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PiPress ad ratios; Leno’s gain, KARE’s pain

Can a paper survive on 10 percent ads, and how Jay Leno could mess up Diana Pierce.
By David Brauer

Just got back from a fun Chamber of Commerce panel with Pioneer Press Editor Thom Fladung and KARE11 Executive Producer Lonnie Hartley. Fladung did the most listening, which probably indicates he’s the smartest of the three. I think I did the most talking.

Anyway … two fun facts from the morning:

1. Fladung noted that when he worked in Detroit for Knight-Ridder, the target mix of news copy versus ads was 50/50. He said the ratio some days at the PiPress is 90/10 news. My jaw dropped; as Fladung noted, it’s hard to stay in business with that few ads.

Still, he said the paper is making money and he’s only had to cut newshole out of Monday and Saturday papers in recent months. Yes, the PiPress editions are skinny, but there may be more news there than you think if ad counts have dropped faster than editorial column inches.

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2. Hartley noted that NBC is considering not programming Saturday nights. That could toss the time back to local affiliates — who themselves are short on cash and aren’t quite sure what they’d put there.

Obviously, syndicated shows are an option but they cost money. KARE wouldn’t have to share ad dollars with the networks, but they might reap less from the syndie shows’ lower ratings.

I didn’t ask Hartley this, but KARE’s also can’t be happy about five nights of Jay Leno at 9 p.m., as NBC recently announced. The network expects to lose ratings points, but they’ll make more money since Leno’s production costs are far lower than scripted shows. However, that doesn’t help affiliates like KARE, which wants the highest-rated 9 p.m. shows to lead into the 10 p.m. news.

Again, Hartley said KARE is profitable but cutting back; the station recently made buyout offers to several longtime employees over 55.