Seattlepi.com, the online successor to the print version of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, celebrates its first birthday Thursday with music, free cupcakes and cheap beer. For a Web-only publication that launched in the depths of the Great Recession, just sticking around 12 months may be reason enough to party. Seattlepi.com formally launched March 18, 2009, a day after the nearly 146-year-old P-I published its last edition on newsprint, leaving The Seattle Times as the city’s only newspaper printed daily. The P-I’s owner, New York-based Hearst Corp., had been losing money on the newspaper for years and hopes the online version will change that. “The site is doing really well,” said Seattlepi.com’s executive producer, Michelle Nicolosi. She said about 4 million people are visiting the Web site each month, about the same as were visiting the Post-Intelligencer’s site before the print version ceased publication. When it made the switch, the P-I let go most of its 181 employees. About two dozen now report the news and run the Web site. With the smaller crew, Nicolosi said, the Web site has focused on “core news,” such as important local issues, politics, sports and major stories, while rounding out coverage with stories from wire services and through the relationships it has forged with other news outlets and local bloggers
US company Skiff released details Monday of its upcoming electronic reader, a device slightly bigger than Amazon’s largest Kindle designed for reading newspapers and magazines in addition to books.
The Skiff Reader features an 11.5 inch (29.2-centimeter) screen, about two inches (five cms) larger than that of the Kindle DX, and is also the thinnest e-reader to date at just a quarter of an inch (0.63 cms), according to Skiff.
Skiff, which is backed by US newspaper and magazine publisher Hearst Corp., said wireless connectivity for the device, which weighs just over one pound (0.45 kilograms) will be provided by Skiff partner Sprint Nextel.
Skiff did not announce a price for the device, which will be available starting later this year in Sprint stores across the country and online.
Unlike the Kindle, which is geared mainly for book readers, Skiff said its device is the “first e-reader optimized for newspaper and magazine content.”
“The Skiff Reader’s big screen will showcase print media in compelling new ways,” Skiff president Gilbert Fuchsberg said in a statement.
“This is consistent with Skiff’s focus on delivering enhanced reading experiences that engage consumers, publishers and advertisers,” he said.
Skiff said its black-and-white touchscreen e-reader will feature next-generation “metal foil” e-paper technology from LG Display.
It said the thin, flexible sheet of stainless-steel foil is a step up from the “fragile glass that is the foundation of almost every electronic screen.”
The Skiff Reader will be displayed at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which opens in Las Vegas later this week.
As print advertising revenue evaporates and circulation erodes, US newspaper and magazine publishers have been looking to carve out a future on the Internet and with e-readers and mobile devices.
Online advertising revenue has been disappointing, however, and advertisers and readers have been generally underwhelmed by the presentation of newspapers and magazines on e-readers and smartphones.
Skiff would provide advertising alongside newspaper or magazine articles — a feature that is not currently offered by e-readers on the market such as the Kindle, which is tailored more to e-books than periodicals
Five major magazine and newspaper publishers announced plans on Tuesday to build an industry-standard platform to present their work on the Web, smartphones and electronic readers in a richer, more flexible and more lucrative form than is possible today. The consortium of Time Inc., Condé Nast, the Hearst Corporation, Meredith and the News Corporation does not lack for ambition, hoping to create software primarily for devices that do not yet exist — cellphones that are somewhat more advanced than anything now on the market, and e-readers far more sophisticated than today’s mostly static black-and-white devices. The unnamed venture, whose outlines were reported last month, was originally envisioned as being mostly about magazines, though John Squires, who will serve as interim general manager, says the final product will work for newspapers, books and other media, as well. He said that he could not offer a guess as to when the project would have a product, but that when sophisticated, full-color e-readers reach the market. Time Inc. has released a video giving some idea of what it has in mind — a full-color, touch-screen digital version Sports Illustrated that readers would find not only more attractive than what is now available on most mobile devices, but also vastly more interactive and adaptable to their tastes
Publisher Hearst Corp. plans to launch next year a service called Skiff to sell digital versions of newspapers and magazines on electronic readers and other devices, in a system it believes will be more visually appealing to readers and more lucrative for media companies. Skiff would give publishers an alternative to Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle store, which currently dominates the burgeoning field of digital reading. Through Skiff, Hearst said consumers will be able to buy digital publications that have better graphics and look more like their print counterparts, including the inclusion of advertising, than versions offered elsewhere. The service will include a digital storefront as well as a back-end system that publishers can use to render their publications for a range of electronic devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and small laptops called netbooks. Skiff, which Hearst has been developing for more than two years as a separate company called First Paper LLC, also is developing its own e-reading device with a consumer-electronics firm
A consortium of magazine publishers including Time Inc. and Condé Nast are plan to jointly build an online newsstand for publications in multiple digital formats, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The formation of a new company to run the online newsstand — sometimes characterized as an “iTunes for magazines” — may be announced in early December. Time, Condé Nast, Hearst and Meredith all intend to be equity partners in the new company, although the deals have not yet been signed. In the face of slumping print circulations for many magazines, the publishing houses are eager to exert some control over digital readership, said people at the companies, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the plans. Some newspaper owners have also expressed interest in the joint venture. The new magazine company would, in theory, make it easy to buy print and electronic copies of publications like The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Esquire and Better Homes and Gardens from a single Web site. While mostly leaving the hardware to others, the alliance of competing publishers would develop software standards for magazine viewing on iPhones, BlackBerrys, e-book readers and other platforms, people with knowledge of the plans said
With its circulation falling faster than that of any other major U.S. newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle is determined to set the pace in a flashier way: It’s about to become the first general-interest daily to print its editions on high-quality glossy paper.
