Will Las Vegas newspapers follow the example of New Orleans and Detroit papers?

Leave it to a newspaper company to bury the lede in its own obituary. It wasn’t till the second paragraph of the announcement that you learn The Times-Picayune of New Orleans will cease daily publication this fall and appear in print only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

What does this portend for Las Vegas newspapers?

Newspaper executives are notorious copycats. Nobody wants to jump first, but once the first does it looks like lemmings over a cliff. The two newspapers in Detroit stopped daily publication three years ago.

A few years back, joint operating agreements (JOA) popped up all over the country as failing papers joined business functions to keep two newspapers operating in various cities. I’ve worked in three such operations. Las Vegas’ JOA is one of the few yet to completely unravel.

I was in Shreveport in 1980 when the Times-Picayune merged with The States-Item. For a moment there was talk the paper would carry both nameplates, but that was too unwieldy. Besides, the abbreviation would have been pronounced tipsy — perhaps too apropos for the city’s reputation.

The first thing to go in Las Vegas will have to be that JOA between the Review-Journal and the Sun. When it started in 1990, the Sun was put in the afternoon slot — the Greenspun family reportedly put up $20 million in Prime Cable stock to close the deal to save a paper that was hemorrhaging $2 million or more a year in red ink — but it burned too much newsprint for too little return. In 2005 the JOA was renegotiated and extended to 2040, but with the Sun as a stand-alone section of the morning paper.

Since then the share of profits going to the Greenspun siblings has steadily declined as newspaper profits in general have been hit by the recession and big retailers and grocers finding other ways to market their wares. Both papers have experienced massive layoffs, until the advertising-free Sun appears to be little more than a rehash of liberal syndicated columns and New York Times feature stories.

I would not bet money on the JOA lasting in its current format till 2040. Neither side is pleased with it.

Both papers are pouring resources into their separate and competitive online websites.

The new company formed in New Orleans, called NOLA Media Group, will continue to operate a free news website, even though advertising online generally nets about 10 percent of the advertising in the printed paper.

Newsprint is expensive. Delivery is expensive. But no newspaper I know of, with the possible exception of The Wall Street Journal, has found a way to be profitable online.

I suspect the current Las Vegas set up could last until after the election so the Greenspuns can bask in the reflected glory of Democratic politics and publish their near-straight-ticket endorsements. But after that?

Maybe Harry Reid will get his wish after all, but it will be his buddies at the Sun who go out of business first. It is not a matter of if, but when.

19 comments on “Will Las Vegas newspapers follow the example of New Orleans and Detroit papers?

  1. Steve says:

    Greenspun already has Vegas inc, don’t know who prints it.
    At some point Sebelius may be wishing he was running City Life again…
    Greenspuns are tying themselves to Jim Rogers and his ideas to make local TV strong again Ironically by broadcasting local programs. Taking TV back to its roots. Trouble is, the only local programs they seem to be able to come up with are politics and an unbelievable amount of repetitious news. Even if they could come up with entertainment as well it would never have a budget to compete with national TV outlets. Ultimately they are shrinking their market and the outcome of that is inevitable. Ralston and Sebelius will see this happen in their time.
    WSJ grew their market, never a bad move if you can afford it.

    As for Harry getting his wish, the only way that was enabled was by getting you and Sherman out of the way. The RJ would be as strong as possible today, even after that campaign, if Stephens had left you 2 alone and muscled it out. (The fact the JOA is still in effect today is testament to your stewardship of the RJ) Even with that lousy advice from the money hungry lawyer trying the music industry lawsuit tactic you and Sherm were the best people for the RJ in this town and Stephens may find that out the hard way sooner than they think.

    If Harry gets his wish, it will be pyrrhic at best.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    First, Harry Reid doesn’t have “buddies”, he has a following of glad handers, more oppotunists than friends, can anyone imagine even one of the other Senators, king rats all, being friends with him, much less one another. As for newspapers, do we really need daily delivery,7 days of news recycled from New York and Washington papers, 7 days of political propaganda, 7 days of local, state, and federal politicians fretting the expenses they authorized in days, weeks, months and years past, 7 days of brief excerpts of local news, only the worst gore makes it, 7 days of automobile ads, 7 days of the odd/queer lives of celebrities? My humble, okay, less than humble, opinion is that the Internet has changed the culture of news, I understand my opinions matter little but I feel a small part of something, matching screed for screed, instead of just digesting the biases of owners, editors and reporters that seldom changes my opinions. There are small town weeklies that survive by condensing world and national news while focusing on local matters, the plain folk do enjoy seeing themselves, their neighbors and their school featured; hard to imagine but they likely prefer and appreciate local news instead of the daily deluge of BS, praise and fault, about the corrupt dealings of those in faraway Washington DC, three days a week would be plenty of that agitation propaganda (Agitprop?). Who’d really miss the Sun if it didn’t come tomorrow morning; the LVRJ could add the Dilbert cartoon, it’s the only thing I read in the rag before putting it in the recycling bin.

