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Media Circus

Tangled Web

By Erin Sullivan | Posted 11/5/2008

Media Circus is starting to sound like a broken record. Two weeks ago we reported that Exhibit A, a free weekly legal publication put out by The Daily Record was going online only. This week we have learned that Press Box, a free weekly sports publication launched in 2006, will appear on the streets less often, going from weekly to monthly, beginning Nov. 15.

"We aren't really reducing our print run," says John Coulson, Press Box's vice president of sales and marketing. "We are doubling our size, and the number of papers printed is remaining similar."

Coulson acknowledges, however, that the way people consume their sports information is changing, just as it is in all other news genres. Readers are getting more information from blogs, RSS feeds, and online publications, so Coulson says it makes sense for Press Box to divert more resources to the web. All of the columns and features that currently appear in the paper will be updated weekly, and longer magazine-style stories will be the mainstay of the monthly hard-copy version of the paper.

"We're taking some of the resources we save with distribution, gasoline costs for instance, and we are redirecting that cost to content for both the paper and for online content," Coulson says.

He also says the shift in publication strategy is not a sign that Press Box, as a company, is having problems. In addition to the print publication, he says, it operates two web sites and two radio shows, and advertisers can buy ads across those various media platforms. He says the switch to monthly publication of the paper is designed to "bring more readers in" to the brand.

"I don't mean to imply that it's all roses here," he says. "It's tough for everybody. But we are actually growing still."

Though Coulson says his company's new print schedule may in the long run actually increase, rather than decrease, the number of print pages it puts out on the street each month, more and more papers--even national ones--are eliminating or reducing the costs they put into print products.

On Oct. 28, the Christian Science Monitor, a national newspaper that's been publishing for a century, announced that it will replace its daily edition with web-only content beginning in April 2009. The paper will put out one weekly print edition, a daily e-mail addition, and a frequently updated web edition. According to an announcement on its web site, Editor in Chief Mary Trammell says the paper's mission will not change--it will continue to publish news "that seeks to bless humanity, not injure, and that shines light on the world's challenges in an effort to seek solutions," but it will do so only on the web. "The method of delivery and format are secondary," the announcement quotes her as saying.

The Christian Science Monitor is the first nationally circulated paper to make this move, and chances are it won't be the last. In an interview in the November issue of Portfolio magazine (which, incidentally, does put out a print publication as part of the Condé Nast magazine empire's, um, portfolio), Netscape founder Marc Andreessen delivers a curt message to the New York Times--and pretty much any other daily newspaper still consuming dead trees to create its product: "Shut off the print edition right now."

Makes one wonder whether Andreessen has taken a look lately at how effective (or perhaps we should say ineffective) most newspapers have been at shifting their revenue streams from reliance on print advertising to the web.

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