Notes from the Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 7, 2008
Topics: The end of the Register's editorial cartoon...putting unemployment in perspective...saving the difference on gas prices
When business times get tight, it hardly makes sense to give up unique characteristics
The Des Moines Register is getting rid of its editorial cartoonist -- a position held by Brian Duffy since 1983, and an institution the paper had kept in place for almost a century. It's understandable that times are tough -- revenues are reportedly down by a third throughout Gannett, which owns the Register -- but when times get difficult, it hardly makes sense to give up a unique feature that makes the newspaper something different from (and more valuable than) standard-issue Associated Press news copy. Gannett bought the paper from the Cowles family in 1985 for $200 million, which today (after inflation) would be about $400 million. The company put another $52 million into a new printing press six years ago. Yet the institution itself probably wouldn't sell for half a billion dollars today. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune was shopped around for about a billion dollars in 1997, and sold for $1.4 billion in 1998, but sold again for only $530 million in late 2006, and revenues there have fallen by $75 million over the two years since. If the market value of your biggest asset is in decline, you probably aren't going to be better off if you deliberately make it even less special. Related: A 1957 comic about the Register boasted that "no newspaper in the nation has such a large percentage of its circulation outside the city of publication as the Sunday Register and the daily Register. Approximately 85% of the Sunday Register circulation is outside Des Moines." The Register almost completely abandoned circulation outside the "Golden Circle" of metro-area readers about a decade ago. Even though it still claims to be a "statewide" newspaper, daily delivery hasn't been offered in parts of the state since 1997.