By Gene Mahoney
Well, folks, it’s been ten years since I
started publishing the San Francisco Herald, and two years since it became the
California Herald, with what is now 37 editions from Sacramento to Santa
Monica. And to think I started my low-tech paper in the midst of the Dot-Com
boom. While heavily financed websites like Microsoft Sidewalk and HotWired.com
are gone, my no-budget newspaper is still alive!
This recent story from Reuters really sums
Web Killing Newspapers? Ha!
All major U.S. newspaper publishers, except
one, have reported stronger earnings for the second quarter, confounding
financial experts who predicted "daily rags" wouldn't even survive
the challenge of radio and television, let alone the ubiquitous Internet.
The view on the street Monday was that USA
Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago
Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and scores of newspapers in small-town
America are doing very well, thank you. Revenue from advertising is more than
making up for a slow decline in circulation and a rise in newsprint prices that
has eaten into profits.
"They are beating (financial)
expectations across the board," said Ed Atorino, a newspaper industry
analyst at Wasserstein Perella Securities. "I thought second-quarter
expectations were pretty conservative, but ad growth is strong nationally and
classified (advertising) has held up better than Wall Street expected.
"Fear of the Internet is turning out to
be totally far-fetched," he told Reuters. "There are more pluses than
minuses for newspapers."
There! Did you read that? Newspapers are
here to say, Tech-Heads!
Oh wait, that wasn’t a recent story. It was
Newspapers are finished.
From Slate.com on 5/30/08:
Michael Crichton, Vindicated
HIS 1993 PREDICTION OF MASS-MEDIA EXTINCTION
NOW LOOKS ON TARGET.
By Jack Shafer
In 1993, novelist Michael Crichton riled the
news business with a Wired magazine essay titled "Mediasaurus," in
which he prophesied the death of the mass media—specifically the New York
Times and the commercial networks. "Vanished, without a trace," he
The mediasaurs had about a decade to live,
he wrote, before technological advances—"artificial intelligence
agents roaming the databases, downloading stuff I am interested in, and
assembling for me a front page"—swept them under. Shedding no tears,
Crichton wrote that the shoddy mass media deserved its deadly fate.
"[T]he American media produce a product
of very poor quality," he lectured. "Its information is not reliable,
it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost
immediately, and it's sold without warranty. It's flashy but it's basically
Had Crichton's prediction been on track, by
2002 the New York Times should have been half-fossilized. But the newspaper's
vital signs were so positive that its parent company commissioned a 1,046-foot
Modernist tower, which now stands in Midtown Manhattan. Other trends predicted by
Crichton in 1993 hadn't materialized in 2002, either. Customized news turned
out to be harder to create than hypothesize; news consumers weren't switching
to unfiltered sources such as C-SPAN; and the mainstream media weren't on
anyone's endangered species list.
When I interviewed Crichton in 2002 about
his failed predictions for Slate, he was anything but defensive.
"I assume that nobody can predict the
future well. But in this particular case, I doubt I'm wrong; it's just too
early," Crichton said via e-mail.
As we pass his prediction's 15-year
anniversary, I've got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper
industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It's gotten so
bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it
as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the
mass media aren't going extinct tomorrow, Crichton's original observations
about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.
Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: June 23, 2008, New York Times
For newspapers, the news has swiftly gone
from bad to worse. This year is taking shape as their worst on record, with a
double-digit drop in advertising revenue, raising serious questions about the
survival of some papers and the solvency of their parent companies.
Ad revenue, the primary source of newspaper
income, began sliding two years ago, and as hiring freezes turned to buyouts and
then to layoffs, the decline has only accelerated.
On top of long-term changes in the industry,
the weak economy is also hurting ad sales, especially in Florida and
California, where the severe contraction of the housing markets has cut deeply
into real estate ads. Executives at the Hearst Corporation say that one of
their biggest papers, The San Francisco Chronicle, is losing $1 million a week.
Over all, ad revenue fell almost 8 percent
last year. This year, it is running about 12 percent below that dismal
performance, and company reports issued last week suggested a 14 percent to 15
percent decline in May.
“Never in my most bearish dreams six months
ago did I think we’d be talking about negative 15 percent numbers against weak
comps,” said Peter S. Appert, an analyst at Goldman Sachs. “I think the
probability is very high that there will be a number of examples of individual
newspapers and newspaper companies that fall into a loss position. And I think
it’s inevitable that there will be closures in this industry, and maybe
This paragraph pretty much sums it up…
The primary long-term threat to newspapers
is the Internet’s siphoning away of ad revenue, a trend that has been under way
for more than a decade, but one that has picked up speed in the last year.
Advertisers have vastly more choices online than on paper, so newspaper Web
sites win only a fraction of the advertising that goes digital, and it pays
much less than advertising in print.
Most businesses flounder for their first few
years and then do well.
The Herald did well the first few years and
I remember when I started the San Francisco
Herald in July 1998 (literally ten years ago.) The first issue had a
circulation of 3,000 copies, the second issue was 5,000 copies, and the third
issue was 10,000 copies. I used to ask for… I think it was around $700 for a
full-page ad… and I used to get it! Some advertisers even remarked how
inexpensive they thought it was. Ever since the Dot-Com collapse, 9/11, and the
slow infestation of the Internet, you can’t get anywhere near that amount for an ad. Plus only a fraction of businesses are
even interested in placing an ad in a newspaper nowadays.
