Monday, November 12, 2007

Excuses, Excuses!

In an article in the current edition of the Pacific Coast Business Times, writer Stephen Nellis provides additional insight into those declining circulation numbers at the News-Press.

Nellis reports that the latest circulation figures means that the News-Press is no longer the Tri-Counties second-largest newspaper. That distinction now belongs to the San Luis Obispo Tribune which has now surpassed the News-Press in circulation.

You may recall that weekday circulation at the News-Press fell about 14 percent and Sunday circulation fell nearly 15 percent.

According to figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, that precipitous rate of decline far out paces that of other California daily papers which on average have dipped less than one percent in weekday subscriptions and nearly two percent for weekend editions.

In other words, no California paper appears to be jettisoning readers faster than the News-Press.

Nellis scored something of a coup by getting a quote on the situation from none other than the Royal Consort himself, "Nipper" von Wiesenberger, the paper's co-publisher.

Nipper told Nellis that a union orchestrated "smear campaign" was to blame for the drop in circulation.

I guess the fact that local news in the News-Press is harder to find than a tea totaler in an Irish Pub has nothing to do with it.

Of course, as recently as last February News-Press management was denying there had been any drop at all in readership. In a memo circulated to employees back then management claimed the paper was "doing much better since the changes in the newsroom" and that subscription cancellations were higher prior to executive editor Jerry Roberts' departure.

By my calculations, the paper has lost over 7,000 subscribers since the melt down. It has lost nearly 12,000 subscribers since Wendy McCaw purchased it in October, 2000 from the New York Times company.

Here's a running circulation count since McCaw took the helm:

45,300 (Oct. 2000)
43,600 (Jan 2005)
41,000 (Oct 2006)
38,000 (May 2007)
33,755 (Nov. 2007)

What is most astounding is the drop between what was reported in May and what was reported last week. That's a decline of over 4,000 subscriptions in that period alone.

* * *

Although circulation is down at the News-Press spending is up. At least where the two co-publishers are concerned.

McCaw and von Wiesenberger have reportedly purchased matching Bentleys and recently took them to a local garage for the required smog inspection.

The fact that they were attempting to get these brand new cars "smogged" would seem to indicate that they were purchased out of state, a fact which would probably not be well received among a particular group of the paper's most loyal advertisers, the local automobile dealerships.

The smog inspection shop where the Bentleys were taken is directly across the street from the Highlights Hair Salon on Alamar near De la Vina.

You might recall that last December the owner of that salon received a letter from McCaw attorney Barry Cappello threatening him with legal action if he did not remove the "McCaw Obey The Law Sign" from his window.

Perhaps Wendy was trying to kill two birds with one stone by getting her car smogged while checking on compliance with those cease and desist letters?

* * *

A few weeks ago, actor Rob Lowe was one of those in attendance at the "Pearl of Havana" charity event at Patrick Nesbitt's estate in Summerland.

Lowe reportedly gave strict instructions to the PR flacks for the event that he was not to be photographed.

Doesn't that "no photography" order come about 20 years too late in Lowe's case?

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