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Would you own a paper?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Write-brained, May 19, 2008.

  1. Strictly hypothetical question:

    If someone offered you complete control over editorial and design of a small weekly, with perhaps even some ownership opportunities, would you take it? By small I mean anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 (like I said, this is hypothetical.)

    You would get control of everything in the paper while the money guy takes care of advertising and circulation. I imagine you could hire some stringers to help you out, but you'd probably do most of the writing and layout to keep costs down.

    On one hand, it's obviously risky, especially with the way advertising is going. I guess I would ask for a set salary and perhaps spur the ownership opportunity because I don't want to take a hit if it tanks.

    Some reason, having control of a paper at a local community level seems tempting, and possibly profitable, to me.
  2. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    No. I really don't think I'd want to do all that work. I do a ton now, and it's probably nowhere close to having to put together an entire weekly newspaper.
  3. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Depends on the market, but if my little hometown weekly ever went on the market, I would seriously consider making the attempt at financing to be able to buy it.
    I think small town weeklies can be hugely profitable, but they aren't the kind of money that makes a media company even consider them.
    Here's the questions you need to ask:
    Does the paper have its own press or do they job it out?
    What's the ad to editorial ratio?
    How does the paper deliver?
    What is the circulation?
    What is the penetration rate?
    Does the paper have demographics on its subscriber base?
    How many copies are news stand sales and how many are delivered?
    Are the area's big advertisers — banks, car dealers — locally owned or are they chains?
    Who in the market isn't advertising and why?
  4. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    i would guess a small weekly wouldn't have its own press unless it was making most of its money from taking in jobs. small daily with its own press, probably. weekly, unlikely.

    and yes, i would kill to have my own small weekly. community weeklies run the right way are highly profitable.
  5. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    An established weekly newspaper? Yes. Most small weeklies make a 5-20 percent profit after paying expenses, including salary. You're going to give me, say, 5 percent of the pie and a salary, plus let me run it the right way? Sign. Me. Up.

    A new weekly? That's tougher. Yes, you can make it work, but the community support isn't established. A lot of people are fiercely loyal to their hometown paper. A new paper, people would be skeptical, but it can still work.

    Newspapers are making cuts so they can have their 30 percent profit margins. I'm happy with 15 percent. Or 10.
  6. Rosie

    Rosie Active Member

    Having worked at a small-town weekly for many years, I already know the routine and I would do it.

    Hypothetically, of course, as I do like where I am now.
  7. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    If the "money guy" were offering me complete control of the news product, I'd be guessing he's either lying or he's new at this (and if it's the latter, how do I know he can sell ads?). I think the realistic question isn't if there will be any meddling, but rather how much meddling there will be. The question I'd ask him is if he's had any experience taking stands on principle that wound up costing him money. If he has, he'll be dying to tell you all about it. If he gets pissy about the question, you know he's not going to have your back. But even if he has proven integrity in standing up to advertisers and readers, you aren't going to be left alone, you'll always (rightly) have to discuss it with him if you're thinking of running something that's going to bring heat on the paper, and there's going to be conflict between you. Whether his method of resolving that conflict between you is collaborative or arbitrary is the big question. Better to find out now.
  8. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    One thing I want to ad: I'm comfortable shooting photos, designing and writing. For those who aren't comfortable doing all three and doing them well, I might back off the idea. But if you're versatile enough to do all three of those aspects competently, then I think it can be a very good idea.
  9. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    Very good point. I've been at a daily the last year where I've challenged locals' way of thinking and taken some tough -- and widely unpopular -- stances. I've almost forgotten what it's like to work at a small newspaper where there's a knee-jerk reaction from the publisher over the first phone call from a reader.
  10. The think is, Mike, the industry is at a point where you can work 10 times harder than you did last week and your paycheck is the same because there's little to any overtime. Not to mention that a higher up can totally mess your work up out of laziness or incompetence or fear. Imagine having some control and input into what you do. It's got to be 100 times more satisfying.
  11. I was thinking more of an established paper with plenty of room to grow both in size and quality.

    I also would be leery of entering business with someone I didn't already know and agree with on most issues.
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I would say that agreement is less important than the way disagreement is addressed. It's like with a spouse -- you know there are going to be quarrels, you just want to make sure you're dealing with a grownup who fights fair and is able to compromise.
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