The new look, scheduled to debut in Monday’s newspaper, is part of the Chronicle’s effort to create a more visually appealing newspaper as more readers turn to the Internet for free information and entertainment.
The magazine-style glossy paper would make its print edition more pleasing to read and could help the newspaper attract more advertisers looking to make their products shine.
The Chronicle, the largest newspaper in technology-driven northern California, has been hard hit by the migration to the Internet. Its weekday circulation plunged nearly 26 percent from a year ago to an average of 251,782 during the April-September period, more than any other big-city newspaper in the United States.
The decline extended a pattern that has been unfolding throughout the decade. In 2001, the Chronicle’s weekday circulation stood at 527,000.
Despite the latest circulation losses, Chronicle management says the newspaper is in far better financial shape than it was last year when the publication lost about $50 million, prompting its owner, Hearst Corp., to threaten a sale or closure in February. The turnaround since then has been driven by painful cost-cutting that eliminated hundreds of jobs this year and by higher newspaper prices.
The Chronicle now charges $7.75 per week for home delivery, up from $4.75 per week last year, and a $1 on the newsstand, up from 75 cents. That has helped offset some of the industrywide declines in advertising sales—still the main source of newspaper revenue even as readers are asked to foot a larger part of production costs. The Chronicle is now making money in some weeks, something it rarely did in recent years, according to Mark Adkins, the newspaper’s president. The newspaper is taking advantage of its newfound prosperity by making improvements, such as the switch to a slightly thinner type of glossy paper than what is used in magazines. The glossy paper will be used on the Chronicle’s front page as well as the first page of most other sections. It will also show up on some pages inside the newspaper.
Because glossy paper usually is more expensive than traditional newsprint, it’s unlikely the Chronicle would be making such a move without some advertisers already lined up to help foot the bill, said newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc.
The Chronicle confirmed it has secured some advertising commitments for the new glossy format, but it would not provide details or discuss the paper’s costs.
The switch also is another sign of how newspapers are targeting their print editions at niche markets as their circulation shrinks. In this case, Doctor said the Chronicle seems to be focusing on older, more affluent readers—a demographic more likely to appreciate spiffier paper. It’s also an audience prized by advertisers selling luxury products.
Some trade publications such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter already print on glossy paper.
The Chronicle is sprucing up just as two of the nation’s three largest newspapers are aggressively courting the San Francisco Bay area’s affluent residents and high-end advertisers. The New York Times introduced a special Bay area edition last month and The Wall Street Journal is launching one on Thursday.
Proclaiming itself as “The Voice of The West,” the Chronicle has had a tendency to stand out from other newspapers since its inception 144 years ago. It started to print its sports section on green paper decades ago and has a history of quirky headlines such as “A Great City’s People Forced to Drink Swill” in a story about the quality of coffee in San Francisco restaurants.
The Chronicle began laying the groundwork for the move to glossy paper in July when it closed its own presses and shifted production to a $200 million printing plant run by an outside contractor.
Hold Esquire’s December issue in front of a webcam, and an on-screen image of the magazine pops to life, letters flying off the cover. Shift and tilt the magazine, and the animation on the screen moves accordingly. Robert Downey Jr. emerges out of the on-screen page in 3-D, offering half-improvised shtick on Esquire’s latest high-tech experiment for keeping print magazines relevant amid the digital onslaught. Esquire’s top editors are clearly enthused about the new technology, called “augmented reality.”
