mishandling of the NOLA takeover, one might have expected Advance to learn from past mistakes, but it appears that they know magazines far better than newsprint.

Thanks for the H/T, btw!

90's a pretty significant cut - but that number doesn't include those removed from the print side to positions on the digital side, so I'm guessing that the toll to the paper itself is going to be greater than currently portrayed.

T. D. said...

Good point, Max. I hadn't factored in the dislocation from print to digital which would even further weaken the print product.

Also, interesting is the social media reporting going on by those laid off that shows how toothless the old news media system of being the guardian of what is news has become.

The Oregonian used to be able to censor news and comments by selecting who would be published and what sentiment would be available for mass public reading.

No longer. Any individual can put out news and commentary easily picked up by other individuals and news organs like Willamette Week.