  3. But will pay people to send months or even years digging into what ails a community? When you are reporter with 200,000 readers, people return your calls. Bloggers have no clout.


  4. nyp10025 says:

    Very true.
    Although ProPublica seems to have an interesting model.

  5. I don’t think they’ll be doing any exposs on wealthy foundations.


  6. nyp10025 says:

    Perhaps you are correct. Just as Fox News inexplicably found little of newsworthy interest in the hacking scandal in the UK, and the Washington Post doesn’t spend a lot of time looking into for-profit higher education.
    No model is perfect.

  7. None has ever been. The earlier papers depended on government contracts, followed by yellow journalism and the penny press and the Internet.


  8. Vernon Clayson says:

    I understand that people return calls to reporters but that isn’t likely to happen with the average subscriber, you mean people in positions of influence with agendas they wish to pursue or oppose; celebrities also have their calls returned, and we sure can’t advance as a civilization without their input, no matter how shallow and meaningless it is. On top of that we have to consider that no individual in a position of influence answers or speculates off the top of his/her head on a cold call, they, or a flunky, takes or returns a call after an answer is considered. Who thinks Harry Reid or John Boehner take a cold call when an issue pertinent to them arises? The Internet is an undercurrent and I’m sure you have a measure of clout as a blogger, I imagine you have a lot more readers than respondents, want to bet whether Harry Reid’s gofers read your articles or The Sun editorial staff’s gofers?

  9. Steve says:

    WordPress has very detailed reports. Tom can see prety much how many hits he has compared to the followers. To be sure I bet he has a bunch of lurkers.

  10. It’s hard to tell for sure. A number just read the email alert and never click into the blog for a hit. One person might email it to many others, thus representing one hit but many readers. It varies day to day. Some days it doesn’t seem worth it.


  11. Steve says:

    For a comparison of potential readership.

    Tom has 538 followers on this blog.

    The RJ currently has 1022 people using the Facebook app to comment on the paper.

    I think that speaks volumes.

  12. […] Tuesday’s blog posting about the New Orleans newspaper joining with the Detroit papers in no longer publishing a daily […]

  13. Athos says:

    Loved the Xgirl’s editorial in Sunday’s RJ Viewpoint. Gotta keep us Klan members out in the open, right?

    There is absolutely NOTHING this band of dedicated Marxist’s would do to obtain their ends BECAUSE (say it all with me, now…) The ends justify the means! (Saul Alinsky; Ø favorite!)

  14. Vernon Clayson says:

    Mr. Mitchell has 538 followers, it’s not a comparison, how many of the RJ’s Facebook individual commentators have any followers? Facebook is a social network, the RJ has been reduced to sharing space with lonely people that tell the world what they did today. Posting photos is big with them, there they are on the screen, a big deal.

  15. Steve says:

    Vernon, the Facebook app shows the count of users when you first access it. The comparison is valid because that app is exclusive to the RJ. To get a fresh count all one has to do is remove that app from ones facebook account then sign up again.

    The suprise is the new powers that be at the RJ thought facebook would make all the posters more traceable. The funny thing is there are a bunch that have created fresh facebook accounts with fake names. Alan Greenspan posts to the RJ?? Really? Longtime Nevadan is a name? Kansasguy living in vegas is a name? What about constitutional apologist? The best are the ones that create a facebook account, post to the comments, then delete the facebook account. That leaves the post on the RJ as Undefined Undefined for a name, but the post remains until the RJ manually removes it, at least for now.

    I bet it irritates those same powers that be Sherman still gets many more “Likes” than Sebelius gets comments.

  16. I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly loved every bit of it.
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  17. There’s definately a lot to know about this topic.
    I love all the points you have made.

  18. […] my word. Just as I predicted the elimination of the Sun […]

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