The Cost of News

November 6, 2011

Everyone is aware that newspapers are in trouble.  Numbers of subscribers down.  Fewer and fewer reporters.  Heavy reliance on the AP.

Yet we continue to subscribe (for 28 years now) to “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald”, which most people around here call the “Everett Herald”.  (They now tweet from @EverettHerald.)  There is little news, but the occasional letter from somebody we know, and it is certainly the best way to follow the ugly, nasty battle for County Executive being waged by two ethically-challenged candidates.

The primary difference between “The Daily Herald” and “The Sunday Herald” is that the Sunday version is a big, bulky Sunday paper.  And it costs three times as much at the newstand: $1.50 vs 50 cents.  My first job on Sunday is to take Luna to retrieve the newspaper and then to separate the wheat from the chaff.  The wheat is harder and harder to find.  About a month ago, there was even a brief item from the publisher on the front page, below the fold, explaining that they had reorganized the content so that it could be printed on less paper and help the environment.  Today was my day to do a more quantitative analysis.

My Saturday paper weighs 5.3 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, local, sports, “good life”.

My Sunday paper weighs 6.8 ounces with advertising sections removed. Four sections: main, viewpoints, sports, “money wise”. And USA Weekend and comics.  (I will not engage in debate over whether USA Weekend is an advertising section or not!  But for those doing their own calculations it does weigh 1 oz.).

Clearly there is little difference in content, other than the 30.5 ounces of advertising that I recycled.

To recap:  On Saturday news is just under 10 cents per ounce.  On Sunday news is over 20 cents per ounce.

Is Sunday news worth this premium?

Most of the front section is from other sources and in my RSS feed yesterday.  Only two articles written by Herald staff.  (Late addition Sunday evening:  my lawyer pointed me to one of these about how I could become part of a study of good driving.)  Much space consumed with two Herald created graphics: one a table of political spending, including the fascinating County Executive race and the other a graphic about demographics of voters in Snohomish County. And a reminder to have clocks fall back (but not to change batteries in smoke detectors).   Nothing too interesting in Viewpoints.  And with Election Day on Tuesday, not even a reminder of Herald endorsements.  Sports the tale of #6 Oregon dismantling the Huskies last night.  Buried within “Seahawk Game Day”, reminding me the game starts soon.  And some nice coverage of prep cross country:  state meet was yesterday.  Our local high school girls did very well.  Glacier Peak second in 3A, Snohomish seventh in 4A.  Money Wise lead story “250 ideas to pinch pennies”.  USA Weekend:  “Hottest new healer: Vitamin D”.

All the news fit to print?   Any news fit to print?

(Another late note:  I missed it, but Tobae pointed out an article.  The Saturday paper easily won:  Readers share close encounters. The Agy’s border us.)