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The Society Page

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 are gone, my no-budget newspaper is still alive!

This recent story from Reuters really sums it up:


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 from 2000.

My mistake.

Newspapers are finished.

Including mine.

Read this…


From on 5/30/08:

Michael Crichton, Vindicated


 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 wrote.

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 junk."

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.


And this…


Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue


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 bankruptcies.”


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 then floundered.

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 Herald?”

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:,0,6539887.story?page=1


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 Mahoney.

Theresa Duncan would recognize the themes in this rag instantly. I did because I know the value of misogyny to the National inSecurity State.

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 evil women.

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, etc.

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 have problems…

Sgt. Merlin German, Marine burned in Iraq, dies


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 feet.

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.###

All contents © 2008 by Gene Mahoney