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Newspapers--Around-the-clock Profits

June 1998

Downtime. Million-dollar web presses standing idle, making no money.

The thought of such lost productivity is enough to make a newspaper printer lose sleep.

Wait! What's that sound? Presses running around the clock?

Emerging from an era where large web presses took naps in between morning, afternoon and/or evening editions, newspaper printers are replacing the sounds of silence with the crinkling of cash.

No longer afforded the luxury of just printing newspapers, newspaper publishers are getting a rude, but profitable, awakening. As publishers fill costly holes in their print schedules, presses are running at far greater capacities, producing far greater profit.

Some newspaper printers are scheduling commercial products to generate new revenue streams for their stagnant retail bases. Others are doing commercial work to supplement their core accounts.

"Our presses are running 24 hours a day, six and a half days a week, since we've added commercial work," says John Disera, director of production at Fox Valley Press, printer of Copley Chicago Newspapers, in Plainfield, IL. "Commercial products are profitable. We wouldn't run them if they weren't. That's the key to commercial printing. You can always rely on it being profitable."

Fox Valley prints four commercial products: two labor union titles; La Raza, Chicago's leading Hispanic weekly paper with 80-plus pages and a paid circulation of 50,000; and the Midwest edition of Investor's Business Daily, a five-times-weekly publication with 40-plus pages and a circulation of 35,000. The company also prints La Raza's total marketing coverage supplement, which reaches an additional 100,000 non-subscriber households weekly. (Fox Valley's core business consists of four daily newspapers, 15 weeklies and three additional weeklies planned for future launch.)

With just under 400,000 commercial pieces per week, Fox Valley, Disera reveals, is going from "press run to makeready to press run to makeready—24 hours a day. If you can keep your presses running around the clock, you're going to be profitable."

Wayne Kasich wishes it were that easy. As the publisher in charge of sheetfed and commercial products for North Star Publishing/Daily Journal in International Falls, MN, he only dreams of running at capacity. Far from it, this small, struggling newspaper relies on its commercial business to survive.

Struggling to Survive
"We're isolated up here. This is 'Northern Exposure'-type living," quips Kasich. "In most cities, [a run of] 10,000 is a piece of cake. Here, we take a bunch of small runs. It's our bread and butter."



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