Wednesday, June 29, 2005


NY Times "Starts" Commercial Printing

I was surprised that people were surprised by this. Commercial printing by newspapers is not new. It's a "new trend" that's more than 100 years old. It started when newspapers were the only businesses in town that could hand set type or had a Linotype machine . Through the years, only non-urban printers would still take in commercial work.

As newspaper inserts grew in the 1980s, some newspapers got into printing of those materials. Gannett even set up a business called Gannett Offset to do this work.

Today, newspapers do about $3-4B commercial work, in addition to what is produced by commercial printers. Most is on newsprint, and most is local or regional. It's not all ads, as some dailies will print non-daily newspapers and shoppers.

Newspapers are embarassed by the fact they get more ad revenue from inserts than run-of-press advertising (inserts became bigger around 1997ish). This has become an even bigger issue as classified advertising is no longer the cash cow that it used to be. Inserts were stated as an accomodation, as a "value added service" did not originally bear the full brunt of fixed costs. They are so cheap for advertisers to distribute, and are so much more effective than run of press ads, that some publishers almost regret that they even started accepting them 20+ years ago.

Look at this as an admission by the New York Times that they are now officially grasping at straws because they see the writing on the wall... and that writing is also on computer screens and on wireless handheld devices... and on e-paper. No matter how their press release puts a happy face on this, they know that they are in trouble and will move to apply whatever band-aids they can to buy some time to figure out what to do next.

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