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Newspapers--(Don't) Stop the Presses!

June 1999
Newspaper publishers/printers are uncovering new revenue sources by competing for commercial jobs to fill idle press time.


BY ERIK CAGLE


The old joke is that while a lawyer can hear a $5 bill falling on a pile of snow, a newspaper publisher can catch it before it hits the ground.

Why the harsh treatment? It is a much-deserved depiction, for the life of a newspaper is a constant, daily struggle to make ends meet. For every paper brimming with a 40/60 advertising-to-editorial ratio or better, there are dozens of smaller dailies and weeklies that are fighting for their existence, eking out profits or absorbing losses.

Ah, but don't cry for the newspaper. Chaos may reign supreme on a daily basis (and not only in the newsroom), but it isn't called the daily miracle for nothing.

Many papers, regardless of financial standing, have found a simple way to increase the bottom line by printing outside commercial work. The web presses are there and so are the press crews. The prevailing thinking is that they might as well put both to work.

There are papers, such as the Connecticut-based Willimantic Chronicle, which perform above the level of their circulation. Boasting a circulation of 11,000, The Chronicle Printing Co.'s flagship publication is the "local" paper for the University of Connecticut. When the Huskies won the NCAA basketball title earlier this year, the Chronicle printed a four-page wraparound, with all the copy written by one staffer.

Supplementary Profits
According to Kevin Crosbie, Chronicle publisher, commercial printing jobs provide his newspaper with supplementary profits.

"The primary business is the paper and the advertising revenue it generates, but it would be a waste not to make use of the resource," Crosbie notes. "We're able to generate an additional 10 percent revenue from our commercial jobs."

Other jobs at Chronicle Printing include The Daily Campus, UConn's student-run paper (10,000 daily circulation), as well as a string of weeklies and targeted newspapers.

The Chronicle also produces menus for local restaurants, along with fliers for local advertisers—lumber, hardware and grocery stores—and also prints the Connecticut Hospice Association's publication. Other publications include a real estate book and a 52-page booklet celebrating the Huskies' recent NCAA title. Print runs range from 3,000 to 100,000.

In all, Chronicle Printing churns out a quarter million copies a week (discounting its daily paper), which keeps the presses running seven hours a day.

"We're printing on a seven-unit Web Leader press; we've set up two lines with two folders," Crosbie says. "The press has angle bars, so we can steal webs from either line. We're flexible enough to plate up a job on both lines and print at speeds of 40,000 copies an hour."

 

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