Brian Greenspun — the putative editor of the Las Vegas Sun, the tiny printed insert in the morning newspaper and the website of the same name — has just confirmed what many have presumed for the past few years.
He has posted online a note telling readers that the Sun is about to start charging for access to online articles after free access to 10 articles. The reason is simple. He is not making money from the joint operating agreement with the Sheldon Adelson-owned print newspaper. Not that he is contributing much of anything to attract print readership.
Here is his explanation about the paucity of funds coming his way from the JOA:
A major source of our newsroom funding has dried up. Years ago, the Las Vegas Sun stopped publishing our print newspaper and stopped selling newspaper advertising in competition with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 1990, we combined our print operations (as well as our circulation) with the Review-Journal. The Review-Journal took responsibility for printing, distributing and selling advertising for the Sun and benefited mightily from this arrangement. The quid pro quo was that the Las Vegas Sun would get a small percentage of R-J profits that we could use to help fund the continuing operations of our newsroom. In short, the combination with the Review-Journal provided much of the money necessary to pay for the quality journalism the Las Vegas Sun provides.
For decades this approach benefited the R-J, and every management team there delivered a profit — a little less of a profit each year, but still healthy enough to help us offset the significant costs of our news operations.
Unfortunately, that has changed.
The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper. We hope they find a way to turn the R-J around in the face of ongoing revenue and circulation decline. (And no, purchasing a print subscription to the Sun and R-J doesn’t benefit the Sun in this current scenario.)
Our initiative with the metered paywall is an effort to replace some of that lost funding for the newsroom.
Perhaps Greenspun continues the contractual JOA just out of spite, because it is surely costing Adelson a lot of money for wasted newsprint for the wasted Sun section, whose only worthwhile content is the cartoon Dilbert.
Donald W. Reynolds, the former owner of the morning Vegas paper, is reputed have declared that the only measure of the success of a newspaper is its profitability.