I really don’t understand why more
newspapers haven’t thrown in the towel yet. Every day I walk by a news rack and
see one of those rags I’m reminded of the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction. It’s not going to get
any better for the print industry anytime soon… or down the road. The Internet
isn’t going to go the way of the CB Radio. It’s over! Get used to it.
In the press release announcing the demise
of the print version of the Herald, I wrote of the day I realized it was over
(right around April Fool’s Day). I was in Berkeley dropping off Herald media
kits to uninterested prospective advertisers when I bumped into Herald
columnist Ace Backwords and asked him a question:
“Why would anyone want to advertise in the
His face went blank.
“We’ve got to kill the Internet,” he
proclaimed. “Then they’ll advertise in newspapers again. How are we going to
kill off the Internet?”
I told him I didn’t know but I’d go online
to find out.
Then it hit me that I wasn’t really a
newspaperman disappointed that the Internet was killing off paper the way paper
killed off papyrus. I was actually an Internet publisher who was disappointed
that he had to publish a newspaper for ten years before an online version would
work. I remembered my desire to start an Internet newspaper in the late ‘90s.
However, even though I was living in Silicon Valley, it was too early for that.
Now “the future is here” (wasn’t that the slogan uttered by a montage
of smiling Third World children from some late ‘90s commercial plugging the
Internet?) and the past is gone. Those kids in the commercial are probably
in college now and have never even read a newspaper.
If a newspaper hasn’t been profitable for
the past several years, it sure isn’t going to start now. As a matter of fact,
the situation is going to get a lot worse a lot sooner than most publishers can
imagine. Big papers, small papers, whatever… look for a precipitous decline.
So think of the Herald’s relationship to the
San Francisco newspaper market as the opposite mantra of the 82nd Airborne:
Last one in, first one out.
It’s been fun. Glad I did it, glad it’s
over. If you’re not going to read the Herald online, it probably wasn’t that
big of a deal to you anyway, so no worries.
Thanks. Love ya. (Kiss noise.)
I wish someone had told me this in college:
Found somewhere on the web (I’d better not
say where… gulp!):
Culture war heads-up:
The west coast has a youth’n'music oriented
periodical distributed from San Diego to San Francisco with local advertisers
and names that are all versions of the California Herald fronted by a Gene
Theresa Duncan would recognize the themes in
this rag instantly. I did because I know the value of misogyny to the National
Sniff the sulfur at its website-
It promotes ‘he-man’ poets who rage at
“bitches.” And worse. Like Che Guevara on a meat hook.
“Santa Rosa Herald, East Bay Herald, Marin
Herald,” etc. All the same rag with local advertisers duped into being friendly
credentials for psy-ops.
This rag is more right wing than Ann Coulter
and looks to me like a professional CIA product designed to peel off young
cultural creatives away from lefty rockers with relentless negative framing and
also to badjacket women which is a core theme of military recruiting which
needs young men to remain aloof from young women. The movie reviews direct
readers to hostile images of women and there is a cartoon that is always about
Besides chronic attacks on the image of Che
Guevara and women there are smears against every musician who has ever spoken
up for human rights and against fascism, Joan Baez, Frank Zappa, Michael Moore,
The magazine’s website has the worst
Reich-wing columnists and carried disinfo about Joan Baez’ trauma-based
dissociative identity disorder issues. Yes, she really has them as a result of
early child abuse.
Look out for this rag on the west coast. It
looks like a professional USG alphabet agency device to me.
And this is precisely the kind of thing
Theresa Duncan was exposing on her blog.
Oh no! I’ve been outed as a CIA agent, just
like Steven Segal and Chuck Barris. You should have seen it coming when I wrote
about hanging out with Ian Copeland.
I have to give that genius credit, though.
Nothing gets by him (or her). Maybe I can convince him (or her) to switch
sides, join the agency and fight for truth, justice, and the American way! No,
no. I’m just dreaming. I’d never be able to sway someone that brilliant. Thanks
for blowing my cover, you swine! Now it’s back to a desk job. They’ll never
make a movie about me now.
To contrast the piece above, I’m going to
end this column with a story of valor. Remember it the next time you think you
Sgt. Merlin German, Marine burned in Iraq,
BY LAURA RIVERA |email@example.com
May 2, 2008
More than a year after Sgt. Merlin German nearly died in a
roadside bombing in Iraq, his hands burned into nubs and his body in a
wheelchair, he resolved to walk into his San Antonio church on his own two
His mother, Lourdes German, who had been
"his hands and feet" since that day in February 2005, worried but
knew it would be so. "Everything he did, he did himself," Lourdes
German, 54, said. "That parish was just overjoyed. The pastor even stopped
preaching to welcome Merlin."
Her vigil over her son ended April 11, when
German, 22, died unexpectedly in San Antonio after a surgery to graft skin onto
his lip. "Even with pain in my heart, I have to keep putting one foot in
front of the other," she said.
German, a Marine who grew up in Washington
Heights, had become a guiding light to the rest of the service members in the
burn unit at the Brooke Army Medical Center, where he spent 17 months as an
inpatient and underwent more than 100 surgeries, his family said.###