Monday, March 30, 2009

You'll always have the Olympian

Because McClatchy will never be as stupid as the owners of the King County Journal/Eastside Journal/Bellevue Journal-American/South County Journal/Valley Daily News.

A little background. Ken puts it out there that the end is nigh for the Olympian. The new Olympian publisher responds a little too directly.

Ok, so this is why:

For over ten years the owners of the King County Journal rearranged the masthead, trying to catch up with a readership that was running in the other direction. The problem is, as soon as you change the brand of a local product, you end the need for that local product. The two original papers (Bellevue Journal-American and Valley Daily News) had a combined circulation of 66,000 over ten years ago. That evaporated to a very optomistic 41,000 a decade later.

I'm convinced that even if they had consalidated all production in Kent (as they eventually did) and leave a small bureau in Bellevue, but producing two papers with different mastheads, there would still be two additional dailies in King County.

This sort of thing -- reducing the cost of production by having it all in one place, but scattering reporters into their communities -- is sort of what the eventual owners of the King County Journal did. While they shut down the dying daily, they actually ended up increasing news content in most of their communities by increasing montly newspapers to weeklies and starting new publications in some communities.

Anyway, McClatchy has pretty much moved all production -- pagination, printing, copy editing -- to Tacoma, but the Olympian remains.

And, if you look at how McClatchy is arranged nationally (here and here), this sort of "hub and spoke" arrangement is how they operate. There is generally a large dominant (parent) daily surrounded by a few smaller weeklies and dailies. All of the children properties maintain their identities and brands, but all non-essential functions are taken care of at the parent paper.


Chris said...

I don't know that I'd refer to printing as a "non-essential function."

Emmett said...

Non-essential to a particular location. If they can print in Tacoma and drive it down to Olympia cheaper than maintaining a separate print operation in Olympia, it is non-essential.