Sunday, December 14, 2008

Economy, Internet whipsaw two-newspaper towns

Two-newspaper markets, like Denver's, are headed the way of typewriters, film cameras and other relics of journalism.
Vibrant, competing daily papers were the norm in dozens of cities during the 20th-century golden era of newspaper publishing.

But that number has dwindled to a handful. And the endangered status of two-newspaper towns could soon devolve into extinction.

Denver, one of the few survivors, now wears a prominent red bull's-eye by virtue of E.W. Scripps Co.'s decision to attempt a sale of the Rocky Mountain News.

Scripps said it will entertain offers through mid-January, at which time it will consider other options, which include shutting down the paper.

Most analysts say the prospects for finding a buyer for a money-losing newspaper in a troubled economy are slim.
If the News closes, it would mark the first time in more than a century that Denver would not boast two major, competing daily newspapers.

Loss of subscribers, declining advertising revenue, the rise of the Internet, economic weakness — all are contributors to the plunging fortunes of newspapers, particularly those that compete in the same cities for shares of shrinking income.

Since 2005, Scripps has closed newspapers in the two-paper markets of Cincinnati, Albuquerque and Birmingham, Ala.

Nationally, only about 10 cities still have major, competing dailies, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Some papers, including the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, have merged business operations in an attempt to reduce costs and keep revenues up.

But even those so-called joint operating agreements have failed to stem losses.

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