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Media Circus

Less Press

By Eileen Murphy | Posted 10/13/1999

Back in March, when his Baltimore Press hit the streets, editor and publisher Mark Adams called the new daily "the latest step in a guerrilla war against the inertia of this town." On Oct. 4, Adams announced that he and his paper would be stepping out a little less frequently; as of that date, the daily became a weekly.

In a publisher's letter to readers, Adams blamed the change on a dearth of advertising revenue. In an interview, he said the very nature of this start-up daily doomed it in the eyes of advertisers.

"We are an urban-oriented publication, and that's an entirely different marketplace" than what The Sun seeks to tap, Adams says. He cites the city's lack of major department stores—traditionally strong daily-paper advertisers—and the financial travails of the smaller independent businesses (such as neighborhood grocery stores) he'd hoped would buy space in the Press as sources of the revenue woes. And the paper's relatively low circulation—"around 8,000," Adams says—isn't likely to turn the heads of potential advertisers.

That the paper hasn't turned the heads of more readers isn't terribly surprising. The Press did an admirable job covering the primary-election campaign and even broke a handful of stories. But too much of its local coverage was overwritten and lacked the proper context to explain why the stories were relevant to readers. And for 25 cents a day, its 16 pages filled mostly with wire stories, syndicated columns and comics, and TV schedules didn't seem like much of a value, even when compared to The Sun's 50-cent cover price.

The change in publishing frequency has meant a lot of changes at the Press' Charles Street offices. Adams laid off 15 people-—"I had the distinction of laying off a man with a two-week-old baby," he says ruefully—and dropped the wire services that provided the bulk of the paper's content. He hopes to eventually publish twice a week, but for now his five-person staff will have their hands full putting out a weekly issue.

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