July 25, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper.

During the mid 90's as newsprint prices climbed past $600 per ton, newspapers began a frantic nationwide reduction in paper size. Reducing the width from the 25 year old standard of 27 inch to a slimmer 25 inch sheet. The larger papers spent upwards of a million dollars per pressline to convert their equipment to the narrower web size.

Today, despite low prices and a glut of newsprint in the market due to declining consumption, web width reduction is once again sweeping the industry as papers begin converting to a 24 inch sheet. One operation I talked with, which is now making the change to 24 inch is looking to the future by making the necessary changes to easily take the next step to a 23 inch sheet. To put that into perspective, a single newspaper page will be slightly wider than your standard paper towel.
The Newspaper Association of America has set the ad standards for the new web size leaving advertisers to decided if the rates for the new reduced columns are an effective use of ad dollars. With a plunge in ad revenues already in progress I am betting the answer is no.

Other signs of publisher desperation include the unheard of practice of selling advertising space on the front page at the Los Angeles Times and talk of The San Francisco Chronicle ending print operations entirely.

The death spiral continues.

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