Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rocky biz columnist: Denver can no longer support two newspapers

Despite its sugarcoated headline, an amazingly frank piece by David Milstead: "Media meltdown tests two-newspaper town":
It's been a wonderful run, Denver, but it's time to admit that we can no longer be a two-newspaper town.

It was just eight years ago that The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News hung up the gloves and went to the federal government for permission to combine business operations. The resulting "joint operating agreement," which ended competition in advertising and subscription prices, was intended to restore the papers to financial health and preserve two distinct editorial voices.

The papers never succeeded in making significant price increases stick, whether because of Colorado's recession of 2002 to 2004, or because the people of Denver had been conditioned to newspaper bargains. Then the American newspaper industry began a swift and shockingly rapid decline.

Today, the Denver papers are in all likelihood losing money, when the depreciation of their new printing plant, opened in 2007, is considered. (We don't know for sure, because Rocky owner E.W. Scripps and Post owner MediaNews Group have consistently cut back on the amount of financial information they release about Denver.)

In essence, all the financial promise of the JOA is gone. The best way to make Denver a profitable market for the two companies is to close one of the newspapers.
The rest of the piece is a pro and con on which paper should be closed. Bummer.

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