Triggering the animation is a box just below Downey’s cover image, resembling a crossword puzzle and looking a little out of place. The magazine has printed about a half-dozen boxes inside the issue, each calling up a separate interactive feature, plus a couple of ads. The issue will be available nationally by Nov. 16. At a fraught time for the magazine industry, one could draw a lot of conclusions from Esquire’s attempts at innovation: It may be the future of print or just a dying medium’s last desperate grab at attention as the Internet swallows more of peoples’ time.
The two-decade erosion in newspaper circulation is looking more like an avalanche, with figures released Monday showing weekday sales down more than 10 percent since last year, depressed by rising Internet readership, price increases, the recession and papers intentionally shedding unprofitable circulation.
In the six months ended Sept. 30, sales fell by 10.6 percent on weekdays and 7.5 percent on Sundays, from the period a year earlier, for several hundred papers reporting to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. That means that the industry sold about 44 million copies a day — fewer than at any time since the 1940s.
The figures join a list of indicators of the industry’s health — like advertising and newsroom headcounts — that, after years of slipping, have accelerated sharply downward, as newspapers face the greatest threats since the Depression. Through the 1990s and into this decade, newspaper circulation was sliding, but by less than 1 percent a year. Then the rate of decline topped 2 percent in 2005, 3 percent in 2007 and 4 percent in 2008.
A driving factor has been the collapse in advertising, with revenue down 16.6 percent last year and about 28 percent so far this year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. The ad slowdown pushed papers to raise prices to make up some of the loss, driving down sales, and it has forced them to consider charging for access online. Less advertising has also persuaded papers to drop delivery to customers who live in outlying areas, are intermittent subscribers or have low incomes.
Industry critics say circulation has also fallen victim to budget cuts that have made newsrooms smaller and papers thinner. “I’ve worried for a long time that they’re losing readers because they’re offering less, and I think we’re seeing the effects of that,” said Alan Mutter, a newspaper consultant who writes a blog about the industry called Reflections of a Newsosaur.
Among the nation’s largest newspapers, The San Francisco Chronicle reported the biggest decline, 25.8 percent on weekdays, to about 252,000 — less than half what it was six years earlier — and 23 percent on Sundays, to about 307,000. For The Star-Ledger of Newark and The Dallas Morning News, circulation dropped more than 22 percent on weekdays, and about 19 percent on Sundays.
“We had to go to a new business model for this newspaper,” said Mark Adkins, president of The Chronicle, whose owner, the Hearst Corporation, has said the paper lost more than $50 million last year. “We have gone from $4.75 a week to $7.75 for home delivery in the last year, and we have dropped way back on discounting. There are places we used to truck it like Modesto, Lake Tahoe, that we don’t, because quite frankly, that’s not a market that local advertisers care about.”
The Los Angeles Times, which dropped 11 percent in weekday sales, has fallen from 1.1 million in early 2000 to 657,000. The New York Daily News fell 14 percent to 544,000 and The New York Post 19 percent to 508,000.
The Internet, where newspapers are generally free, has siphoned off circulation and advertising even as it made papers more widely read than ever before. This year, newspaper sites have had more than 72 million unique visitors a month, compared with 60 million in 2007, according to reports by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association.
James M. Moroney III, publisher of The Morning News, said that the printed newspaper was becoming something of a premium product and that too much attention was paid to circulation figures, considering all that has changed. His paper raised its subscription price this year from $21 a month to $30, two years after adopting a policy that it would not deliver the paper outside a 100-mile radius.
“Everybody keeps telling the newspaper industry to evolve, to change, to become digital,” he said. “And when we do that and grow our audience, people focus on these print circulation numbers. We’ve taken the circulation down very deliberately.”
As it had warned, USA Today had a steep drop in circulation, reflecting the slump in the hotel industry, which distributes most of that paper’s copies. USA Today, the Gannett newspaper published only on weekdays, fell from almost 2.3 million to 1.9 million, a 17.1 percent fall, losing the top spot in weekday circulation for the first time since the 1990s, to The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal’s circulation, just over two million, rose 0.6 percent. It is one of a very few papers to sell online subscriptions, which are counted in the circulation total, helping The Journal, which does not publish on Sundays, defy the industry-wide decline. It has more than 400,000 digital-only subscribers, up by more than 100,000 from five years ago.
At The New York Times, which has repeatedly raised its prices in recent years, weekday circulation fell 7.3 percent, to about 928,000, the first time since the 1980s that it has been under one million. As the third-largest paper, it continued to have by far the largest Sunday circulation, at 1.4 million, down 2.7 percent.
Two major papers, The Denver Post and The Seattle Times, reported significant circulation gains after their main competitors, The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, stopped publishing. Despite halting home delivery four days of the week earlier this year, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News had smaller-than-average circulation declines.