New York Times, Wall Street Journal to do S.F. edition; what about here?

Those who are dissatisfied with the trajectory of local newspapering might be heartened by word that the New York Times and Wall Street Journal plan San Francisco editions offering “more local news.”

Times reporter Richard Pérez-Peña says it “could be the first glimpse at a new strategy by national newspapers to capitalize on the contraction of regional papers,” adding “The Times is exploring the prospects for regional editions based in other cities.”

Notes a Journal official: “It’s a highly educated, internationally minded audience, and our research out there shows there’s a market need for a quality news product.”

Bestill your hearts, highly educated, internationally minded MinnPost readers. When will Minneapolis-St. Paul will see some of this action? Not soon, I think.

The Times report has to be thrilling to San Franciscans. The Chronicle and nearby San Jose Mercury News have been eviscerated by budget cuts, far more than for either of our local titles. (According to the Chron’s union, there are 139 newsroom workers at that paper; the Strib, for now, is in the high 200s.)

While the Strib hasn’t made enough to service its debt, the Chron actually loses money; estimates reach $70 million annually.

So there’s much more blood in the water out west — and many more readers, too.

According to the Times, it has 49,000 weekday Bay Area subscribers and 65,000 on Sundays. The Journal’s weekday circ is nearly 100,000.

Here? Not even close. According to March publishers’ statements, the Times had 10,000 weekday subscribers in all of Minnesota, and 15,000 on Sundays. That’s fewer than I would’ve guessed, and about one fifth of the Northern California number. The Journal has 25,000 Minnesota subscribers, a quarter of its Bay Area figure.

While it would certainly be wonderful to have more top-drawer competition here, the details also deflate the balloon substantially. The Journal’s initial plans include just a page or two of general-interest state news per week. (The Times wouldn’t comment.) No matter what you think about either local daily, two pages a week won’t fill many gaps.

It’s also worth remembering that neither the Times nor the Journal are immune from the economic pressures pummelling the Strib and PiPress. Both face sharply declining revenues and, in the Times’ case, expensive borrowing and asset sales.

The Times story notes that the Journal already has a large staff in the Bay Area; that’s definitely not true in the Twin Cities. That means either national paper would have to spend money to make money, a real roadblock to anything substantial in today’s media environment.

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