Wednesday, February 08, 2006

WSJ's excellent adventure in Bismarck

Not a moment too soon, the Wall Street Journal jumped in its time machine today and headed to North Dakota, concluding in a profile of the Bismarck Tribune that papers with less than 100,000 circulation exist in this country, and they're doing pretty well.

"Mass media still is 'mass' in rural America," says Pat Finken, president of Odney Advertising.
Note the rumblings of trouble, though:

"One of the reasons that the newspapers out here hung on longer than most is that the people out here, because of our rural nature, were more reluctant to adapt to the Internet," says Steve Scheel, chairman and chief executive of Scheels All Sports Inc.

That is changing. Scheels, a family-run business based in Fargo with 22 sporting-goods stores, has about 3,000 employees, a little more than half of whom are 40 years old or younger. The company took a poll recently, Mr. Scheel says, and almost no one in that age range got the local paper at home. At the same time, the response rate to the company's newspaper ads is half of what it was 10 years ago, he says. So increasingly, Mr. Scheel is skipping newspaper ads and reaching out to customers directly through email.

I hope this coverage helps clear the fog between both parties: media commentators, many of whom seem nearly blind to the different economics of smaller markets, and small publishers, many of whom seem in denial that the metro dailies are a window to their future.


D. Archer said...

Is your newspaper growing in terms of circulation, hiring, or any other category that you can share with the public?

Michael said...

I'm trying to keep my day job as separate from this blog as possible, so I'd rather not discuss it. But some small papers are in fact growing in circulation and staff.

In fact, the killer job numbers of the last few months actually ignore staffing changes at smaller papers. I'm not sure whether they would change the picture, of course.


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