I keep reading that The Oregonian's print circulation is declining because of shrinking advertising revenue. How can Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury afford to continue printing when they don't even charge a fee?
—Paywalled in Portland
Oh, you know—it's the usual combination of international heroin trading and sex trafficking, augmented by a room in the basement where Satan himself spins fluoridated drinking water into gold for our benefit.
The issue of free vs. non-free papers is kind of a red herring. There's an old saying that a paper's newsstand price mostly goes to cover the expense of charging for the paper—advertising is where the real money is. While I can't speak for the Big O, this axiom still holds true at Willamette Week, provided you have a sufficiently expansive definition of the phrase "real money." Still, all that stuff was true in 1990.
What you really want to know, it seems to me, is how printed newspapers are holding up now, in an Internet-crowded media market. "Print advertising is still the primary source of income for Willamette Week, though that has certainly declined," says editor-in-chief (and my slightly scary boss) Mark Zusman. "Papers are each seeking their own path to try and restore the dollars lost over the past few years."
Basically, print is holding it together by following the same financial advice that your Uncle Clarence has been spouting at family gatherings for years: diversify, diversify, diversify! For WW, this includes promoting events like MusicFestNW. The Mercury is getting into the concert-ticketing racket. (Anything that gores the bloated ox of Ticketmaster is OK in my book.)
That said, our diversification does not actually include prostitution or drug rings. But if Satan is reading this, and really does want to spin gold in our basement—bubala, let's talk.
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